We had to get up at 5am to catch our 7am flight from Danang (30 minutes from Hoi An) to Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon. The staff at the resort woke up early to make us a very full breakfast; it was a bit sad saying goodbye to our villa in paradise.
HCMC acquired its new official name after the reunification of Vietnam in 1975 in honor of Ho Chi Minh, the father of modern Vietnam. Most Vietnamese, including those who live in the city, still call it Saigon. I had read taxi scam stories online about people getting ripped off so I made sure to only flag down taxis from certain companies. Mai Linh has a large fleet of taxis and buses nationwide and is very reputable. When we were in Hanoi, “Hanoi Taxi” was the main provider in town. In Saigon, Vinasun seems to dominate the market and are very clean and reliable.
When it comes to planning trips, I spend a lot of time on finding accommodations. For Saigon, I ended up picking a place in District 1, at the heart of the Backpackers District. Yikes! My mistake, I really wish I could take that one back. There were so many foreigners walking around and felt so generic. There are so many “spas” on the streets and I collected a stack of spa advertisements. We ended up picking one near our hotel on Bui Vien St and it may have been the worst massage that Henry and I have ever had. The women giving the massages had no technique whatsoever and kept rubbing oil all over us. I don’t even think it’s one of those special massage places since they clearly solicit female customers on the street. Anyway, don’t go to any of those “spas” in the area.
On my last trip to Japan, I used the services of a few volunteer tour guides and researched for the same in Saigon. Our Saigon Hotpot tour guide, Khoi, is a 22 year old college grad who has been volunteering as a guide for 4 years. We went to see all of the major tourist attractions: Ben Thanh Market, Reunification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Cholon. He also showed us a black market money exchange stall where you can get better rates than at banks, a local ice cream parlor and a hole-in-the-wall shellfish restaurant.