“Third world country, why?”
This has always been the question my friends would often ask, why?
Well, why not? ASEAN countries have many things to offer, things that you can’t even find very easily. Also, Vietnam is actually the closest thing I can get to France. The resemblance is uncanny (ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little), and the streets of Ho Chi Minh City is just so intriguing.
We may have learned a few things about the country, Vietnam and the Viet Kong in our History class, but you can never describe what Vietnam is like, until you experience this unique and vibrant country to yourself.
During my trip to Vietnam in 2014, here are some of the things and tips you may need to know before traveling to the land of Ho Chi Minh (I don’t see the connection, but it sounds catchy).
- It’s a Muslim friendly country. Well, pretty much.
Well, yeah, the vast majority of Vietnamese actually practice ancestor worship in some form that I don’t even know (considering that I stayed there for 5 days, only), but there are actually 70, 000 practicing Muslims in Vietnam which makes up the minority of the population there (Mind you, Vietnam has a population of 73.8 Million people, if this is not correct, by all means, you are free to conduct your own geographical research. *Whispers* On Wikipedia.).
Vietnam through our lenses (gaah too pretentious)
You don’t often find local Muslims walking down the street, but there are plenty of Halal-Muslim restaurants that you WILL come across to in Ho Chi Minh City, SPECIFICALLY.
So, eat all you want but if some of you have cravings for little “Miss Piggy”, don’t worry, coming across to Miss Piggy is like finding thousands of rubbers/condoms in a haystack (just laugh along to this pathetic metaphor).
2. A-Hah! Wait ’til you get to those Halal/Muslim restaurants!
Aaaah, I LOVE bearing you people bad news. Don’t worry, they don’t cook pork, but you will fall and crumble instantly, as soon as you get… THE BILL.
A normal Nasi Goreng Tom Yam (Tom Yam Fried Rice) costed me RM 20 (7U$D). With that RM20, I can get myself a proper Japanese set meal, that comes along with refillable green tea and desserts, okay, maybe it costs me more than that.
RM 60 ++ in total, I kid you not.
Deep inside they were like “Twat, I spend this much just for you”.
But are you ready to spend RM 20 for a simple Nasi Goreng, RM 5 for ONE Roti Canai, and RM 25 for a dish of Malay styled Chicken Paprika? That being said, brings me to point 3 (below).
3. Bring LOTS OF CASH. Actually, bring, whatever that’s enough for you. NOPE, NO, bring a lot of cash.
The girls were tryin’ the local’s delicacy. The old lady is pretty generous.
In my case, I brought RM 400 (USD100), which is just enough for me as I don’t party (we’ll get to that), I don’t really eat, and I spent on things that are really cheap.
Bring at least RM 500-600, to be safe. But if you’re hunting for things, RM1000, would be more than enough. Vietnam is not that cheap. Na-uh.
4. Don’t be a SMART ASS and convert your damn money to Viet Dong.
In Vietnam, some of them may prefer the Viet Dong, but MOST of ’em, gots some lovin’ for the USD. Yeap, instead of Viet Dong, use the USD note. It’s more convenient, and it’ll save your ass.
At least she’s ok with VietDong.
In the streets of Ben Thanh, some vendors actually accept Ringgit Malaysia, but, unless you’re as smart as ‘Yours Truly’ (Use the PR charm and you can get away from a lot of shit), stick to using the USD notes.
5. It’s actually quite expensive in Vietnam.
And it is true. Everything in Ho Chi Minh (at least) is quite pricey, except for their coffee and Marlboro (RM 6 for a pack). Normal gifts can cost you like RM 15-200, depending on the amount of the item that you’re planning to buy, or the quality of that pretty ass China Doll.
Local foods aren’t that bad, they’re pretty cheap. Drinks in any clubs are quite expensive and don’t even get me started with books. If you’re planning to buy books, go to India instead. Cheaper.
Sticky rice. Without the mango.
6. Malaysian SIGN/HAND Language IS NOT VALID IN HO CHI MINH CITY!
In Vietnam, this is your kryptonite. Our Malaysian Sign/Hand language is at its weakest, only in Vietnam. It’s never going to work, ever.
I hate the traffic in Vietnam, just as much as I hate KL’s traffic.
Cars and motorbike specifically, would come in from all different kinds of directions. Sucks, big time, I know.
There’s a trick to it though, be a Moses. Walk straight, slowly and confidently.
7. The nightlife is pretty wild.
My friends and I walked around the streets of Ho Chi Minh at night, and if you are into beer, parties and things like that, Ho Chi Minh City is the place for you.
We went to a club called Apocalypse Now, at around 11pm, and it was super packed. Unlike KL, cover charge is not necessary. Walk in, order your drinks or cocktails or whatever, and start grinding. Well, in my case, I just smoked a few cigs and stood awkwardly. I don’t even drink, how am I suppose to get hammered? The music wasn’t that bad. If you’re into Usher or Ne-Yo.
But, really, there was this one time when my friends were out dancing, there were girls at another table (pretty near to where I was standing), started talking to each other and kept staring at me. They came to me and pulled me (goodness, they’ve got the strength of a friggin’ elephant) and started to dance and grind on me. I politely said no, went to the nearest toilet and just cried like a little infant (nah, I was just waiting for my girls to get me a pack of cigarette).
We left the place at 3am, sober. Thank the Lord.
Please be mindful of the taxi service, they will charge you like mad. The journey from the club to our hotel is actually pretty near, like around 1 kilometre, and the cab driver charged us USD 10 for that. Twat.
8. It’s a parallel universe for Men!
Yeap, it is!
Try strolling through Tao Dan Park. Women would normally dominate the occupancy of the park. In the afternoon, they would do a regular Zumba session, for LADIES ONLY, in their hot pants and what not. They’re pretty ‘fierce’.
Also, bad boys, you might get a taste of your own medicine here in Ho Chi Minh City. Throughout my experience travelling in Vietnam, I have been cat-called by the local lasses numerous times. Well, I actually quite liked it.
Vietnamese men, however, are more timid, shy and very soft spoken. Something douchebags all over the world can learn from.
9. DO NOT TALK SMACK TO YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT VENDORS IN BAHASA MALAYSIA! I REPEAT, DO NOT!
While we were bargaining, my friends and I were having conversation in Malay, and I kept telling them we can get the item that she wanted way cheaper and the price is crazy expensive.
Was speaking to them in Malay. I look like a freakin’ giant.
The vendor? Yeap, she laughed and told us that she understood whatever we talked about. In fact, most vendors are able to hold a proper conversation in Bahasa Malaysia.
We stared at her and quietly disappeared.
10. Should I walk or just ride on some strangers’ motorbike?
I’d choose to walk any day!
Why? Because, tall asian guy and Xe-Om (motorcycle taxi), we do not match.
Xe-Om can be found everywhere. So, no worries and just go ahead, ride on them (motorbikes I mean). It can cost you anywhere from 15000 Viet Dong to 150, 000.
That’s Denise riding the Xe-Om.
They won’t do anything to you. Trust me.
11. CHU CHI TUNNEL, MY DARKEST NIGHTMARE, LITERALLY.
It was nice exploring and learning about the history of Viet Kong and the base camp that was once a place they call home. Here’s the thing if you’re over 6 foot tall, and you decide to explore the tunnel, that’s gonna be the worst decision you will ever make in your life.
The tunnel (Chu Chi Tunnel) however, made me shit bricks. There were bats inside and it got me into a real bat shit situation. The tour guide told us that the Viet Kong released thousands of venomous Cobra snakes like years before and that some are still wandering inside the tunnel. Holy fuck, I hate snakes.
Imagine spending a night here. The Viet Kong did just that for days.
The Viet Kong made this booby trap just for their enemies.
I can definitely fit inside this ‘man-hole’. I just didn’t wanna do it.
I paid U$D 20 for a short trip to the Viet Kong’s Base Camp, inclusive of the transportation. It took us around an hour or so to get there.
12. Listen to some music while strolling in the streets of Ho Chi Minh.
Yeah, it gives you a different feel. I’d recommend listening to Édith Piaf.
You’d stumble into this.
13. SNATCHERS ALERT.
At least four locals kept me reminded of the way I held my camera.
So I am pretty sure snatchers are pretty much everywhere.
14. Only travel on foot around District 1-District 3.
If you wanna travel on foot, fine, District 1, District 2 and District 3, would be just fine. However, if you are planning to visit other districts, make sure you know how to get there and don’t simply travel by walking. It’s pretty dangerous. Seriously.
District 1 – 3 are basically where travellers would often find themselves a lot of pretty cool places and things. From an old Ice Cream parlour to Water Puppet show. From high scaled boutiques to places where you can get wasted. You know what I mean.
Their local Water Puppet Show is definitely above mediocre. Pretty brilliant.
Some legit performers.
Tempted to pluck one.
15. Fall in love with the people and their culture. Not their coffee, not my cuppa tea.
They may not smile at you at all times because that’d be freaky. But they are indeed helpful and very courteous. You don’t receive that kind of treatment anywhere (ok that’s a lie, you’d receive kind treatment anywhere in the ASEAN region, a little too friendly if I might say).
Aaah, Coffee, you can find coffee shops everywhere in Saigon, especially in District 1 – District 3. If you’re into coffee, you’d love them. If you’re not, then, good for you. I don’t like coffee. So, *clears throat* nope!
Opt for tasty ice cream instead!
You can enjoy them here!
I think you’ve got yourself pretty much covered for this Indo-China trip. Good Luck!