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I had always been looking forward to going to Vietnam since I do love Vietnamese food (I used to not like it as much as I do now, but nobody asked). In fact, it was my sole purpose of going there HAHA. And yes, it has turned out to be a SUPER EVENTFUL trip indeed. No sarcasm HAHAHA. ;P

At the time of exchanging money, SGD$1 was equal to 16 000 dong.

Saturday 02/04/2016 (Day 1)
Sarah, my travelling companion, and I met at 11 am. It turned out to be a BIG MISTAKE 'cos by the time we reached the airport, the check-in counter for our flight was already CLOSED and so was the boarding gate. I already panicked when I saw the departure screen because I couldn't find the (wrong) timing of our flight, but I saw a flight which was almost 1 hour earlier.

Thankfully, we managed to take the next flight out, which was also the last flight of the day to Ho Chi Minh City, which I will abbreviate as HCMC here. Thank goodness. I think I would have just cancelled my whole leave if I wasn't able to take this flight out. TigerAir isn't the nicest plane to be on. The seats were hard and legroom was barely there, but thankfully the flight was only about 1 hour and 45 minutes, so I could still bear with it. The plane wasn't on full load as well, which was really nice.

Take-off and landing were one of the smoothest I have ever experienced, but as we were touching down on the runway at Tan Son Nhat Airport, our plane suddenly took off to the skies again. The pilot later explained that they took off again due to unfavourable wind conditions. I totally didn't get it at all because I could clearly feel the plane's wheels on the ground before it took off again, so dunno what the logic was. We circled the skies for another 15 minutes before the pilot landed the plane successfully.

I was expecting Vietnam to be pretty backward, but boy was I so wrong?! When I stepped into the glassy façade of the airport, it felt really new and clean. Both Sarah and I bought the 5GB data plan from a telecom company for only 100K dong, which is super cheap. Far from being an isolated Communist country, I was really surprised when I found out that I was able to access Facebook, Instagram and all other kinds of social media websites.

We took Uber to Lan's place, which is located in a very quaint area of District 3. FYI, HCMC is divided into many districts, with D1 being the city centre. D3 is just a 10-minute car ride (assuming no jams) or 30-minute walk to D1. Our trip from the airport to Lan's house only cost 64K dong, which was really very cheap!

When we arrived, her neighbours knew that we were looking for Lan, so they very kindly directed us to her house despite not speaking any word of English. We met Lan and she offered us some pomelo, which tasted so effing sweet and delicious!! The pomelo that we ate was the reddish-pink variety, which is not something which I see often back in Singapore. The off-white pomelos that I have eaten in Singapore taste pretty bitter to me, which is why I have never really enjoyed pomelos, but Vietnam has totally changed my impression!

We told Lan about our plans to go to Mui Ne and she very kindly helped us to book our bus tickets there. It was quite a pity that we didn't manage to get to sit on the Reunification Express because the tracks were under repair, and I only got to know about it the week before we were due to leave?! ;(

This hotel looks classy, doesn't it? I think a wedding reception was going on here...

It turned dark in Vietnam pretty soon, like around 5 plus. We decided to head to Vo Van Tan for our first authentic meal in Vietnam. It was about a 20-minute walk from Lan's house, and Google Maps was really reliable here. The number of motorcycles in HCMC is too damn high and scary. Pedestrians are expected to just walk as if the motorcycles don't exist. It took quite some time for us to get used to, but it was undeniably a thrilling experience. I had a 20K dong bahn mi which tasted really good. Vo Van Tan actually reminded me of the streets in Ewha, with shops lining the sides of the road.

Sarah then suggested we go for some dessert at Mr Dee, which also turned out to be a really good deal!

Cute wet tissues. It seems like all eating establishments in Vietnam do provide wet tissues...

The interior of the café. Yellow is my favourite colour and I can't lieeeeeee.


I had the black glutinous rice with mango and coconut. It was the bomb I swear! ;P

After dinner, we walked back to Lan's house and packed our bags for the next day.

Sunday 03/04/2016 (Day 2)
We had to wake up at 6 am in order to catch our sleeper bus to Mui Ne. I had just realised that Vietnam's sun actually rises very early because it was totally bright when I woke up. o.O''' As usual, we took Uber to D1, where Inner Vietnam Tour (the travel agency whose bus we would be taking) was located.

As we didn't have breakfast yet, Sarah and I walked down after locating the tour agency and found a noodle stall where many Vietnamese were eating at. We decided to order two bowls of pork noodles (forgot what the Vietnamese name is huhuhu). The noodles were definitely super slurp-worthy and gosh, I have never felt so satisfied in such a long while... ;D

A bowl of awesome broth and noodles! This isn't pho though... They have another name for it, but I can't remember off-hand what it's called.

My first taste of Vietnamese coffee. It's just so robust and there's a slight hint of chocolate in it. I do not think that they actually added in chocolate, but it definitely tastes different from the kopi-o that Singaporeans are accustomed to.

Lan told us to be at the tour agency by 7.15 am, so at around 7.15 am, we got our tickets to the sleeper bus and sat in a small shuttle van which would then bring us to a big bus interchange, where all the sleeper buses were located.

This was my first time on a sleeper bus, and I felt really very comfortable in it because I was able to recline my seat quite far back and sleep in a comfortable position.

Our bus journey from HCMC to Mui Ne took about 6 hours, with 2 rest-stops in between. I was so glad that we had a heavy breakfast because the rest-stops that we stopped by were quite rudimentary, unlike the huge rest-stops that I see in Korea, which comes with food court, convenience stores and the likes.

The comfortable sleeper bus. The bus had wifi and we were also provided blankets and bottles of water as well.

I read that the sleeper buses that go to Mui Ne were supposed to drop you off at our accommodation, but it didn't happen in our case. The driver just told us to get down at Han's Café if our final destination was Mui Ne. I saw that it was still quite a distance from our accommodation, so I really panicked as the sunset tour would commence at 2 pm and it was already 1.45 pm.

As I got down the bus, there were already numerous taxis and motorcyclists who were ready to fleece pick up the tourists lol. As there wasn't much time left, I decided to pay the motorcyclist 50K dong (which I'm pretty sure is a scam lol since even Uber rides rarely cost that much in HCMC) to get me to my hostel. 50K dong is honestly not much in Singapore dollars, and it is money that I'd gladly pay again because the experience was just so good! Imagine zipping down the roads that are just right beside the beach. The strong winds, coupled with the gorgeous view made it all so worth. I couldn't open my eyes half of the time because of the wind, but nevertheless, it was a very thrilling ride, and one that I don't mind repeating again.

The motorcyclists brought us to Diem Lien Guesthouse, where we put down our things and booked the sunset sand dunes tour afterwards. The tour cost 130K dong per person, which was really very reasonable in my opinion. We ended up in the same jeep as a Vietnamese couple (I find Vietnamese guys quite good-looking, and he was no exception HEEHEE) from Hanoi, who were also touring Mui Ne for the first time. They could barely speak English, but it was good to have them because I don't think the jeep driver knows English too so they were able to help translate with whatever English they knew.

Our first stop was to the Fairy Stream, which is actually just a 5-minute walk away from the hostel. We had to pay 5000 dong to go in, which I'm sure is a scam, but what to do? HAHAHA. While walking to the Fairy Stream, we walked past an area where all the vats of fish sauce were fermenting. It was quite smelly at first HAHA, but once I recognised that the smell was actually fish sauce, I found the stench really nice HAHAHA. xD

We took off our footwear and off we waddled into the stream. The stretch of stream is pretty long, and I was told that there was supposedly a waterfall at the end, but we didn't get to walk till the end as we were running out of time. I found that quite a pity. The wind also kept blowing, so it got really uncomfortable as the sand got into my eyes. The weather was also humid, so naturally, we sweated quite a bit. The sand also got stuck to our skin due to our sweat. D;

The super pretty entrance to some mini-zoo. 10K dong for admission. However, we didn't have the luxury of time so we decided to skip this.



Magnificent, isn't it?

The stream.

The sun was really strong, but what a brilliant backdrop it provided for the brilliant red sand!

There were a few cows around, but they were tied to poles somewhere which I couldn't see. However, we had to be careful as to not to step on their poop LOL.

Ostrich for ostrich-riding. I didn't try because I find it pretty cruel for a bird to carry my weight. ._.

After washing our legs with water that was provided at the entrance of the Fairy Stream, we met our jeep driver and he drove us to the seaside. The view was beyond fabulous, and how I wished I could just stay there and admire the boats dotting the sea.

So quaint!

Hi me!

The fish-eye lens from Sarah.

After around 10 minutes of photo-snapping, we got back onto the jeep and thus, began our 1-hour ride to the White Sand Dunes. I really enjoyed the ride a lot as the wind was really strong. When we reached the White Sand Dunes, we had to pay about 300 000 dong to rent the ATV, and got forced to tip the driver who drove us around. Besides that however, the view of the White Sand Dunes was really amazing and I was so thankful to have witnessed such a scenery just 1.5 hours by flight from Singapore.


Welcome to the White Sand Dunes~

It's me again!

Me with the ATV!

The closest I'd ever be to a desert. ;P

The sand was very fine and smooth to say the least.

This jump shot would've been perfect had there not be anybody in the background, and had the backlight been better. The sun was too strong and I was lazy to make my photos brighter.

Posing with the not-very-reliable ATV lol. I've lost count of how many times the Vietnamese driver had to stop the ATV and put the gears back in place again zZz. But still, riding it by myself was quite an experience. One that I'd gladly repeat.

The grass in the middle of the dunes.

Sunset~

Having my own Descendants of the Sun moment here heehee.

After that, our jeep driver drove us to the Red Sand Dunes to witness the setting sun. The climb up the Red Sand Dunes was really tiring as the slopes were pretty steep and our feet kept sinking into the sand. It was a pure torture just to pull our legs out from the sand. However, it was really worth it to see the sun setting over the dunes. The winds got stronger and colder as the sun went down, so I shivered. Temperatures in Mui Ne actually do go down to as low as 23ºC.

Climbing up up up~

Desert. ;P

Loving the view of the sea and the seaside villas.

Goodnight Mui Ne, you've been beyond beautiful.

Our jeep driver then drove us back to our accommodation. Sarah and I decided to grab some dinner, but our guesthouse was located almost at the end of the street, hence we had to walk a distance before we could finally settle on a place to eat. I think Mui Ne is frequented by many Russians, hence besides Vietnamese and English, their signs and instructions are also printed in Russian as well.

Our dinner was alright; there was nothing to shout about haha. I think I still prefer the more traditional Vietnamese food like pho, bahn mi and the likes. I don't really think that they do good "tze-char style" food here. We had quite a spread though, but I took only these two pictures lol.

Some fried squid rings?

I hate those corianders so much lol. I think I spent half the time picking them out zZz. If you're wondering, this is the eel we had. I think the eels I ate in Korean tasted better though.

After dinner, we went back to our accommodation. It felt really shiok to finally have a good cold shower, and I did feel really refreshed. As the night was still young, I watched Kung Fu Panda 3 on my phone. Thank goodness because I have no idea what is going on on Vietnamese TV HAHA. I also had fun zapping the flies that flew in our room with the fly zapper.


Monday 04/04/2016 (Day 3)
I couldn't really sleep well because I felt itchy, so I had to wake up halfway and put my medicated oil. It did help and I went to sleep soon after, but apparently the travel-mate had to wake up and zap the flies lol.

Our bus back to HCMC would arrive at 8 am, but as our guesthouse didn't provide breakfast until 8 am, both Sarah and I decided to wake up at 6.30 am to see if we could find breakfast. It was really very bright at 6.30 am, but none of the shops were opened, so we decided to walk further down before we finally came to a stop at Muong Thanh Mui Ne hotel. The hotel was really very atas; we could even have a gorgeous morning view of the sea. To be honest, the staff there didn't speak much English, so they were quite blur. We could've even gotten to eat the hotel buffet breakfast for free. o.O'''

Sarah treated me breakfast, so we ended up having quite a spread. We even got to the garden outside and admired the very gorgeous seaview that was right in front of my eyes. One of the best Monday mornings yet. ;P

The unobstructed seaview...

Brekkie. The omelette was really good!!

This view is so damn chio!

Flowers flowers everywhereeeeee.

Cannot miss this pretty view heehee.

Love love love views like this.

Goodbye Mui Ne. I'll definitely be back!

The bus that brought us back to HCMC was less comfy than the bus that we sat to Mui Ne, but we did manage to reach HCMC pretty quickly, in less than 5 hours. On the way back to HCMC, I did actually see people burning land to clear land. I could even smell the acrid smell of burning from the air-conditioned bus, which made me wonder how have the Indonesians near the haze hotspots have been living. ;(

First view back in HCMC. I nearly forgot that Vietnam is still a Communist country. o.O'''

We took Uber back to Lan's place to put down our stuff, before heading out to Ben Thahn for lunch. It seems that lunch hour is considered peak hour in Vietnam too, because nearly everybody goes back home to eat lunch. Our Uber trip to Ben Thahn took quite long because there were jams everywhere. ._.

Ben Thahn was really very bustling and full of activities. As we walked down the alleys of stalls, we were also coaxed by the numerous stallholders to come dine at their stalls. We finally sat down at one stall and had our lunch after looking through the menu.

My lunch at Ben Thahn. They have a section of the market which is dedicated to food only. This meal cost me less than SGD$3, and it was really filling and delicious. However, I don't think I will ever like Vietnamese crackers because they tasted "lao hong" to me LOL. I think it's just the characteristic of Vietnamese crackers because the one I had at Nam Nam also tasted equally "lao hong" LOL.

We also ordered a cup of sugarcane with lemon for less than SGD$1, which tasted really good and refreshing. Can cry because sugarcane with lemon in SG can cost more than SGD$2, depending on the size of the cup. T_T

After lunch, we then made our way to the Independence Palace, which is about a 15-minute walk away from Ben Thahn. I felt quite proud of us for managing to navigate ourselves around Vietnam despite the language barrier haha. Google Maps really did us a great service.

I suppose they have elections coming up, no? I kept seeing posters like this around HCMC during my stay here. ;)

After braving the poisonous fumes from the Vespas and the crazy traffic conditions, we finally arrived at the Independence Palace. FYI, they do provide free guided tours there at certain timings, but Sarah and I decided to forgo it and just explored the place ourselves.

I'm really very surprised that some Vietnamese do speak really fluent French (actually this shouldn't be that surprising lah, considering the fact that they were once a French colony, but still... Missy Au gets easily amazed heehee). There was this old Vietnamese tour guide who was guiding a French couple and I just happened to be around them throughout my stay at the Palace. I'm just so in love with hearing French lol, so I might have subconsciously just kept following them around HAHAHA. Creepy much? ;P

Entrance of the Independence Palace. I'm totally digging the double rainbows though the weather was killing me LOL.

Tada!

The State Room. Looks damn grand.

Meeting room.

The auditorium.

Another Descendants of the Sun moment here heehee. ;P

The Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon is actually just located about 5 minutes from the Independence Palace, so we made our way there after we were done touring the Palace.

Architecture in HCMC does look very European tbh... Oh, and look! Coffee Bean!

At the Notre-Dame Cathedral...

Hello!


Exterior and interior of the cathedral.

The iconic Central Post Office is just located right next to the cathedral, so after being shutter-happy at the cathedral, we proceeded to the post office.

The entrance of the post office

Hi there, Uncle Ho!

The phone booths look so European. o.o'''

Some Communist statue. ._.

A couple was having their wedding shoot here. I thought it was quite a fitting place to have one's wedding photoshoot here. The glow of the setting sun was just beautiful. ;)

Vietnam really isn't as backward as I had previously thought, in all honesty. ;)

So much love for Vietnamese black coffee. Tbh the coffee can be quite sweet, but I really love the chocolate undertones of it.

Vespas everywhere LOL..

Sarah and I had always harboured the intention of doing our nails, so while walking back to Ben Thahn, we passed by this nail salon called Hollywood Nails. Prior to this, I had never done a French manicure before, so I decided that this time round, I would be getting myself one. We saw so many tai tais and ang mohs doing their nails and having foot spas too. The foot spa did look really shiok and I was so tempted to have one, but unfortunately I thought that my feet would get dirty again since I was only in my slippers, so I just ended up doing my nails. I sat till my butt hurt, but I did feel that my nails were really very pampered from the treatment they were getting.

Oh, and guess how much my French manicure cost? Only 130K dong, which is roughly about SGD$8 only?!?! Can cry man because even the most basic express manicure in a neighbourhood in Singapore already costs at least $6!!! T_T

My SGD$8 French manicure! ;D

Most stores in Ben Thahn close during sunset, so by the time we got out of the nail salon, most stores were already preparing to close, so we only managed to get some coffee as souvenirs.

We then walked over to Vo Van Tan for bahn mi as dinner. I didn't really like the beef as it was too tough for my liking. The whole dish did look very presentable though.

My last dinner in Vietnam.

Uber was playing us LOL. We called for so many drivers but every driver ended up losing their way so we gave up and walked back to Lan's house, even at 10 plus at night. It was about a 20-minute walk but the streets were mostly well-lit and unlike Thailand, there weren't any sketchy people around (my friend's experience) so I did actually feel safe walking on the streets at night.

Tuesday 05/04/2016 (Day 4)
For the first time in days, we didn't have to wake up early, so we woke up at around 8 am. We slept until really soundly, but had to start packing once we were up as there would be another guest using the room.

I had read on AirBnB that the food stall outside Lan's house served really some kickass pho, AND BY GOLLY THAT PERSON WAS TOTALLY RIGHT!!! I literally had the best pho of my life there. If I were to return to HCMC again, I'd definitely stay with Lan for the to-die-for pho there.

I left the veggies untouched HAHA. That's too much herbs for me. But this bowl of pho was so good! It only cost 30 000 dong per bowl, which is slightly less thn SGD$2? Crazyyyyyy. And the beef slices were surprisingly tender and flavourful. They tasted like wagyu-grade beef and I'm not even exaggerating here, although I know that for the price, having wagyu-grade beef is out of the equation. xD

The very humble-looking street-side food stall that sells one of the best pho I've ever had. ;)

The cute boy who posed for my picture.

After our delicious breakfast, we went back to Ben Thahn to get our remaining souvenirs. I drank Vietnamese coffee for the very last time there (seriously, I still miss the coffee till now!), stocked up on my Vinamit jackfruit chips (best ever I swear!) and candied coconut (this is LOVE).

I also had the chance to visit the toilet at Ben Thahn, where we had to pay about SGD$0.30 to enter, but the toilet was really clean and well-ventilated to say the least.

As per my "tradition", I got myself a souvenir shirt, which is pretty quirky-looking. It cost me 170K dong though lol, and the storekeeper was really being very pushy. ;X Sarah went batshit on the nail polishes and accessories HAHAHA.

At around 12 pm, we decided that we had shopped enough and so decided to Uber back to Lan's house to collect our luggage. Lan gave us some really refreshing guava juice and papayas. Vietnamese papayas do taste really sweet and I totally dig it!

We bade farewell to Lan and her family and we made our way to the airport, which took only 18 minutes LOL.

There were so many people at the airport, but we were pretty spooked by how we both managed to miss our flight to HCMC, so this time round, we triple-checked our flight details LOL. I didn't eat lunch, so I was pretty hungry and bought a packet of prawn crackers from the airport. Tan Son Nhat airport deals in both Vietnamese dong and USD though.

Goodbye Vietnam! You've been really great! ;D I will miss this quaint little alley so much!

We landed in Singapore 1.5 hours later, but it coincided with the evening peak hour crowd, which was horrendous. ;X But overall, it has been a really great trip and Vietnam is definitely a country that I'd be glad to return to.

Next up, Hanoi and its junk boats! ;D

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This post is finally up, after almost 2 months of procrastination. ;P I've been pretty busy ever since I got back and as time passed, I also lost my motivation to continue updating on my trip. But all's good now! ;P

Now where do I go next??