in the morning and I was in another country all by myself.I hate long lines, but I did not mind queuing up to the immigration desks, as I know after these, new and wonderful experiences awaited me.
TanSonNhatInternationalAirport is not that big, all new and clean.I waited at the airport luggage carousel for my backpack.It was like almost one hour and I noticed that I have not seen co-passengers.I thought to myself that lucky for them, they got their baggage already, and my backpack, just a small backpack, was still no where to be seen.I panicked.They cannot lose my backpack, my clothes!So I reported to the airportâ€™s help desk that my bag was missing.
@ Notre Dame Cathedral
The friendly Vietnamese girl at the counter asked me, â€śDid you check the other carousel?â€ť and pointed at a nearby baggage carousel with a few bags in it.It hit me that I was actually waiting at the wrong place.I wasted almost an hour, doing nothing inside the airport.And there it was -- my backpack.There were two bags left unclaimed in that carousel, so I guess I was not the only stupid passenger.:)
Now with my backpack with me, I went to one of the foreign currency exchange counters that lined up in the airport.I got the shock of my life when I was handed over one million Vietnamese dong in exchange of HK$500.I was carrying a million in my wallet!
Going out of the airport, I was swarmed by taxi and motorbike drivers, which I all declined as I was taking the public airport bus to Pham Ngu Lao, Saigonâ€™s backpackers area.For VND 3000, I was able to get to De Tham Street in District 1.
@ Ben Thanh Market
Once I got off the bus, my search for a budget hotel started as I have not made any reservations.Actually, I already have a few hotels in mind as suggested by fellow TravBuddies, but I wanted to check out first the other much cheaper hostels that I have researched.I ended up at Phi Long Hotel on Bui Vien Street, pleased with the room that I got.
After freshening up, I grabbed a quick bite at some restaurant near the hotel and went to the hotel a friend of mine was staying.
And so I met up with Dimple, my classmate way back in high school, whoâ€™s now living in Saigon, and she accompanied me, together with her hubby Andy, in visiting the usual sights in Saigon.
First stop was the WarRemnantsMuseum with its exhibits on war crimes and its aftermath.
@ City Hall
There were a lot of morbid photos, definitely not for the squeamish.I had goose bumps all over me when I saw the pictures of the Agent Orange victims and deformed fetus.Another corner showed off the imprisonment system used during the war with replicas of the tiger cages and a Guillotine.Outside of the building were the US weaponry used during the Vietnam War.
After that disturbing museum, we visited the ReunificationPalace, which, for me, was not that impressive.
Moving on, we went to the lovely red-bricked Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral and the opposite Colonial-looking building, which was the Post Office.We did not stay long in those places as it was scorching hot that afternoon.
Next stop:Ben Thahn Market, a huge indoor market selling almost everything.
De Tham @ night
I was warned by Dimple and Andy not to touch anything inside the market, unless I have excellent bargaining skills, as I will be harassed by the persistent shop owners.With that in mind, I just feasted my eyes on the sights that surrounded me.
As we can no longer bear the Saigon heat, we decided to chill out at ParksonPlaza and ate halo-halo (Yes, they also have halo-halo!!!) at their food court.
Before getting back to out hotels, we passed by Saigonâ€™s City Hall, which, for me, is way better than their Reunification Hall.
Later that night, after trying out Saigonâ€™s pho and coffee, Dimple and I went to my hotel where we chatted till the wee hours of the morning.