“At some point in my life, I gotta travel solo.”
So here I am in my first ever solo travel abroad. I started my journey in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, the land of 8 million motorbikes!!! Yep. You read that right. The daytime population of Ho Chi Minh City ranges from 8 – 10 million people and the motorbike pop is almost equal to that. Crazy!
I booked an early evening flight on Cebu Pacific and arrived at around 10 in the evening at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport. Since I’m traveling solo, I decided to catch the bus going into the city since it’s expensive to shoulder all of the taxi fare on my own.
My hostel is in the Pham Ngu Lao Street, very well known as the backpackers’ district in Saigon. I got off the bus relying on the offline maps app that my friend suggested a while back. Pham Ngu Lao street is an alley lined with budget hostels and laundry or tour services and it is connected to the main street where I got off from the bus.
I checked in at Blue River Hotel and there was a slight problem with my room. They temporarily checked me in another hotel adjacent to theirs but I decided to stick to that room for the whole duration of my stay in HCMC. Also they do ask for your passport and keep it until you have settled your bills. But if you are not comfortable with that, you can just pay upfront just like what I did. Apparently, it’s a common practice in Vietnam.
When I was looking at stuff to do in HCMC, I stumbled upon this tour company called Back of the Bike Tours. As you may have guessed, they’re offering tours from the back of the bike. As I’ve mentioned earlier, the city is home to 8 million motorbikes and there’s no better way to see the city than from the back of a motorbike! I booked two of their tours, Morning City Tour and Evening Streetfood Tour on the same day.
CITY TOUR. DAY ONE.
My tour driver/guide, Truc, picked me up at my hotel at 8 in the morning. We immediately proceeded to our first stop which is Vietnamese Coffee. I made my own cup! It’s just like a drip coffee with condensed milk on the bottom of the glass. Also, they prefer to drink it with pure dripped coffee and lots of ice.
I also met my tourmates, a German couple, who had been traveling the whole Vietnam for weeks already. This was the last leg of their trip having started in Hanoi.
The next stop is the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral and the City Post Office. Vietnam is a socialist country and I was told that government employees are discouraged from having a religion or risk getting passed over for a promotion.
Then we went to a local market where I saw some unfamiliar fruits and stuff. I mean, most of these things are not new to me but there are some that’s totally foreign to me like most of their dried things. Or maybe I should go to our markets more often.
We passed thru the narrowest alleys. It was like a scene in those cheesy movies where the antagonists were chasing the lead actors and they passed thru the narrow alleyways to make the scene more exciting and exotic.
And braved the traffic against the heat and other motorbikes. I can never get used to this too many motorbikes. I’ve seen enough in my lifetime. Growing up in the Philippines, I thought I had all the skills in crossing the streets. Then I went to Vietnam and I suddenly I forgot how.
And took some selfies while stuck in traffic. You are probably saying at the back of your heads that riding the bike on my own is a better way to see the city. There are three reasons why that’s not true. First is I don’t know how to ride motorbikes. I probably should learn already if I intend to pursue traveling more alone. Second is even if I knew how to ride one, I wouldn’t in this chaotic city. Third is it was so much fun just seeing the views around, feeling the breeze on my face and taking pictures of the surroundings without having to worry about oncoming traffic in my face.
Our second to the last stop was the Thien Hau Temple, a Chinese temple built in honor of a female sea goddess.
I offered some wishes and put it on top of a spiral incense. I was told that my wishes would come true once the incense has fully burnt.
Before we headed back to my hotel, we ate a traditional Vietnamese meal composed of a tasty pork soup, white rice noodles and the ubiquitous vegetable greens.
I took a nap before I went out to do more sightseeing. (To be continued…)