South Central Vietnam: Straight Outta Saigon

 

After the Philippines, my itinerary took me back to Vietnam for a second time. The first time was northern Vietnam which included Hanoi and Cat Ba (Ha Long Bay). This time, I flew into Ho Chi Minh/Saigon to explore the city and also took a quick hop to Da Nang/Hoi An before returning and then heading to Cambodia. In retrospect, it would’ve been easier for me to fly directly from Cebu to Saigon and then from Da Nang to Siem Reap which would have saved me a couple of days.

My ten days in the area followed this itinerary:

  • January 14th: Landed in Ho Chi Minh and took bus 109 downtown. It was convenient as it stopped just 2 blocks from where I was staying.
  • January 15th: First stop was the Independence Palace where the southern government was based and it’s noted for the scene where the northern government had crashed through the gates with a tank when they had won. I then hiked over to the War Remnants museum which highlighted the effects of Agent Orange. After the sobering experience, I wandered over to the Ho Chi Minh City Museum for a brief history of the city before heading over to Ben Thanh market for lunch.
  • January 16th: The morning saw me head to the Museum of Vietnamese History which had an interesting bent on history where they couched it as most of the history of the region was dominated by invasions/colonization starting with ancient Chinese dynasties. Next, I hit up one of Anthony Bourdain’s favourite lunch spots, the “Lunch Lady’s” cart, before checking out the Jade Emperor Pagoda (Ngoc Hoang Pagoda). That was the first of two temples I explored where the second one was Ba Thien Hau. I ended my day with a brief stopover at the Opera House and then a gorgeous view of the city from Bitexco Tower’s Sky Deck where I enjoyed a beer while watching the sun set.
  • January 17th: Caught my flight to Da Nang before Ubering to Hoi An. Unfortunately, it was a really rainy day so I just chilled in my room.
  • January 18th: A bit more rain in the morning kept me indoors. The clouds finally cleared that I could head over to a cat sanctuary for a late afternoon lunch.
  • January 19th: Spent the entire day in UNESCO listed Ancient Town Hoi An. Was a great day to wander around, checking out various temples, sights, and even a traditional performance. As it was the lunar festival, it was great to see all the lanterns as well as the offerings at each doorway.
  • January 20th: Headed into Da Nang to spend a couple nights. Managed to visit the Da Nang Museum as well as the Da Nang Fine Arts Museum before the rain came back. Enjoyed dinner on the top floor of a brewpub with a perfect view of the Dragon Bridge as flames and then water shot of the mouth of the dragon’s head.
  • January 21st: Rainy day, but that didn’t stop me from heading to Thuy Son (one of the peaks of the Marble Mountains). Carefully climbed up to the peak for fantastic views before exploring the various cave shrines. Spent the afternoon at Chua Linh Ung which features the largest buddhist statue in Vietnam. It was pretty massive but I also enjoyed the entire temple grounds.
  • January 22nd: Headed back to Ho Chi Minh City.
  • January 23rd: Took an excursion out to the Cu Chi tunnels to see how the Northern army fought guerrilla style. I definitely couldn’t fit in all those entrances but I managed to enter one underground chamber before squeezing myself out of it.
  • January 24th: Said my final farewells to Vietnam before catching my flight to Siem Reap!

When I stayed in Ho Chi Minh City, both times were at the Bich Duyen Hotel. Great rates, comfortable lodgings, and prime location made this a great place to stay. Breakfast was included and they helped set me up with the Cu Chi tunnels tour.

The next place I stayed in was in Hoi An at the An Bang My Village Homestay. It was right by An Bang beach and had some fantastic restaurants around it. The room was comfortable although lacked a bit of privacy as the entire wall was basically glass doors out to the main patio. The giant curtains did help.

The third lodgings I stayed at was in Da Nang at a hostel called Christina’s Da Nang – Seahorse Hostel & Bar. It has fantastic little cafe and the days I stayed there, they were experimenting with breakfasts. The bed was comfortable enough but the shower area was pretty much damp the entire time.

 

Thankfully, this trip to Vietnam wasn’t as annoying as the previous one to Hanoi as no one tried to steal my wallet this time. Also, I did enjoy myself more overall primarily due to Hoi An. If you are looking to visit Hoi An, definitely try to line up during one of the full moons to experience the lunar festival in Ancient Town. The best one of course is the first one after the Lunar New Year.

Mobility wise, it’s pretty much the same as Hanoi where the buses are decent to get around on, but for those with mobility challenges, taxis/rideshare seem the way to go.

And now it’s that time again, random photos!

Categories: Travel

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