Vietnam 2010

It took minutes to book airline tickets on line. Then, the 6 month wait, till we travel. It’s like waiting for a life time to go by.

Vietnam is a country I have always wanted to visit .I hear the history, culture and food is fantastic.

Miss C and Miss G will be joining me as we visit Vietnam. We fly out of Sydney via Darwin then onto Ho Chi Minh City .We will spend a few days in HCMC and tour the Mekong Delta and visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. Then we fly onto Nha Trang, for a few days. Then its fly back to HCMC for the day and part of that night we leave for Sydney via Darwin. Which, I never look forward to. But, for the price for 3 people return with Jetstar. I will put up with the few hours stop over.

Then comes the what to do and where to stay and what to see, thank god for the internet. Try just google what you want “Vietnamese cooking” . Also sites like Trip Advisor are a great help for tips , their is a few site like that

I organised our visas at the costs of selling my 1st born. And a fee of $72 each, for single entry visa’s , maybe that includes a little red carpet treatment on landing.

The only worry we have now is Miss G and her fussy eating.  

Saturday 27th November

10am and time to get aboard the airport shuttle service to Sydney airport. After a drive around half the world to pick up other passengers finally made it to the airport.

Jetstar departed on time and before to long we landed in Darwin. A few hours later we were landing in Ho Chi Minh City .10 minutes early ! The flight was great , my only problem was on the Sydney Darwin leg I asked for 3 video on demand as was told there isn’t enough to have 3 so she gave me 2 and gave the other video unit to someone else . (I was under the impression it was first in first served) .There is no place to order them on line when I purchased the tickets. And the next leg was worse I was seated in row 11 and by the time they work from the front to my seat they sold out. Come on Jetstar I think this should be ordered on line specially when travelling with kids and charging people twice in one journey is a bit steep as well, I travelled to Singapore via Darwin a year or 2 back and payed $12 for the entire journey. You guys need to pick your act up in this respect.

Ho Chi Minh City at night from the sky looked fantastic as Miss G said its like fairy lights.

We made it through customs easy and very quick; we all had 40 Litre backpacks containing our stuff for which are the right size for hand luggage and no waiting for cases, to easy. The airport is well set out and very easy to get around, and the floor is so shiny.

After customs we walked towards the exit door where I saw a money changer and taxi stand on the right next to the exit door, I exchanged money for a rate of 20 352 and got a taxi for 170 000 dong (about $8 au) and a sim card (viettel) with $8 credit on it for 170 000 Dong, all in 1 shop then with my taxi voucher in hand we boarded the taxi and off we went.

My god the traffic is crazy and very busy at 930 - 10 pm at night, I can imagine it during the day.

We arrived at the Sapphire Hotel, the girls liked it and I liked it as well very flash .So far the room is great and comfortable but a little small , but it will do fine.

Time for a few beers and some sleep.

Sunday 28th

6am and  regurgitator don't go to sleep , blasted out of my mobile phone , my god I need to change the alarm . We got ready and head to the restaurant on the 13 floor, talk about freaky I have never been on or heard of a 13th floor building.

I had vermicelli noodles with chicken which smelt like stale urine but tasted fantastic.

I had organised a tour of the Mekong Delta with Saigon Hotpot find them here or search for them on facebook, theses guys are pretty cheap for a tour of the Mekong compared to any of other private tours

8am was pick up time , and away we went , it took about 2 hours to get there with plenty to see along the way specially the 101 guys using the side of the road as a toilet .

Andy was our tour guide and he did a fantastic job, he was very informative and spoke good English as well. The tour cost $55 us and I payed another $25 AU for the boat trip to the Island to see the honey tea,coconuts lollies and try fruit and a sampan ride all a bit touristy but we did enjoy the day and I payed for lunch for girls and Andy and I which came to $15 AU, we got back around 4 pm and the heavens opened up just on dinner time, About an hour later the rain had stopped so we set off for the night market at Ben Thanh . It was ok the quality of stuff is not as good as Thailand or Bali and from the night markets not as much to choose from . I have a city tour with Saigon Hotpot tomorrow and I will check out the Ben Thanh markets tomorrow .

We also stopped into Fanny for an ice cream , omg this is to die for , so yummy and at about $3 very cheap and they are masterpieces .

Also if you want to access facebook while in Vietnam and you have your own laptop do this

change your computer IP configuration

to use the following DNS server addresses:

Preferred DNS server: 208.67.222.222

Alternate DNS server: 208.67.220.220

It is illegal to use facebook in Vietnam.

Monday 29th

Breakfast today was another soup with noodles and beef , my god it was hotter than hell , I had tears in my eyes my nose was running like a tap and I’m sure steam was coming out my ears . But the taste was fantastic I love the food here it’s so yummy.

9am and we waited out the front of the hotel for our guide from Saigon Hotpot. Fong arrived just after 9am, we jumped in a cab and took off for the Independent Palace which cost 15000 Dong entry fee per adult, Fong was very informative and spoke great English. Next was Notre Dame Cathedral then onto the Post Office , then we called into a restaurant for lunch which was a Vietnamese lunch , were you get lettuce leafs and other leave and a small bowl of a fish sauce and a pancake with shrimp and pork with mushrooms , The pancake is broken up with chop sticks and then rolled into the lettuce leaves and dipped into the fish sauce , very yummy even Miss C loved them , Miss G had to have KFC as she won’t eat this type of food , silly girl , she don’t know what she is missing . We also had some form of salad and shrimp rolled in rice paper dipped into a brown sauce with peanuts so yummy. But ,sorry Fong the Pennywort drink wasn’t that nice. Tasted like dirt with a hint of broccoli .

After lunch we piled into another taxi, thank god for a/c the day was so hot and humid. Ben Thanh Markets, the smell around the food section made the girls gag the site was enough for them, we quickly moved onto the rest of the markets where we looked around some shop keepers seemed to want to sell stuff at an expensive price and some stuff was great and sold at a fair price, I had to bargain hard to get prices dropped some shops are fixed prices, the temperature is so hot inside. As Miss C said its ok if you are very skinny and small with very small feet .Some of the female shop owners are very cheeky but a lot of fun it’s so nice to have a laugh with them. A young girl of about 5 years old came up to me selling fans 3 for 50 000 Dong so I bought them from her ,she was very sweet and funny little business women So I gave her 20 000 Dong and she ran off to another shop and bought herself a small doll , god bless her . Back to the hotel to kool off and have an hour rest .

Off again to the The Sinh Tourist travel service to book the Cu Chi Tunnels for tomorrow morning a ½ day tour at a $5 each plus entrance fee . On the way back Miss G spots a spa not far from our hotel , so off we go to check it out , ummmm I thought , as I looked at the girls in little pink dresses , Maybe we should try the place across the road . Zest foot and fish spa . 300 000 Dong (about $15 AU)for a fish massage and a full body massage . We started with the fish spa which left us giggling like a bunch of girls , the massage was fantastic though I am worried if my back will come out all bruised as the lady ended up walking up and down my back , but god it felt great.

After we walked along the road looking for something for dinner , not far from the hotel was a small cart with a kebab type meat on a rotisserie, which was cut and placed onto long crusty bread rolls with tomato and cucumber and sauce like mayo and chilli, this was a another great cheap meal . I felt like going back for another .

The 333 beer is growing on me.

Tuesday 30th

6 am and that darn alarm blasted out that darn song again . Shit I felt crap after the 333 beers last night.

Omg , I got to have Pho Bo for breakfast , I have heard it was very yummy ,and they are right,beautiful !

 I reckon if someone opened a Pho shop in Australia they could make a killing .

We got a cab over to The Sinh Tourist to get ready for our trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels , after a short wait we boarded the bus and off we went , we were given a bottle of water and a hand towel ( Not bad for $5 per person) Our tour guide got over the loud speaker and explained the tour and the history of the tunnels , one thing that he said which made me wonder about later was, he said we will travel at 40 or 50 km/h , yeah right buddy I reckon we travelled closer to the speed of light in and out of the crazy Saigon traffic . We made it to the tunnels safe and sound thank god. And our tour guide collected our entrance fee of 80 000 Dong per person , unless you can speak Vietnamese, and you could get in for half the price so I said ‘hello 3 please’ in Vietnamese but it did me no good .  Our tour guide did a fantastic job taking us around the tunnels and explaining the different traps and methods used by the Vietnamese and the history of the tunnels . Then we got to the firing range , my god you should of heard the guns it was deafening , we choose the M16 Machine gun . What a blast that was we ,all had a few shots at just over a dollar a bullet it was well worth it . Then onto the tunnels , me and Miss C took on the challenge while Miss G waited up top for us , I’m not sure how deep we went down , but it seems to be about 10 meters and the length of the tunnel was 40 odd meters . Down the steps we went giggling like girls for the 1st few meters , and me with video camera in hand , crouching down so I fit in the tunnel and was able to walk . By the time I made it half way My legs felt like jelly and I was starting to overheat big time. I was more than happy to be out of there it was so hot and cramped in there ,we also got try the food they lived on most of the time , Tapioca god it tastes like crap.

 I don’t know how anyone could live in there all the time and the tunnels are made bigger so us larger framed westerners can fit in . Back to the bus I tried to walk, but my legs felt like rubber.Omg I must of looked funny .

We stopped at a factory to see disabled people making craft and what a great job they do .

While we where near the markets we headed over to take a look and to get Miss C eyes tested and see how much the glasses would cost , $18 AU , with designer frames. So I ordered 2 pairs for that price in case she looses or breaks a pair .

We decided to eat dinner at the hotel tonight and it was great and food and drinks for $12 dollars for 3 people is great .

We headed down to the night markets and had a bit better luck tonight at getting some stuff for a better price , I got 2 quicksilver school laptop backpacks for the girls at $7 each , what a bargain .

A bit of a tip is be careful on the choice of taxi you choose . Choose either a Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi , but also make sure the spelling is the same and they wear a uniform . I also found it better to use a map with the taxi or a business card or card from your hotel , save a lot of time trying to explain where you want to go to .

Wednesday 1st December

We were woken up by someone vomiting. My god what a way to start a day.

Up to have some breakfast; it was vermicelli noodles and chicken soup, so yummy. I got the recipe to try make it when I get home I also got the recipe for Pho Bo.

We headed back towards the Ben Thanh markets to pick up Miss C 2nd pair of glasses from Kinh Thuoc da Minh which is at the rear of the markets at shop 146 Le Thanh Ton. Which isn’t far from a few gold shops where money can be changed, I always got a rate of just over 20 000 Dong to the Australian dollar.

Miss G piped up, can I get my nails done. She got acrylic nails and a manicure done on her feet with nail polish and flower design for $21 Au, Miss C got and hand manicure with nails painted and a design for $5 AU. And of course they talked me into joining in the fun  , I got a manicure on my hands and feet for $5 Au also , I have no idea on these things but my girls say $30 is cheap for this work . It was done at Quang Quis Nails at shop 158 Le Thanh Ton Quan 1, not far from the optometrist.

We wandered up the road and around the corner to Saigon Square to have a look what was on offer , we bought a few DVDs , Of TV series some 11 discs long in a nice Box for around $10 - $12 each and 10 000 Dong for single DVDs . Also bought some sunnies from the guys that walk around with the boards full of sunnies, we got 5 pairs for $10 AU.

This evening we headed back towards the night markets to have a look around , I ate some form of vermicelli noodle or rice with a shrimp wrapped in a banana leaf , dipped into chilli sauce of  some kind .Another great snack , the food here is the best .

An early night tonight as we head North in the morning at 5 am

 

Thursday 2nd

Its 530 am at the airport, waiting for a domestic flight to Nha Trang, a welcome relief from Saigon I’m sure as we will be on the beach and away from the city.

 Saigon was busy, dirty, and polluted. But yet fascinating and wonderful, I loved it here.But 4 days was heaps long enough to spend here. The city is a melting pot of culture and modernization .Every turn can take you on a different adventure with something new and exciting or strange to see .Where else can you drive down the road flashing your headlights and beeping your horn to tell another driver to move over , at home it’s called road rage . Or risk you life crossing a road with a wall of motorbike rushing towards you .At first I thought the people a little rude , but after a day or 2 my thoughts have changed most people I spoke to can’t speak English very well , but we both enjoyed meeting and chatting . Yesterday afternoon, in the markets I asked a stall holder what she was eating and with a smile she told me and offered me some of her dinner and a conversation. It’s moments like this , that I can meet a stranger and they can be accepting and friendly and share what little they have , that makes you realise how wonderful not only Vietnam but other Asian countries I have visited . Which also, make me realise how much greed and self indulgences us westerners have at times.

Sapphire Hotel was great the room are a bit on the small size but big enough for us 3 and our mess. The breakfast was great and a nice selection of Vietnamese food on offer. We ate dinner at the hotel twice during our stay, due to Miss G and her fussing eating , I am glad to say I have managed to get her to try a little of the food and even eat some . Fingers crossed she will keep the braveness up.

But as a 3 star hotel it was great , my only complaint was the rooms can get a bit noisy from time to time other than that a nice hotel in a good spot .

We boarded a Vietnam Airlines flight to Nha Trang. We left on time and landed 5 minutes early. I went to buy a bus ticket and was told the bus is full, Bummer. Then the lady called me back as an English couple wanted the bus as well , we all went 5 ways in the cost of a taxi about 50 000 Dong each , which was fine by me .

We chatted all the way from the airport, both going the same hotel. I’m not sure how long the drive took I guess 40 minutes. It was a nice drive. Mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other. Beautiful scenery.

The Novotel is fantastic a beautiful hotel and free wifi and straight across the road from the beach with its own section on the beach. The room we got was a standard room on the 15th floor on the right front side number 1504, I was told it’s the best standard room, the view is fantastic. The shower is sunken and can be used as a huge bath, the shower head is massive. The bed is Massive as well and very comfy.

After booking in we made our way up the street to have a look around and get some lunch, I changed some money in a jewellery shop owned by a Russian man, nice guy. We continued along the street and found The Sinh Tourist, and booked a ½ day city tour for $7 each. Then went next door for a feed 4 plates of food 3 drinks and a free banana each all for $7, the food was Yummy and the restaurant was nearly full.

The girls wanted to go for a swim and steam bath at the hotel and just veg out, we had been on the go since 330 am.

I got a Viettel sim card for my mobile when I landed in Vietnam. Its nice and cheap to phone within Vietnam and back home to Australia , But my god the spam is none stop , I have sat hear typing and on face book for the last 20 minutes , and had over 50 spam messages , it’s just plain crazy . I feel like throwing the darn phone out the 15 story window, arrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhhh.

We got ready and went out for dinner across the road from the beach, Miss C got some form of Pasta and Miss G got a burger and chips. And I got noodles and chicken and 3 drinks all for 200 000 Dong (about $10 AU). I said to Miss G try this , well she ate half of it , I just sat and smiled at her sister , maybe Miss G is starting to like the food , fingers crossed she will keep trying the different food .

We went for a walk along the beach and a small night market near the hotel , where I saw a small cart with bowls of some form of jelly stuff , they take a bit out of each bowl and add it to a cup add ice and a milky fluid , it was really nice and enjoyable .

Now it beer o’clock.

Friday 3rd 

After a yummy breakfast, we waited in the hotel lobby for our city tour of Nha Trang. With the Sinh Tourist. At 830 am they picked us up. And Lucky for us we were the only ones, so our group tour turned into a private tour with Tan our guide. We also got the free handtowel and bottle of water.

Our first stop was the Oceanography Institute, which was ok .Looking at the tanks with fish, sharks and turtles, but it was a shame to see the turtles in a smallish tank. I’m not one for stuff animals or persevered animals apart from that it was ok. Next stop was Long Son Pagoda. Which was enjoyable , It was quiet with a strong smell of incense in the air as we met a Buddhist monk who only came up to my shoulder he gave us a lotus flower which smelt nice and a small book on Buddha , And I gave him a donation . We bid our farewells with a smile and a wave, as he rang a bell.  As we started our pilgrimage up the 168 steps to the Buddha at the top of the hill, with a brief stop half way to view the reclining Buddha. Along the way was many elderly folk asking of money, and very young children selling incense or fans. We reached the top and into the Buddha we went we then placed burning incense into the alter. A spiritual moment for us.

Back to the car, and onto the Pongar Cham Towers. The drive was interesting as we got a view of the harbour and fishing boats. The Pongar Cham towers were nice to see a lot of locals where they praying, the view is fantastic from the towers.

Then onto Chong rocks, which was ok, nice view from there, and we met a lady how played rocks like a musical instrument.

Then onto Dam Markets which I find interesting I always love a market, but my girls hate the smell and some of the sights they see. We walked around for a while before heading back to the hotel as we had a small rain shower.

The tour it self cost 175 000 Dong plus entrance fee on 3 of the 4 places which was about

42 000 Dong each. Which makes for a cheap day.

For dinner we hit The Sailing Club. What a beautiful place this is and right on the beach and the food is fantastic. Me and the girls loved it; the wait staff are fantastic and very helpful. After dinner we walked along to the Louisiana Brew House, another fantastic place right on the beach as well .I wanted to sample a few beers, I ordered a tasting tray of 4 beers. I can’t believe how much the dark beer tasted like chocolate. It was a slow stagger back to the hotel.

Saturday 4th

Pho Bo for breaky, I was in heaven again. I love this so much, it’s so tasty. After breakfast we decided to go across the world longest cable car to Vinpearl Island. Or should I say the girls decided to go. We headed down to the lobby when the doorman asked do we need a taxi, Yes, where are you going, Vinpearl I said. He then informed me, that Miss Earth 2010 was on tonight. Gemmas eyes lit up.

Wow change of plan, we went to Dam Market and got a small back pack to carry some stuff as we wanted to change after a day at the park.

About lunch time we grabbed a cab and headed towards the cable car to Vinpearl Island .Half way there the heavens opened up. We where nearly there when the taxi driver stopped and said I need to buy a ticket here , I jumped out of the cab while it was pouring rain and made my way up the stair , which where very steep .

At the top was a small shop selling Tickets for Vinpearl Island. Another Aussie from Adelaide was in the shop we said G’day and he was off. I purchased my ticket and headed towards the cab down the wet steps, when, shit I slipped and the Vietnamese girl holding a hat above my head to try keep me dry. Tried to grab me and stop me, silly girl. I’m 3 times the size of here I just dragged her down the steps , She said she was ok , my arm hurts like mad and my pride was hurt , but I hope the poor girl is ok .

At the cable car we ended up sharing a cable car to Vinpearl land with the guy from Adelaide and his girlfriend. We arrived about 15 minutes later and it was still raining, so we went inside and played a few games, half hour later it had stopped raining and the girls enjoyed a few ride and we had lunch of a chicken burger and fries with a drink all for 25 000 Dong not bad for just over a dollar, mind you it cost about $25 - $30 AU to get into Vinpearl. Which Included a Vietnamese meal and a ticket to the Miss Earth Show.

Dinner was fantastic, Rice, a bowl of lettuce and basil leaf and mint leaves, and a yummy chicken dish to place into the lettuce and roll up, soup full of leafs of some kind, fried fish with the head, and fried prawns in the shell and what looked like ox tail and veg, all very yummy, god Vietnam Food is the best ever.

After dinner we got changed and headed for the Miss Earth show , Which I really had no interest in , But Gemma love this kind of stuff , The show was a bit boring  , but the Vietnamese around us where very friendly saying hello giving us food and taking our photos  . The day was very enjoyable. Ronan Keating sang a few songs which the girls liked. Miss India won.

It poured rain again .As we got off the Cable car , and had to run for a taxi .With a 1001 Vietnamese all wanting the same thing .

Sunday 5th

Pho Bo, Again for breaky I just can’t get enough, Just chilling in the hotel room now while the girls are in the lobby on Face book. We are worn out after a hectic day yesterday. I managed to take an afternoon nap as I work and also a single parent, so life gets hectic just about all the time. And never get much of a chance to be lazy.

Ventured out for lunch, between the rain storms. Which have been constant all day.

Ventured out in the rain again this evening, went to Crazy Kim’s for a massage. I got a Vietnamese 50 minute, and the girls a half hour back and shoulders. I was very happy with my massage, especially after the fall yesterday. All my right side was crack crack crack.

Then Gemma begged for dinner at the Sailing club again, which is a bit pricey but also very beautiful, I gave in way to easy, but for around a total of $40 for a meal and a few drinks and desert. Well worth the money.

Let’s hope the weather is better tomorrow.

Monday 6th

Another quiet day in Nha Trang, The darn rain is driving me crazy. I phoned home to Australia only to find the west of NSW and QLD is in flood and at home it was humid with rain showers. I don’t know what’s going on these days the weather is going crazy.

Lunch time came around and the rain stopped and it started to heat up. We went for a walk and had lunch at the Why Not Bar, which was great and very cheap $3 or $4 each and $1.50 for a drink of fizzy.

After a great lunch we had a walk around Nha Trang, before the rain returned.

Out again. For dinner at Lanterns. Who also do a cooking class the food was fantastic and the ambiance was also great. The only problem with eating out at some places in Nha Trang was the hawkers pestering to sell something while you try eat, after dinner we went for a walk around and have a look and grab a few last things from the shops.

Tuesday 7th

That darn alarm on that darn phone, why the hell I picked, don’t go to sleep. It scares the crap out of me each time. Effective to say the least. 530am, we all showered and head down for breakfast. I didn’t notice the floor was wet and I was wearing those stupid thongs again, down like a sack of shit I went. Twice! In one holiday. So now my right elbow is sore and my left knee are both killing me.

I still managed to have Pho Bo for breakfast; it will be my last for a while.

By 7am we were in a cab and on the way to Nha trang airport which took 40 odd minutes.

We boarded on time. Miss Earth was on board the plane, poor girl had a thousand and 1 people asking for a photo, we did get 2 with her .The flight was great but we had to circle around for 10 minutes over Saigon. Thru the clouds I could see the edge of the city, which is massive and seemed to disappear into the horizon and smog .Vietnam airlines was a great airline and I would have no problems flying with them again.

We went from domestic to the international terminals and found the left baggage, which cost us about $30, they saw us coming, what a business to get into.

We walked around Saigon for about 8 hours down to the markets and Saigon Square for a look and grab a few things. We went to MOF a Japanese restaurant and ice cream parlour, they sold the nicest ice cream, and we had soft serve with choc sauce and choc brownies, so yummy.

After a day in heat and the dirt from the city we are exhausted, into a cab we went and off to the airport, a word went thru my mind that started with f and ended with k and it wasn’t fire truck. This is the worst traffic I have ever seen, we were in the cab for 20 minutes and gone about 2 km, our taxi driver kept going, after a while I think he swore in Vietnamese threw his hands in the air and raced off down a dark side street. I just looked back at the girls with a strange look on my face, but he got us to the airport on time and we saw the back streets of Saigon .We picked our bags up from the left luggage and headed up to the check in.

At the check in counter the clerk said my eldest was booked in as a child, and I thought so!!! She’s 15. He said the cut off point is 12. DOH!!!!After a few phone calls all was alright. I couldn’t see the problem I did buy the tickets on a take a friend for free sale, and why did we make it out of Sydney without the hassle.

Now we are at gate 9 waiting to board our flight to Darwin. A 15 minute delay great !

By 1030 pm we took off leaving Saigon and heading towards Darwin .

Wednesday 8th

We landed in Darwin about 5 - 530 am .

A quick customs check and into the departure lounge to shove down a mars bar and a coke and it was boarding time to Sydney 4 hours later we had landed it was nearly over . A journey that had started at 530am the day before the 34 hours of travelling, waiting and flying, physically drained us but yet brought us even closer together. Travelling with my girls is fantastic ,as we all lead busy lives and to be a family and spend 2 weeks together is great , bonding time .

We loved our time in Vietnam and all said we wanted to go again, but we are all glad to be back home.