Our first destination in Vietnam was booked in advance. It was located on the beautiful Phu Quoc Island.
There was no direct flight connection from Siem Reap to Phu Quoc, so we decided to just spend a night at Ho Chi Minh City – Aiport and catch the first flight to Phu Quoc.
If your connection is international, this is not a problem – you can just stay in the terminal. But we changed from the international to the domestic terminal. Therefore we had to collect our luggage (and drop it back off the next morning) and leave the terminal, only to learn that the domestic was already closed for the night.
We made ourselves a nice, comfortable bed in front of the Vietnam Airlines Counter and slept in turns… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Anyway, Phu Quoc was waiting for us with a lovely lonely Bungalow, stunning sea and sunset view, delicious food, snorkeling and everything that you can wish for.
Just a relaxing place before we went back to our “normal” traveling through the world. We had an awesome time there.
After four days in paradise, we took the ferry to Rach Gia and the bus to Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong area. That was easier than expected. The Bus terminal in Can Tho is a bit outside of the city, however, this is not a problem at all, as the bus operator provides a free drop-off and pick-up service all over the city.
Can Tho is a nice, not very touristic city. We really enjoyed our time there. Just strolling around, discovering street food, chay restaurants (100% vegetarian!), hipster coffee places and obtained SIM cards.
Can Tho is well known as a good starting point for boat-trips on the Mekong river. Even our Hotel was offering a nice tour at a reasonable price.
It was again a sunrise tour! I don’t know why but I didn’t want to get up that early. However, if you want to see the floating market and the sunrise you just have to get up that early.
The boat trip was really amazing, exactly what we were looking for. Small boat, floating market, a lot of fresh fruits, very good Vietnamese coffee and nice English-speaking tour guide.
The Mekong river is such a big lifeline – really magnificent.
After three nights in Can Tho, we made our way to HCMC by bus – cheap and uncomplicated. But the bus-terminal in HCMC is incredibly big and maze-like. Good time to try Grab for the first time ever – a ride-hailing service like Uber with a strong focus on the Asian market. No disappointment! It was very easy, cheap and convenient. No bargaining or too high prices. You just enter pick-up and drop-off, the app will show you the price and you can even pay directly via the app.
The City formerly known as Saigon (HCMC)
It’s my second time in HCMC and I went there without any expectations. Our accommodation was just perfect. Situated in a nice, authentic, non-touristic neighborhood outside of the city center. The concept of the place is to connect the local life to visitors without showing them just a storefront. The place is called iamsaigon – highly recommended! We could even access the roof and enjoy a sun salutation with an amazing view over this gigantic city.
Our time in HCMC was really amazing. We went to the Remnant War Museum to learn more about the history of Vietnam and the Vietnam War.
On another day we managed to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels in the north of HCMC. Originally we planned to do it with an organized tour. But Kim, our host, told us that this is not necessary, because we can go there by public transportation much cheaper and the tour itself doesn’t add anything.
It was surprisingly easy. If you have understood how the bus system works, it’s a super cheap, convenient and easy way to get from A to B. You just wait at a bus stop for the bus and wave with your hand, otherwise the bus will not stop for you. If you managed to enter the Bus, there is a person solely responsible for selling tickets. The ticket price is printed on the tickets, so it’s not possible to pay too much. It doesn’t matter how far you want to go – every ticket has the same price as long as you remain on the same bus. The ticket person also takes care that elderly people get a seat and that anyone gets out at the right station.
That was surprising to us and we easily managed to get to the Cu Chi tunnels. It took us around 3h, because of the insane traffic in HCMC.
The tunnels are super fascinating for everyone who is interested in history. It’s a very special experience to climb into such a tiny entrance and walk through the very small tunnels. It’s hard to imagine that people lived there for several days, weeks or month to fight against the Americans.
Except for the War Remnants Museum, which I skipped last time, we mostly avoided the touristic area of HCMC. We didn’t want to say thousand times “no thank you” and on my last visit I already did the “HCMC – in 1 Day – Lonely Planet Tour”. So I didn’t feel like I must do all the sightseeing stuff again.
Nevertheless, our host told us about a non-profit organization called Saigon Hotpot, which offers free guided city tours (by students). I thought that would be a nice idea to learn something about the history and the people – and I was right.
We met our tour guide, Thanh, in front of the president palace and we had a surprisingly nice afternoon with her. She studies architecture and in her free time, she does this volunteering job – without earning any money – just because she likes to do it.
Quick side step: anyone who knows me a bit, knows that I’m interested in architecture. I really wanted to be an architect, designing and creating beautiful buildings and monuments. But after an internship at an architecture company, I decided to give up the dream of designing museums, airports (How hard can it be, Berlin?), stadiums or extravagant homes, because in reality, you do mostly normal row- and one-family-houses. My younger me was not confident enough to go this path, so I decided against it and every once in a while I regret that decision.
Anyway, the afternoon with Thanh was very welcoming. We’ve learned so much about the history and the presidential palace is really worth a visit. I’m not sure, but it must be a similar feeling if the “Palast der Republik” would still exist.
It was just nice to exchange our thoughts about architecture and the way to live, especially in a big city like HCMC. To be honest, I think Mo felt a bit excluded, but I really appreciated to talk shop about architecture a bit.
The time in HCMC was really nice. For me, it’s super interesting to visit a city for the second time around 5 years later. It’s all about your personal mood and the people around you. It was such a different city for me this time. And not only because we also explored Saigons beer scene a bit. More on that in another post…
After a few short days in HCMC, we made our way towards the north. Our next stop: Hoi An in central Vietnam.