I arrive in Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City from Singapore. With Only a few days in this city, I had researched the internet for the perfect hostel to relax and leisurely wander this city. My decision for a hostel was The Common Room Project in District 5. Now all I had to do was get there from the airport.
Getting through customs and visa upon arrival took a bit of time. There’s not much direction once you’re at the airport, you need to be vigilant and scout around for signs i.e. Visa upon arrival signs before you enter the customs lines. You also need to already be in possession of 2 passport photos for the visa and it helps to have an invitation letter acquired through iVisa online. The queue lines for the Visa are a bit haphazard so be rather assertive in your approach. There were a few of us looking at each other and shrugging about the process. I would say the whole ordeal took about 1 hour 15min in all to get through Visa/customs. I’ve had worse in time lag in Los Angeles customs even being a citizen.
I was hungry so I stopped for a quick snack just outside arrivals. My thoughts kept turning to taking a taxi for simplicity however since I had researched taking a bus I committed to my original decision. I’m glad I did because the taxi would have cost about $17.50 USD whereas the bus cost me 10K VND or about 43 cents USD. Bus 152 was the best choice from the airport to District 5 and the lowest cost option. These local buses always have attendants too.
There’s the excellent bus app for Vietnam called BusMap- Navigation and Timing. It covers Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang, Ha Noi, and even Bangkok Thailand. It will show you all routes with interactive bus locations and times, plus route planning.
I was having a Facebook messenger conversation the whole time I was standing in customs line until getting on the bus with a former work colleague. Mostly about my being in Vietnam and my decision to take the local bus. He wished me a good adventure with my local bus choice and couldn’t believe the price I paid for the bus ride. My bus ride couldn’t have gone smoother. The BusMap app was working flawlessly and I could see my location and exact closest bus stop to the hostel. Though the adventure was not over, I had to travel 600m to the hostel from the bus stop via the streets with no sidewalks (cause they’re blocked with parked scooters and seller items) with my suitcase in tow. Actually no problem traversing the streets, you just ignore everything around you like the locals do.
I finally make it to The Common Room Project and I’m elated with my choice. The hosts are super friendly and I’m given a tour of the place. With a mix of new age artsy decor and modern comfort this place is super clean and welcoming.
I unpack, settle in quickly then proceed to explore this place.
Of course I had to get to the rooftop to see the view. Afterwards I didn’t do much except settle in talking to some people. One of my roommates was from Iceland. I notice her face was really scratched and swollen with one eye closed. She explained that she had a scooter accident while traveling in Laos. She had received a concussion with no memory of the accident, only people from the hospital explaining to her the situation from bystanders that found her lying on the road. I was able to see her recover dramatically over the next few days. Seems no permanent damage with full recovery.
One thing I realized after unpacking is that somehow I left my free Qantas headphones at the previous hostel. I have no idea how this happened since I pretty much triple check everything before I leave. I also needed an iPad adaptor as well. The hostel hosts recommended a store a few blocks down the road called thegioididong. I was able to get my iPad adaptor at 1/5 the cost I spent in the U.S. plus I bought some really lightweight bluetooth head phones for a total of $27 USD both items. The service was exemplary with super polite customer service. Back at the hostel I use my headphones to watch some YouTube and CBS all access Picard. The bed was super comfortable with perfect air conditioning in the room.
After a good nights sleep the next day I venture out onto the streets after breakfast and catching up on internet stuff. I’m looking for a place to eat for lunch before more sightseeing and spot this 1 USD Beer Zone, but decided I need real food so Cafe 343 seemed good from the menu display outside.
Lunch at the Cafe 343 was a delicious rice vermicelli with beef, greens, carrots and fish sauce. This is a dish that I typically had in SoCal and this one was exactly the same. For dessert I had a Taro milkshake which was also yummy to round up the meal. Complementary green ice tea was provided for a tally of 138K VND or $5.93 USD.
Afterwards I checkout the street markets, just a looky loo, no buying. A nice long warm walk day. The temp in Ho Chi Minh City was varying from 87 to 90 deg F.
One thing about the street traffic you realize is that the green walk signal doesn’t mean traffic will stop. You need to stay vigilant and just get your timing right between the scooters.
Back at the hostel I take a nice long shower with the overhead rain shower head, so nice.
On day two I take a local bus #06 to District 1 to check out some of the main city highlights. Starting with the Central Post Office, then Notre Dame, followed by the Ho Chi Minh Statue across from City hall along the pedestrian walkway. Prior to hitting the Bitexco Financial Tower I needed some afternoon refreshments, chuckling as I happened upon a Starbucks and Coffee bean right next to each other
I explore a little further after buying some street food, rice with pork in Lotus leaf, a whole Dragonfruit pod, and some pork pastries.
Realizing I had more than 16k steps now I was rather tired. After many offers of scooter rides that I turned down I finally said yes to one. I thought it’s time to try out a wild street scooter ride. It was quite fun and not as scary as one would think.
Back at the hostel it’s time for some more conversation with the other guests and eat my street food. The hostel also has beer for 30K VND or $1.29 USD to go with my street food.
Some of the guests are long term i.e months long. Some are just passing through like me. We all have our travel stories and many of us have been to the same places. It’s fun to exchange stories and it makes the world seem more connected.
I really enjoyed my time at the Common Room Project, said my goodbyes to everyone then made my way back to the 152 bus stop. The bus arrived exactly per the BusMap app live schedule with about 35min transit to the Tan Son Nhat airport, this time domestic travel.
Next stop Hanoi!