February 2, 2011

South East Asia on a shoestring: Arrival Vietnam

So, we have already booked our tickets a year prior to our departure. Yeah, that was really a long time to go and anything can be happened during one year period.  Instead of five, two were down due to working, so it’s all about three girls going backpacking. We are Grace, Felis and me. All the bags are packed, itinerary is fixed after some never-ending-discussion :D, some Benjamins are in hand  and we are good to go.

1st day – Arrival at Ho Chi Minh City.
 Our 3 hours 15 minutes flight was okay. We land at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam around 8pm. The airport is quite new. They just opened the new International Airport  with the new building on September 2007. The old terminal building which used to for both domestic and international is now used for domestic flight only. We pass the immigration section with one month stay in Vietnam, get our carrier and go out from the terminal. Three foreign currency exchange stalls are right in front of us once weget out from the building. We check the exchange is Dong 18.960 for USD1.00. After some thought, we decide to exchange our money later outside to get more good price off course :D.

The airport is located inside the crowded of Ho Chi Minh City. So once I walk out from the airport I can see a building over there and it’s a mall ;). I remember Kha, our host in Ho Chi Minh, mentioned not to get taxi inside the airport. No idea what is the reason. As we walk heading the main road, I am a bit surprise with the traffic. It’s not because the motorbikes are everywhere but they are driving at the right lane while Indonesia at the left lane.

Now, we are focusing to our next mission to find money changer otherwise we will not get anything to eat, while at the moment we are starving. We walk around 30 minutes without finding any of money changer. Asking the local people is totally useless as they don’t speak English at all. So we keep finding to get Dong and we are lucky to find a Travel Agent which still open and they can change our Benjamin’s :D. And we get Dong 19.000 for one dollar .. not bad huh ;)... After exchange some money, next mission is to find local number. We enter a building and find one stall sell for local number. We buy new number with D 100.000 which we find out later we can only buy it with D 20.000 only.

Now, back to our tummy with food. We are looking for something warm for us and decided to have Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served with beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga). The soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with leaves (no idea what are the leaves) and peppers. As we cannot read their alphabet of Vietnamese, so we try to find the restaurant with menu and the price on it :D. Well, at least we know the price though we also get confused how to said chicken or beef or  asking for a bowl  or to have ice tea to them. Again.. none of them speak in English except the cashier (I guess she is the owner) though only a little bit :D.

After dinner, we are now heading to Kha’s house. After texting him and we hop on to Taxi (Vinasun) using meter. They have two kinds of cars they used for Taxi. A Sedan and a Kijang :D. Both has same price. Once you enter they will charge you D 10.000 and the next 100meters is D 1.250. It’s quite expensive actually compare to Jakarta but this is the only transportation we can use since the bus 152 from airport to Central don’t operate after 5pm. So, we are happy with the taxi since we are tired after walking with carrier behind :D.

Actually, the distance from Airport to Kha’s house is not that really far but the taxi driver a little bit confused with the address we gave to them. We feel we already at the right address but we couldn’t find the right number. Asking the people nearby is even more confusing because they are more taking us to go different direction. After some text messages with Kha and we felt that we are close enough with the right address so we stop and take Kha’s suggestion to sit on the coffee shop nearby his house. Don’t imagine the coffee shop in Jakarta like Starbucks or O La La or Coffee Bean, but it’s literally a Coffee Shop as Warung Kopi ;). We have our drinks there and waiting for Kha to come. He is still with another Couchsurfers who hang out together for a salsa ;). After waiting for more than one hour, finally we meet Kha and the rest of his 5 guests. Ow yeahhh, he is hosting already 5 couchsurfers and with us 3 girls, now become 8 people !!!  From Russia, Sweden, Indonesia … couldn’t remember the other one :D.

Kha’s house is right behind the main small street, so we need to go inside the aisle. No wonder we couldn’t find his house. Vietnamese has the same typical of house. Their house is just like Ruko (Rumah Toko) in Indonesia. So, it’s a common if you see their house is a three or four stories high house :D. Just like Kha’s house, it has 4 floors and our couch is located at the 2nd floor. Since the mattresses are not enough, we use our sleeping bag as our mattress.
Continue to South East Asia on a shoestring 2: South Vietnam

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