Ben and I traveled to Vietnam for a two-week honeymoon in 2017! We wanted sunshine, beaches and a new cultural experience. We also knew we could enjoy a lavish vacation on a budget in Southeast Asia.
Our trip began at Frankfurt International Airport, where we flew to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways. Our layover was short in Abu Dhabi, just enough time to get from one gate to the next and continue our journey to Ho Chi Minh City (about 15 hours of flying total).
Warm weather greeted us upon arrival in HCMC. We left behind 30-40° F weather in Germany and were instantly loving the 90° F weather in Vietnam (in February!).
The next step was to hop in a taxi to our hotel. I had read on other travel blogs that the reputable taxi companies in Vietnam are VinaSun (white) and Mai Linh (green). I’m glad we listened to this, because we were immediately offered a ride from another company for 300,000 vnd. We declined, got in a VinaSun taxi and paid less than 150,000 vnd (approx. $5) for our 20-minute ride to Duc Vuong Hotel.
Bui Vien Street
Duc Vuong Hotel is located at Bui Vien Street — one of the busiest party streets in Vietnam. Any day of the week, this street is full of locals, tourists and backpackers looking for a bite to eat or a cold drink. We enjoyed the hustle and bustle so much!
The hotel is almost at the very end of the street, so it’s a bit removed from the noise. Our room did not face the street, and we couldn’t hear any of the noise at night.
We arrived at around 7 p.m., freshened up, and went upstairs to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant/bar, The View, for a lovely dinner and drinks.
After dinner, we took a walk down Bui Vien Street to take in the sights. We found a nice balcony to sit an enjoy a drink and watched the people below us, in awe of our new surroundings!
Cu Chi Tunnels
The next morning, we woke up early to go on a half-day tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels.
Our hotel provided a semi-private 10-person tour, which surely was a little pricier than the larger tours offered by the local agencies but still reasonably priced at $20. We rode in an air conditioned minivan to the tunnels two hours away.
The tunnels are an incredible thing to see. The tour showed us secret entrances, examples of traps that were used to keep enemies out, and the main event — we went down into the tunnels ourselves!
If you are claustrophobic, I don’t recommend doing this part. I’m not normally a claustrophobic person, but I don’t think I could have handled more than five minutes down in the tunnels — they are cramped, very narrow and windy. You can’t stand up straight and in some parts you have to belly crawl to get through to the next section. Not to mention the heat! 90° F outside is easily 95-100° F in the tunnels.
We came out sweaty, uncomfortable and so happy to see daylight again. To think that Vietnamese soldiers were in these tunnels for hours upon hours of each day during the war is unbelievable.
War Remnants Museum
At our request, our tour guide dropped us off at the War Remnants Museum on the way back to the hotel. This was an interesting experience as two Americans — specifically two who are affiliated with the U.S. military.
It is horrific to see the war crimes committed against the Vietnamese during what they call “The American War;” however, the museum is pretty biased and full of anti-American propaganda. The museum portrays no wrongdoings by the Vietnamese, except for those who fought alongside the Americans (referred to as the American Puppet Administration in the museum).
Overall, it is a somber experience. Gruesome images and accounts of mass murder, an exhibit on the longstanding effects of Agent Orange, and more. It is an important piece of history and a stop I would recommend — just prepare yourself, as it is a bit slanted.
Food and drinks in HCMC
We walked back to Bui Vien Street from the War Remnants Museum and enjoyed a late lunch at Five Oysters, right across the street from our hotel.
After freshening up, we went for drinks overlooking the city at OMG Rooftop Bar. “OMG” is right! The views from this bar are spectacular. Drinks are a little more expensive than what you’d normally pay in Vietnam, but during happy hour everything is 50% off, so you can get beers and cocktails for $1-3. The dress code suggests no shorts and no flip-flops, but luckily they let us in (probably because it was early and they were not busy).
We left OMG and strolled through the many vendors set up around Ben Thanh marketplace. We bargained our way to a hat, a pair of pants and a shirt for around $10, then headed onward to the Ben Thanh Street Food Market.
Yum! So many delicious food options. We enjoyed dinner and some beers, then headed back to Bui Vien Street to retire at our hotel.
We woke early again the following morning for a full-day Mekong Delta tour, which we booked through one of the travel offices on Pham Ngu Lao Street for about $7 per person.
We hopped on an air-conditioned bus with about 30 other people and drove a little over an hour to My Tho, where we boarded a boat to the Mekong Delta.
The Mekong Delta tours all seem to include the same touristy stops: see the locals make coconut candy, enjoy a freshly prepared Vietnamese lunch, taste fruit while listening to traditional Vietnamese music, visit a bee farm and go on a small row boat through the canals.
We enjoyed the tour overall. The Mekong Delta tour was a cultural experience that we could not have experienced in HCMC alone!
When we returned from the Mekong Delta tour around dinner time, I had the strongest craving for something western. I convinced Ben to go to Pasteur Street Brewing Company. The food was delicious! And the beers… yum. The Passion Fruit IPA was my favorite!
We ended our final night in HCMC with another walk down Bui Vien Street followed by cocktails on our hotel’s rooftop bar. We overlooked the city and talked about how sad we were to leave, but how excited we were to get to our next stop: 3 Days in Hoi An, Vietnam!