Ho Chi Minh City in 48 Hours

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Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)  was not on my list to visit this year, but due to my stubbornness, I got to spend 48 hours in this beautiful city of Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City or I knew it as Saigon is one of the most visited cities in Vietnam and  South East Asia. Its located 2 hours away from Hanoi (capital of Vietnam) by plane or 33 hours by Train, 3 hours away from Manila and 7 hours away from Dubai.

Hence, I only have 48 hours in this magnificent metropolis I skip the sites that were commonly visited by tourists to avoid crowds and traffic and tried a unique route.

This was a real adventure for me as It was my first time travelling alone. Most of my trips were with a companion until now.  This was my baby step to a lot more journeys planned. And for every baby step, there “were” always those untimely moments and minor setbacks that will test every inch of your patience.

I arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport pass 23:00 on a Friday. Right after immigration, I collected my luggage and went out to look for my pick up which I booked in Klook while waiting for my flight in Dubai for  USD 10.00 from the airport to my hotel. It was almost 30 minutes of waiting but the pick up didn’t arrive yet, I tried to call and follow it up from Klook however, I haven’t received any feedback ( they don’t respond real-time).

I’m a little worried coz I didn’t know the place and its almost past midnight. I then decided to take a local taxi on my own. Hence, I don’t have Vietnam dong to haggle with the taxi fare I then proceed to a money exchange. ( note: never exchange your money in the airport, do it in the city for a better rate). The airport taxi cost USD 15.00 but I manage to bargain it to USD 8.00.

I arrived at my hotel in HCMC past midnight on a Saturday. Upon check-in, I scroll on my phone and look for an activity that I could book in the afternoon and the next day for my solo trip.

Motorbike/ Scooter is the main mode of transportation in Vietnam. It’s mostly the cause of congestion and traffic in the city. I book my first-day tour using a Motorbike visiting a different side of Saigon.

I was picked up on time in my hotel at 13:00H and went directly to visit a statue of a Buddhist Monk – Thich Quang Duc – he burnt himself to death in the middle of Saigon Road as a protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese Government. Much to everyone’s surprise Duc’s heart remained intact and did not burn which is why they considered it holy and placed it in a chalice.

After 30 minutes, we hop back to our motorbike and drive ( sorry I was just a passenger – IDK how to drive a motorbike hahaha ) to our next stop Nguyen Thien Thuat Area – it was the location of the oldest apartments in Saigon built by The Americans during Vietnam War. It was old and rusty but are still livable.

The ground floor was mostly made for small businesses like coffee shops, restaurants or a store. It’s not as trendy as the new apartment buildings but you will find it attractive. It still symbolizes the history and the other side of Saigon.

After a few walks, we decided to go to a coffee shop to quench our thirst ( FYI the temperature that day was around 27 – 30 degrees ). Our next stop was the Cheo Leo Cafe – the oldest coffee shop in Vietnam. It was established in 1938 and the making of the coffee was passed from generation to generation and is still uses the old and traditional way of making a coffee. As you know I’m a coffee addict so I would definitely not miss this. They boiled the water in an open fire and uses these old stoves made of clay, a clay pot, and a cloth strainer to make the coffee. 

Cheo Leo Cafe

Vietnamese Coffee is made up of condensed milk at the bottom and brewed coffee, stir to mix. Mine was served iced on tall glass perfect for the warm weather. It was cold, sweet and flavorful. 

Our next stop was Thein Hau Temple is a Chinese style temple located in the middle of HCMC. It is a small and nice temple with a calm and relaxing atmosphere. 

We stayed in the temple for about 15 – 30 minutes then we drive through the streets of HCMC. We started from the biggest flower market where I tasted a Lotus seed. The Chinese traditional medicine market, Lantern  Market, Motor Bike Market and pass through the Ghost Apartment. 

Afterwhich, we drive through the slum area of HCMC then went to the Floating Market where we tried Coconut Juice. After almost an hour of driving around the street’s my guide take me to a place where I could taste Vietnams authentic Cuisine.

It was not a luxury restaurant or a famous fast-food chain but just a food stall on the street. There is nothing cosy or special about it but it is where you could try the real taste of Vietnam. Of course, my visit to here will not be complete without tasting their famous cuisine. Hence, this is my first dinner, I tried their famous food Pho with a special recommendation from my guide.

Pho – its Vietnamese Broth soap with rice noodles, meat ( beef or chicken) with herbs and spices. It’s one of the most popular Vietnam Street food. It’s warm and tasty perfect for dinner as its heavy due to the rice noodles. And the servings are quite big.

After dinner, my guide drops me back to my hotel.

My day didn’t end here though, it was only 5 in the afternoon and still early. I can still do a lot of things. 🙂

Right after an hour of rest, I booked a grab to Bitexco Financial Tower in HCMC – its a skyscraper and became the tallest tower in Vietnam. You must be wondering what I’m doing here. Do you?  Hahaha

I came to know that in Bitexco Tower – The World of Heineken is on the 58 – 60th floor. I am not a fan of beer yet  I am curious about the process on how they make one of the worlds famous beer.

HEINEKEN Vietnam – second-largest brewer in Vietnam. They are open for visitors to show the brewing process of beer. Included in the entrance fee is an access of Bitexco Towers SkyDeck in 49th Floor. You will see a 360-degree full view of Ho Chi Minh City. After touring around the Skydeck you will be guided to the 58th Floor to go through the process of brewing. The history, awards, state of the art facilities used. They will show you the process of brewing, bottling and even how to pour your drink.  Awesome!

Aside from the things I mentioned earlier, you will also have a bottle of water, two glasses of beer plus the one you poured during the tasting session. Total of three hahaha ( was a bit tipsy and disoriented when we went down the elevator)  and one personalized bottle with your name engraved on it.  

Halfway of the tour I meet another traveller and chatted about our plans the next day. She is an experienced solo traveller whilst it is my first time. We had agreed to take a walk back to our hotels which are only a few blocks away. Unknowingly, her hotel is just two blocks from mine. 
Before going our separate ways we had decided to explore Ben Thanh Night Market.

Ben Thanh Night Market – Located in the heart of HCMC and right in front of my hotel. It’s noisy, busy and crowded. This is one of Saigon’s oldest and most visited landmark especially during the night with a great atmosphere and vibrant street lights from the stalls. A place where you could experience the true hassles and bustles of the city, motorbikes horning back and forth, food, clothes, bags, and souvenir stalls in every corner.

It is where you could find branded bags/gears for trekking (i.e. Northface). You will encounter a lot of backpackers and trekkers around the area buying their gears at an affordable price. I too was able to buy a gore-tex north face jacket. The best thing when you are buying here is that you can bargain/ haggle the price.

We call it a night at 23:00H and head back to our hotels.

I woke up early the next day though I sleep late trying to decide If I will book the tour Christy recommended me. In the end my, my curious side won. I booked and had a good night sleep.

Our luxury van picked me up first at around 07:00H, I booked late but picked up first. Hahaha, lucky for me I got the best seat.  Then Christy then the other 5 guests.

Our first stop was the Cu Chi Tunnels – where we learned about the history of the Vietnam War.  We learned about the resistance of Vietnamese people against US Forces. They showed us the rat tunnels used hidden underground, different kinds of warfares used, traps created and set up.  You can also try to shot a real AK 47 on-site if you buy the bullets at your own expense. 

After lunch at a local Vietnamese Restaurant, we depart to Mekong Delta and explore the Mekong River – its compose of vast swamp and mini islands where locals live. Boats are the only transportation to and from the area. We took a small rowboat with a guide and paddle along the canals of coconut trees.

We anchored at a local family home and enjoyed some live music prepared for us, had some varieties of tropical fruits, tried a honey tea and honey wine. After which, we stroll around the countryside then our guide showed us the process of making their own coconut candies. If you are adventurous enough you could try cuddling a snake or try some exotic drink, which is the last part of our tour.

The tour is inclusive of the following and took 11 hours. The best way to spend your day if you have limited time in HCMC.

  • Transfers by VIP Limousine with WIFI on board.
  • Beer, fruits, cool tissue, snacks & mineral water are served in the car ( unlimited)
  • Motorboat trip
  • Small rowboat trip
  • Experienced English speaking tour guide
  • Lunch with Vietnamese cuisine (Halal & Vegan Food available)
  • Hotel Pick up & Drop off in District: 1, 3, & 4 (If you are staying in another area, please make your way to the meeting point at 123 Ly Tu Trong Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh city by 7:30 AM)

The guide dropped us on our pick up point, but we decided to have our dinner at Ben Thanh Street Food Market – busier than the night market. The stalls offer a variety of eye-catching menus and decorations. 

Chairs and tables are lined up in front then a variety of restaurants who offer diverse dishes from the different cities in Vietnam. From a food stall, beer and coffee shop. The mouth-watering food is such a welcome sight for first-time and experienced travellers. 

After our late-night dinner, I bid farewell to my new friend and fellow traveller went back to my hotel, packed my things and check- out from my hotel at exactly midnight completing my 48 Hours in Ho Chi Minh Vietnam.

Happy Travels!

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