Vietnam was never on my travel list. It was probably my lack of knowledge about the beauty of Vietnam or lack of publicity by Vietnamese Tourism board. It is only recently that I see many people rave about it as a great travel destination. My love affair with Vietnam started when a colleague told me that he was visiting Halong Bay during the Chinese/ Lunar New Year break. I started researching about the place and was spellbound by the pictures and almost regretted never thinking of traveling to Vietnam before. Well, I did make plans but it was never too serious. So I visited both south and North Vietnam.
We took a flight from Singapore at 8 AM to Ho Chi Minh (HCM) city, our first destination in Vietnam. We had a layover of 4 hours so decided to explore at least one tourist destination in HCM, have lunch and then head back to the airport. After exiting the airport, we took a public transport, which starts from the airport and takes you to major tourist destinations. I wish we had more time to explore after looking at the tourist destinations. Since it was Good Friday, we decided to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was also on the list of tourist destinations. The bus journey took 30 minutes and halted quite close to the cathedral, which was just a few minutes away.
The first glance at the cathedral reminded me of the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa from far. On reaching the cathedral, we were both spellbound as well as disappointed to know that the mass was over a few minutes ago and was closed for visitors. I so wished we could go inside to see the architecture and stain glass paintings, which is a hallmark of all old churches. So do check visitor timings before you visit the cathedral.
After visiting the cathedral, we scouted for a good place to have lunch. There were many cafes nearby and we picked Picasso Coffee based on the menu. I had cold coffee with Choco Danish. Then, we decided to catch a taxi and see Saigon river on the way to the airport. We instructed the driver to take us to Saigon river and rested our eyes a bit to catch up on sleep. I had not slept the previous night as I was vacating my house in Singapore and had many things to clear and see my favorite places in Singapore for one last time. A lot has to be shared about Singapore, which will be covered in later posts. So stay tuned! Coming back to the driver, he asked us after 10 mins, “Saigon?”. We said, “yes”. He could not understand English and we used broken English to communicate and thought it would work. But throughout the journey, he kept saying Saigon but never took us there. Fearing that we would miss our flight in search of Saigon river, we decided to head straight to the airport. Thankfully, the driver understood our request this time.
We reached the airport, checked in our luggage and took our boarding passes. We learned that the flight was delayed by 2 hours! Having nothing to do, we headed to the nearby mall to explore. Apart from eateries, we could not find anything. So settled for eating again and ordered chicken soup and coconut water. I agree it is a strange combination! 🙂 We also took advantage of the wifi and reconnected with our other friends and family. Killed one hour there and headed back to the airport, which is about 3 minutes walk.
We cleared immigration check and waited at the gate to board the flight. We were probably too tired to hear the announcement that the gate had changed for our flight. So we kept waiting for the gate to open for about 45 minutes. Sensing something was amiss, I checked the board and noticed something written in dull ink. Just as I read, I rushed to my friend and told her what happened and we ran for our life to reach the next gate, which was on the next floor. We saw a long queue near the gate and double checked that we were in the right queue. Finally, we boarded the flight, saw Saigon river from the flight and reached Nha Trang in about an hour!
Given below is an expense chart, which I thought may help you estimate the cost of the trip and plan accordingly.
|Taxi to HCM airport from Cathedral||150000|
|Picasso Coffee||100000 (for 2)|
|Chicken noodle soup||69000|
|Bus to city||20000 each|
See next post, Nha Trang, a hidden gem! to know what it had to offer!