It had already been after midnight when we got out of the plane at Ho Chi Minh airport. We needed to go to the Visa counter first to get the entry permit.
You need to apply for the Visa about 4 weeks in advance when you want to travel Vietnam. Once you have the permission, you need to print the documents and bring a passport photo which is up-to-date. Additionally you have to pay 45 US Dollar at the airport if it’s an entry visa for 28 days.
Eventually we passed all entry counters and got to our luggage which was the last on the belt. We took a taxi to get to our hotel. The first driver who offered us the transport wanted to charge 800 VND. Still we had problems with figuring out whether this was a good price or not, but it turned out it wasn’t. So we went to the official taxi counter. They charged 230k VND, which we thought was still a lot, but we were tired and just wanted to get some sleep, as we had been travelling for 16 hours so far.
I was so surprised about how Saigon was like. It seemed to be very westernized, clean and cultivated. I thought Vietnam would be more rural. Half an hour later we arrived at our hotel in the middle of the city center. Nobody was on the streets anymore but fortunately a co-worker of our hotel opened the door and lead us in to our tiny little room which was full of mould. But anyway, we were lucky to get some rest.
Activities in Saigon
We started walking around the other day to explore the city which had been still so unfamiliar to us. First we went to the big and famous Ben Tanh Market. It was a huge hall with hundreds of market stalls in it. They sell sunglasses, jewelry, clothes, souvenirs, dried fruits and vegetables, perfume, scarfs, silk and you have lots of options to get authentic, Viatnamese food as well. You seriously could spend the whole day there. They close around six, so keep the opening hours in mind if you want to go there. The only problem there is, that the prices they tell you are more than exaggerated. Sometimes we felt that we even don’t want to bargain anymore if they start with such high prices. You can get sunglasses for 50k VND, but they start with 200k or 300k which is way too much. The best way to go, is to tell them the cheapest price you’d like to pay and if they don’t agree just walk away. Mostly they will call you back and you get the price you are willing to pay.
The Viatnamese history
There is a lot of war history to explore in Saigon as well. There are tunnels remaining from the war you can visit, which we didn’t, but you can get some information on the tours in every tourist center. It’s supposed to be very interesting to visit the sight, you can even go through the tunnels, which must be quite an experience. But be aware that they are very narrow of course, so you shouldn’t be claustrophobic. Another place to learn more about the history is the War Remnants Museum, which we visited. The entrance fee is about 15k VND, so definitely affordable. You can see some of the helicopters, planes and tanks they were using during the war. Also there are a lot of pictures, for example of the agent orange aftermath, which are quite depressing. But they give you a good understanding of what the Viatnamese had been through.
The Mekong Delta
We booked a tour to the Mekong Delta for 230k VND. It started at 8 o’clock in the morning. We went by bus to the river and continued our tour with an old wooden boat. First we went to an island where we got some fresh fruits and tea. The next stop was a rural open air factory, where they produced sweets made of coconut. We could also try some hard liquor made of banana or coconut which was very tasty.
We then went on to the Mekong River where we got on some traditional wooden boats, which were very tiny. The river was very crowded, there were dozens of these boats on it but it was really stunning to drive along the river. There were huge plants on each side and mangroves as well. This was probably the best part of the tour. We had some included lunch afterwards which was very delicious. I had fried tofu with vegetables and rice. There were bicycles to rent for free so we decided to have a little ride across the island. It was very funny as the bicycles were really small and old. We passed some little street markets, houses and bridges. I had been so distracted by the nature that we got lost in the end. We had just little time to get back to our group so we didn’t really know how to manage to get back on time. Eventually we decided to take the same way back which we had come but it turned out that even that was not as easy as we thought. We got caught by some inhabitants on our way who had a big party going on. They wanted us to stay, I think, and tried to hinder us from heading on. It was a struggle to continue but in the end they let us go. We were so lucky when we finally found the way back. Anyway this had been great fun, definitely. We arrived in Saigon at 5 o’clock in the evening. In the end, this tour was quite touristic and the focus was to push the tourists to buy stuff at every stop we had. But anyway we had a good time and it was worth it. You don’t need to buy anything but just be aware that they gonna try to push you.