Visit number five to Vietnam and number three to Ho Chi Minh City. This time was to be my first with a “local” guide in the form of Thao who I’ve been chatting to online for almost two years now, I think. She originally spotted my blog post about climbing Fansipan, which she was planning on doing, and we’ve been in touch ever since.
The flight was on time and otherwise uneventful. What was different was Tan Son Nhat airport. There has been a lot of work done on it since the last time I used it (only a year ago) to the point that I thought I was in a new airport. Some things don’t change, though, and you still have the thieving taxi drivers trying to charge you double what they should for the short ride into the city centre.
Cheapest option is still the public bus at 3000d per ticket, but Thao had given me prices to ask for if I could find a xe om. Unfortunately you simply won’t get a motorcycle around the international terminal. I found a taxi firm that charged me a dollar (well, 20000d which is more than a dollar but they wouldn’t take the $1 bill I had as it was too dirty) to call Thao who very kindly said she’d come and pick me up.
I walked to the domestic terminal to wait for her. While I was there, about three men asked me if I wanted a motorcycle. They did this very subtly, like the morons on the street in Mumbai trying to sell you drugs. The reason for this is that they have no license to pick people up from the airport and are just parked in the public car park. However, I reckon they’ll be a cheap way to get into the town if you don’t want to handle the buses. Thao quoted me around 20000d as a fair fare for one of these chaps. Note that she’s Vietnamese so doubtless gets it cheaper than a foreigner!
However, Thao wasn’t too long and it was lovely to finally meet her. It took me half an hour to find out what she looked like as she wore a typical Vietnamese face-covering while she motorbiked. We got to the hotel quickly enough and she helped me check in as we were in a very non-foreigner part of town.
After a shower (oh, I so needed that) and a change of clothes (I ripped the groin out of the pair I was wearing getting onto her bike – whoops) Thao took me to a restaurant a couple of doors along for a very nice dinner. The chap serving us spoke a very small amount of English and took delight in striking up a conversation with me to practise. Always glad to help!
By now we were both running on empty so I retired to my room with plans for Thao to collect me in the morning to head up to a wedding party where she was one of the bridesmaids. Exciting!