Vietnam Diary Part 1: The Red Country

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Day 1 - April 29: The Red Country

Our journey to the "Red Country" starts in our 7:30 am departure of flight PR591 to Ho Chi Minh City. I am excited on this trip to Vietnam because it is my first time to visit that country. And not only that, I am excited to learn the cultures of Vietnamese people . I am thrilled of what I will discover in this travel trip. This also serves as my vacation after everything about school has finished.

Onboard, the moment that I have been waiting is getting nearer. As the plane starts to descend, I can now vividly see the strip of land of Vietnam in the airplane window. Seeing this, adds more rush of excitement for this trip. But what is striking to me the most in having a glimpse of Vietnam's strip of land is the color of its land from the air. It is colored red. That's why I called it the"Red Country" For me, the red land was a beautiful sight from the air. It made me feel that the trip to this country will be one travel that I won't forget.

Our plane landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. I thought were going out of the plane via plane stairs as I've searched in the internet but I was wronged. Their international airport has already 4 airbridges (where people walk through in and out of the plane). Tan Son Nhat was medium size compared to NAIA Terminal 2. It is comparable to Cebu's Mactan International Airport. But beside the terminal was an under construction building of their new airport of the same name. The work of construction is clearly seen from our plane as we went on taxiway. Ho Chi Mihn City also known for its old name Saigon, deserves to have a new international airport because it will definitely boost its growing tourism.

At the airport there was a beautiful Vietnamese girl that I won't forget in the airport money changer who was wearing an Ao Dai (Vietnam's traditional dress). She was an attendant of the money changer where we change some of our pocket money for local spending. I won't forget her because of the sweet smile she showed after we changed our money - whatever the meaning of the smile is, hehe... The moment we step out of the airport, my impression of Vietnam is that it has many similarities to Philippines in many ways. The Vietnamese people looks similarly to Filipinos. I can easily blend in the crowd without mistaking I am not a Vietnamese except if I start speaking Filipino language. And the weather is hot! Just like Philippines the weather in Vietnam has a tropical hot weather. But I believe it is hotter in Manila than here. As we ride a taxi to go to our hotel, I got a preview of the daily life scene in Vietnam. Scooters (their main mode of transportation which is amazingly everywhere) are everywhere and the parks are plenty. Many of the buildings were being constructed, a sign that they are a developing country. The place is more of a rural place than an urban. Yet, I can see the progress going into urban development. In addition, Saigon's air is clean and unpolluted. The surrounding is clean too. I think that the few constructions of skyscrapers contributed to its less polluted environment.

We arrive at Liberty 3 Hotel (a 3-star hotel but very satisfactory for me) at 12:00pm. The hotel was cozy. It was beautiful and very clean. I felt a traveler on a real splurge especially when I saw the room. It was wide and comfortable with amazing view of the city from the terrace. The terrace is overlooking the scenery streets and buildings of Ho Chi Minh City! And so I get our camera and take the first photo of my trip to Vietnam. Our hotel was in a strategic location. It is in the heart city of Ho Chi Minh City, where nearby shops, boutiques, malls, restaurant, clubs and bars can be easily found. Pham Ngu Lao Street in District 1 is part of the central business district of Ho Chi Minh City.

We did our first day to trip around the city in an afternoon walk. First stop - we passed through 23/9 Park which was perfectly fine for afternoon strolls (actually according to the tourists information Ho Chi Minh alone has 10 national parks!). I've noticed that around the city and in every buildings or street posts has Vietnamese flags hanged and displayed, together with banners in red and yellow colored lettering in their alphabet. Later, I learned that Ho Chi Minh were in a 3-day holiday celebration because tomorrow, April 30 was the celebration of Ho Chi Minh City’s Liberation from American control and was returned to their communist government. Next stop - Ben Thanh Market - which was like their version of Divisoria Market except it is a decent and cleaner. It is a market building (so no worries when rain comes while in the middle of shopping) where low costs goods are being sold. You can actually bargain for cheaper prices in buying items and asks discounts when buying many items. It is a real bargain shopping paradise for everyone who wants Vietnam-made goods from shoes, bags, shirts to souvenirs and even fruits... everything that shoppers like to buy is available here. And one day is not enough to stroll around Ben Thanh Market because it is a huge market that you'll get tired in exploring it in a one-whole day! At 6pm, we went back to Liberty Hotel after buying few good items as we were tired in trying to stroll around the whole market.

The city skyline and Saigon River

I rest for 2 hours. Walking around Saigon expends a lot of energy. For dinner, we treated ourselves in a Vietnamese cuisine in one of the restaurants along Pham Ngu Lao. It can't recall the beef dish but it was a good Vietnamese food. At night Pham Ngu Lão street was alive! There were many tourists flocking around the street and as the night goes deep many people were stil
l flocking around - trying bars, pubs and night life around Pham Ngu Lao. From the hotel terrace, I saw how night life transforms Saigon from a calm city by day into one of the hotspots to party by night. The streets were brightly lit. And the people were strolling around as every bar you want to visit is just a walk away from hotels.

As for me, I went into a relaxing moment by savoring the beautiful night view of the Saigon in the hotel terrace. Its a worthy first night spend in Vietnam. I ended my first evening by watching cable TV programs and then sleep happily... hoping another unforgettable journey tomorrow.

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Vietnam Diary is a three part series story of my trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam last April 29 - May 1, 2006. I have reached the last retelling of my past travels as today I share the last story of my RetrotTravel series. Actually, this trip is a college graduation gift for me by my mom. This travel trip was a great exploration and discovery of the colorful culture, significant history and natural attraction wonders of Vietnam. I am narrating it via a diary format in which I tell the experiences I had their in my 3-day visit, exploration and discovery of Vietnam. Happy reading!

Read the other parts of Vietnam Diary:   


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The charm of Tagaytay

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It is definitely the Taal Volcano and its lake is the real charm of Tagaytay. The majestic view shared by both province of Cavite and Batangas is spell-binding to attention once viewed in the overlooking ridges. It can be explore through volcano trekking and peeking into its crater lake - the reason why it is dubbed "a lake within a lake." This charming view of Taal Lake was taken at the viewing cliff of RSM Restaurant which was a perfect backdrop as we enjoy our lunch during a recent visit to Tagaytay.


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