Sep 23, 2010

Tours in Ho Chi Minh City


OUR FOOD AND TOURS IN HO CHI MINH CITY & AROUND

Still 16 - 18 Oct, 2009


Hear no evil, hear no evil, hear no evil


The great thing about staying at a tourist area is that there are so many travel agents around. And we were lucky to have chosen Delta Tour, which provided good tours for us. If you wanna do it the adventurous way, maybe you could, but I don’t have any information on how to do it.


CU CHI TUNNEL

Our first tour was to the Cu Chi Tunnel, US$ 5 / pax, excluding entrance fee and meal. It’s where a part of the Vietnam War took place decades ago, situated about 2 hours ride from Ho Chi Minh City. On the way there, we detoured to this workshop where they hire the handicapped war victims to make lacquer products. Plates, pencil boxes, wall decorations, vases, you name it, they make it.

Handicapped workers are on a break


Mumun, Renny, a worker, and giant vases


Sketching step



The products are of good quality, no wonder we couldn’t really afford anything. Oh wait, I think Mumun or Renny bought something there for her Mom back home. The similar kinds of products are sold in the Ben Tanh Market as well, with cheaper prices, but as predicted, lower quality as well.



Some of the products, finished and the half-finished



Arriving at the Cu Chi, we had to pay for entrance ticket ourselves for VND 75,000 /pax. There’s also a souvenir counter near the ticket booth.

Our funny tour guide took us all through the woods that’s been trimmed and is comfortable for tourists to walk down the path. He showed us the traps made by the Vietcongs to trick and kill US soldiers who were attacking with their much more modern, lethal, and bigger guns.


Vietcongs' hiding hole


Booby trap with sharp metals facing upward on the bottom


Another hiding hole with steps going down

We were also taken to this narrow and short passage way underground, where the Vietcongs would hide and suddenly disappear from the US soldiers’ sight. They make it so narrow and short so that big built Americans couldn’t follow through because the passage would be too small for them. Simple logics, yet it hits bull’s eye!

Inside the tunnel. Narrow, hot, and humid.


Finally, getting out of the hole.
Oh, have the Americans gone home, yet?



There was also this tank that was used in the war, obviously by the US soldiers, I think. I was excited to climb it but didn’t dare to go in the tank cos I was afraid I couldn’t get out, you know, too short to climb up again.





Along the tour, we could hear noisy firing sounds without knowing what it really was. And at the end of the tour path, we found out there was this shooting range where we could buy bullets to shoot with the provided guns.




Our pick was the M16, sharing 10 bullets for 3 of us, costing VND 30,000 / bullet. Renny and Mumun let me have the 4 bullets because I was the most exciting one with this shooting experience. I did love it! I would’ve paid for more bullets if only it was cheaper than that. I mean, we still had, like, 10 more days to go in the whole trip, I didn’t wanna spend the rest of my money for firing bullets.




The Cu Chi Tunnel tour started early in the morning, like, at 7ish AM we had to be on the bus already. And then we were taken back to the Delta Tour on De Tham Street, just around the corner from our hostel, at 3ish PM.


MEKONG TOUR

The next day, we took another tour from Delta Tour, which we had booked in our first day, for US$ 9 / pax. The tour went from about 7 AM and we got back in the city again at 6 PM. Um, I forgot how many hours it took to get to the Mekong Delta at Vietnam part, which lies in My Tho area. But it was a nice ride with a nice bus just like we had the day before.

When we got there, first they took us all in a boat, going through the historical Mekong River until a stop at some village across. The day was so sunny and quite hot, lucky I was wearing a quite thin blouse. We walked through the village, that much seemed like it was set for tourism.


Renny wasn't really paying attention to the tour guide who adored her so much
;-)


First, we stopped at a bee farm, given explanation about how bee products are made, and tasted some of the products, other than just the honey.


Curious Mumun looks closely at the bees,
might be good for her next Biology experiment
;-)



We were also shown and tasted this medicinal potion with some sort of small snake in the bottle, which obviously I didn’t take the picture because the look of it just disgusted me. The taste of the potion wasn’t good either. And I forgot what kind of magic the potion is supposed to do when drank. But I remember how enthusiastic Renny and Mumun were when offered to pose with a big snake. It would take a big man with bags full of cash given to me to make me wanna do the same thing.

Enough said.


And then we got introduced to the dragon fruits and other tropical fruits served in small slices, while a group of locals performed their traditional music and singing.


video



We weren’t a slight amazed at all by the fruits because we come from a tropical country ourselves, we grew up with those fruits. But I guess it was something new to the other tourists, especially if it was their first time in this part of the world. You don’t easily find papaya, pineapple, and dragon fruits in Japan, Sweden, or Norwegia, do you? Not counting the supermarket.

Pineapple, at a toilet stop toward the river


Dragon fruit

Passing a short bridge to get to our lunch.


From there, we took another boat ride. It’s a small wooden boat that only holds 4 people other than the rowers. We went through the river, in between the lush tropical trees, to get to our lunch.







We shared a table with two young Australian doctors who were in Ho Chi Minh for some sort of conference, and we shared this big fried elephant fish with them. The lunch was included in the tour package, but the fish was an extra dish that cost VND 250,000.


Elephant Fish


After lunch, we were given about 1 hour to bike around. The bikes was also included in the package, we didn’t have to rent them. Oh I looooved biking around the Mekong Delta. Too bad rain soon fell and we all rushed biking back to the diner.





Us and tourists from Australia and Sweden


While waiting for time to get on the boat again, Mumun the coffee lover ordered a glass of Vietnamese coffee, served with ice cubes. I took a sip and liked it!


Coffee-krazie girl



The conversation with our guide was a really entertaining one, as he was explaing stuff about Vietnam and constantly asking Renny if she wanted to be his girlfriend.. hahaha.


FOOD


Baguette

As a French colony, or used to be, it’s no wonder that there are many French influences in Vietnam. Including the food. Baguette is this long loaf of bread, and these street sellers offer fillings with hams, sausages, and salads, just like sandwich.

The lady was preparing my breakfast



The funny thing is, I have a friend back home, who’s tall and kinda big in the athletic way, and my other friends nicknamed her “jambon”. And I just found out from the baguette’s stalls that jambon is none other than baguette, cos it’s written on some of the stalls as well. But I don’t know from what language it actually derived from.

Anyway, I really like my jambon sandwich, which I had as breakfast befor going to the Mekong River. It cost me VND 20,000 for the whole big loaf of bread and its fillings. It took me quite some time to finish it.


Ngoc Suong (Le Marina) restaurant

We had one of the best meals in this seafood restaurant. Although the fake sea port view on the big wall was kinda tacky, at the same time it could look real in pictures, we loved the food, and they’re more expensive than the average food we’d have in this trip. Total cost for us three was VND 480,000.

Ngoc Suong, a restaurant "by the seaport"


Our menu included grilled squid, escargot, some veggies, and noodle.








Find this restaurant at 19c Le Quy Don. Our taxi ride from the Ho Chi Minh statue to this place by Mailinh Taxi was VND 20,000, and then going back from there to our hostel on Pham Ngu Lau was VND 43,000.


Pho 2000

This is another chain restaurant which also opens in Jakarta, but neither of us had ever tried. And so we had a taste on the original recipe in its original country.

We had lunch at the Pho 2000 across one of Ben Tanh Market entrances. Having a portion of noodle and a regular drink, I spent about VND 60,000. It was good enough.

A NOTE ON TRASPORTATION

Based from my friend Anton’s advice and from our own experience, we concluded that it’s better not to take any taxi other than Mai Linh Taxi. They don’t mess around with you in terms of route and fare. If you’re going to B, they’ll take you there through the shortest convenient distance, and the meter doesn’t accelerate like crazy.





But remember, there are some other taxis that copied its look, with white and green color and a logo that resembles Mai Linh’s a lot. We got fooled once, and boy, did the meter rob us or what.
We used Mai Linh service in Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. I don’t know, maybe they’re available in other places as well.

Oh and lately I found out the Vinasun taxi is also a trusted one.

Alright, Vietnam story is done so far. Next, wait for our Cambodia travel story! I never thought I would have a great experience there!

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