Sunday, March 16, 2014

South Vietnam - An affordable and exotic travel destination

I first went to Vietnam in the year 2007 and I stayed there for 3 whole months. I was only 19 years old back then and that was my student internship. I will never forget this unique experience that I had which opened my eyes to the world.

The first thing that caught my attention was the airport. The plane landed in the middle of nowhere and we had to take a bus to the immigration checkpoint area.

This was exactly the airport which I first saw in 2007.

Next was the busy streets with many motorcycles touting their horns. I was wondering how did all these people drive in this kind of road conditions? It was just simply amazing.

Here comes my first dinner in Vietnam. Simple steamboat dinner. Very healthy with lots of vegetables.

Then there's this exotic snake in a bottle which they treat as wine. 

I travelled all the way from Ho Chi Minh city to the small town of Long Xuyen. 

It was about 5-6 hours drive and in between, the whole car went on a ship which transported us to the other side of the land. 

This is how it looked like:
Cars and motorcycles on the ship which took us to the other side of the island

Long Xuyen was a simple but peaceful town. It was near to the border of Cambodia which was an hour drive away. There were little entertainment outlets there except for some LAN gaming shops, small karaoke places and only one supermarket. There were no cinemas, no fast food places, no high end shopping centres and no nightlife discos. It's authentic Vietnam at its best.

Boy were the things cheap. Each meal cost me only about $1 Singapore dollars for a plate of rice with fish, vegetables, eggs or a bowl of noodles. You can get the popular French bread, Banh Mi at only 30 cents and an egg cost only 10 cents. Fancy a cup of coffee? It was only 20 cents for one without milk and 30 cents for one with milk.

Travelling to Vietnam for holiday

Most people who travel to Vietnam for a holiday will go to Ho Chi Minh city first then get a local tour trip to the Mekong river. If you're planning to travel to Vietnam, good news is that it's certainly an affordable if not cheap place to have a holiday. Local tours are very cheap. I did get one at US$12 for 2 days one night for a mekong river trip. This was inclusive of accommodation and breakfast. Yes you did not hear wrongly. It was only US$12 for a 2 days one night tour. I couldn't believe it either when i heard this kind of price actually existed.

Of course you have to expect the bus ride to be a little bumpier, a little old and some change of buses along the way as they hand you over from one tour bus to another. That's how they do it there and i guess that's why they can offer such cheap rates. Along the way, you get to meet people from all different kinds of nationalities. I met an Israelite, some families from the US, some from Europe and some from Hong Kong etc etc. 

The food in Ho Chi Minh city is not as cheap as in the more rural towns and villages. Cost can be 3 times more than the rural places. Average cost for one bowl of noodles was $2-$3. Of course you still can get cheaper ones if you have it at roadside stalls which are apparently nicer.

Famous Vietnamese food you must try:

A simple bowl of Pho Bo (Beef noodles) can cost as low as $2 in the city and $1 in suburban towns.
If you want chicken noodles, order Pho Ga.

This is called Banh Mi(French bread). Simply the best in Vietnam. Can cost as low as 30 cents in small towns and 60-80 cents in the city. 

Seafood is relatively cheap in Vietnam too. Big prawns are common on the street side stalls. Most of them are barbecued then served. Crabs and various shells like cockles are common on the streets too. 

This is the popular Vietnamese fried spring roll called Cha Gio. I prefer this to the non fried one which is called Bo Bia. 

This is called Bun Bo Hue. Beef noodles in slightly spicy base. Also can cost as low as $1 in rural places and $2 in city areas. 

The thing about Vietnamese food is the ingredients are fresh. The bread is fresh, the vegetables are fresh, the seafood is fresh too. The always have nice sauces and especially fish sauce to go along with your food. 

Visit to War sites and museums

The Vietnam war was a fierce fight that happened from 1956 to the early 1970s. Some of the reminisces of war can still be seen in the country itself. Visiting to the war sites and war museums is a must do when you visit Vietnam.

The most popular war area is the Cu Chi Tunnels which the Vietnamese have dug a series of tunnels to survive in the war. Here you can experience going into the small and narrow tunnels, see how they lived during war time and also have a try in firing some of the rifles including AK47. 

Next is the museum called the War Remnants Museum. Some of the US left over war planes and tanks are displayed in the museum. There's also a whole lot of information about the war there. Some of the stories were saddening. The suffering of the people during wartime was unimaginable. 


Experiencing Mekong River

The Mekong river is a popular tourist destination in Asia. It is the world's 12th longest river and the 7th longest in Asia. It flows through China Yunnan to Myanmar to Laos to Thailand to Cambodia and finally to Vietnam. There are many local trips you can book from Ho Chi Minh City itself. You can either take the 2 days 1 night or the 3 days 2 nights tour. There are also one day trips available. 

Sunset on the Mekong River

There are lots to experience on the Mekong river trip. Want to experience the Kampong (Village) life which Singapore had in the 1950s and 60s? Then Vietnam is the place. 

Here are some of the Kampong pictures i took there:

Even have the chance to experience of taking a horse carriage. 

Video of a boat ride along Mekong river

The rural lifestyle is a simple one. Somehow, its an escape for us city dwellers to relax and slow down from our fast and hectic lifestyle. Seeing the living conditions of these villages, it makes me realise how fortunate i'm to live in a better environment. They do not have the luxuries of life which we have in our urban city. Simple houses, simple meals and virtually no entertainment for them. They are just surviving day to day.

If you want your kids to know how fortunate they are, bringing them to such places may well open their eyes to the world outside. They will began to understand not to take things for granted.

Take a trip to Vietnam for an affordable and relaxing holiday. See the things you do not get to see in other parts of the world. The above is just the south part of Vietnam. For the North part of Vietnam, there are scenic places including the popular UNESCO world heritage site at Halong Bay. Read my trip to North Vietnam in the related post below.

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Related Posts:
1. 8 days Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa trip at $600
2. My 8 days Taiwan trip all under $800


  1. Hi SGYI,
    I been the Vietnam many times for work be it HCM or Hanoi, and do not know there are so many nice things about Vietnam. Thanks for the picture.

    I cannot remember the Airport to be so old too. Maybe they renovated already.

    I always eat the Pho from a shop Pho24 which my colleague strongly recommend. The Vietnamese drip drip thick coffee is my favourite.

    Enjoy Vietnam again soon!

    1. Hi Rolf Suey,

      There are many nice things there if you explore deeper. Amazing experience.

      The airport was back in 2007. When I went again in dec 2009, it was new already. I guess they renovated.

      Pho is best eaten on street stalls. I still think its better than the restaurants. In rural places deeper into Vietnam, the food is even better. Vietnamese coffee is my favourite too. Thick and fragrant. With the milk and ice its even better.

  2. In simple few words South Vietnam is a perfect tou destination.

    United-21 Kanha

    1. Hi,

      Its a nice place to visit if you haven't been there before. The people there are exceptionally friendly.