VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Ho Chi Minh City

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities Walking Tour - Courses - HCMC For Children - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around.

GETTING THERE & AWAY

Air
Tan Son Nhat Airport was one of the threebusiest in the world in the late 1960s.The runways are still lined with lichen-covered,mortar-proof aircraft-retaining walls, hangars and other military structures. For more details on international air travel. Most domestic flight are operated by Vietnam Airlines.Pacific Airlines also flies the HCMC-Hanoi and HCMC-Danang route, while Sasco flies between HCMC and the Con Dao Islands for details on routes and schedules.
Boat
Hydrofoils (adult/child US$10/5, 11/4 hours) depart for Vung Tau almost hourly from Bach Dang jetty on Đ Ton Duc Thang. For more information contact Petro Express (Tell: 8210650) atthe jetty. In Vung Tau you board the hydrofoil at Cau Da pier, opposite the Hai Au Hotel. Petra Express Tell: 511914 has an office in Vung Tau by the pier. Cargo ferries bound for the Mekong Delta depart from the dock (Tell: 829 7892) at the river end of ĐL Ham Nghi. Although service is sporadic, travellers with time on their hands can. ask about departures to the provinces of An Giang and Vinh Long and to the towns of Ben Tre (eight hours), Ca Mau (30 hours). My Tho (six hours) and Phu Chau (Tan Chau). Buy your tickets on the boat. Simple food may be available on board. Note these ancient vessels lack the most basic safety gear, such as life jackets.
Bus
Intercity buses depart from and arrive at a variety of stations around HCMC. Cholon bus station (Đ Le Quang Sung) is the most convenient place to get buses to My Tho and other Mekong Delta towns. It's one street north of the sprawling Binh Tay Market. Less convenient than Cholon, Mien Tay bus station (Ben Xe Mien Tay; (Tell: 825 5955) nevertheless lias even more buses to areas south of HCMC (basically the Mekong Delta). This huge sta-tion is about 10km west of HCMC in An Lac, a part of Binh Chanh district (Huyen Binh Chanh). Buses and minibuses from Mien Tay serve most towns in the Mekong Delta. Buses to points north of HCMC leave from Mien Dong bus station (Ben Xe Mien Dong; Tell: 8294056), in Binh Thanh district about 5km from central HCMC on Hwy 13(Quoc Lo 13), the continuation of Đ Xo Viet Nghe Tinh. The station is just under 2km north of the intersection of Đ Xo Viet Nghe Tinh and Đ Dien Bien Phu. There are bus services from Mien Dong to Buon Ma Thuot (12 hours, 110.000d), Danang (26 hours, 200,000d), Haiphong (53 hours, 340,000d), Nha Trang (11 hours, 75,000d), Hanoi (49 hours, 320,000d), Hue (24 hours, 220,000d), Pleiku (22 hours, 190,000d), Vinh (42 hours, 260,000d), Quang Ngai (24 hours, 110,000d), Quy Nhon (17 hours, 90,000d), Nam Dinh (47 hours, 300,000d) and Tuy Hoa (12 hours, 80,000d). Most buses leave daily between 5am and 5.30pm. Buses to Tay Ninh, Cu Chi and points northeast of HCMC depart from the Tay Ninh bus station (Ben Xe Tay Ninh; Tell: 849 5935), in Tan Binh district west of the centre. To get there, head all the way out on Đ Cach Mang Thang Tam. The station is about 1km past
where Đ Cach Mang Thang Tam merges with Đ Le Dai Hanh.
INTERNATIONAL BUS
There are also international bus services con-necting HCMC and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The cheapest tickets are sold ait the travellers café’s in HCMC's Pham Ngu Lao area, or try Capitol Guesthouse Tell: 023-364104) or Narin Guesthouse Tell: 023-982554) in Phnom Penh. There are also direct services with Phnom Penh Sorya Transport (HCM 24; 309 Pham Ngu Laa; Phnom Penh Tell: 023-210359; PsarThmei). Services depart in either direction five times a day between 6.30am and 1pm, costing US$12. The big advantage with the direct service is that it avoids a change of bus at the border.
Car & Motorbike
Inquire at almost any tourist cafe, travel agent or your hotel to arrange car rental. just remember, that your rental will include a driver as it's illegal for foreigners todrive in Vietnam without a Vietnamese license. The agencies in the Pham Ngu Lao area generally offer the lowest prices. Motorbikes are available (also in Pham Ngu Lao) for around US$10 per day.
Train
Trains from Saigon train station (Ga Sai Gon; Tell: 823 0105:1 Đ Nguyen Thong, District 3; ticket office 7.15-11am&l-3pm) serve cities along the coast north of HCMC. Train tickets can be purchased from Saigon Railways Tourist Services (Tell: 836 7640: fax 837 5224; 275C Đ Pham Ngu Lao; 7.30-11.30am & 1-4.30pm) or from most travel agents. For details on the Reunification Express service.
MAGNIFICENT MARKETS
Huynh Thuc Khang Street Market
This street market ( Đ Huynh Thuc Khang & D Ton That Dam) in the Dong Khoi area sells everything. The area was known as the 'electronics black market' until early 1989, when it was legalised. You can still buy electronic goods of all sorts - from mosquito zappers to video cassette recorders - but the market has expanded enormously to include clothing, washing detergent, lacquerware, condoms, pirated cassettes, posters of Ho Chi Minh and Britney Spears, smuggled bottles of Johnny Walker, Chinese-made 'Swiss' army knives and just about everything to satisfy your material needs.
Ben Thanh Market
HCMC has a number of huge indoor markets selling all manner of goods. These are some of the best places to pick up conical hats and ao dai. The most central of these is Ben Thanh Market (Cho Ben Thanh; cnr ĐL Ie Loi, ĐL Ham Nghi, ĐL Tran Hung Dao & Đ Le Lai). The market and surrounding streets make up one of the city's liveliest areas Everything that's commonly eaten, worn or used by the Saigonese is available here: vegetables, meats, spices, sweets, tobacco, clothing, household items, hardware and so forth. There's also a healthy selection of souvenir-worthy items. Known to the French as Les Halles Centfiiles, it was built in 1914 from reinforced concrete; the central cupola is 28m in diameter. The main entrance, with its belfry and clock, has become a symbol of HCMC. Opposite the belfry, In the centre of the traffic roundabout, is an equestrian statue of Tran Nguyen Hai. the first person in Vietnam to use carrier pigeons. At the base of it, on a pillar, is a small white bust of Quach Thi Trang. a Buddhist woman killed during antigov-ernment protests in 1963. Nearby, food stalls sell inexpensive meals. Ben Thanh Market is located 700m southwest of the Rex Hotel.
The Old Market
Despite the name. the Old Market is not the place to go to in order to find antiques. Nor is it the place to look for electronics or machinery (you'll need to go to Dan Sinh Market for these). Rather, the Old Market is where you can most easily buy imported food, wine. shaving cream, shampoo etc. However, if its Vietnamese name, Cho Cu, is written or pronounced without the correct tones it means 'penis'; your cyclo driver will no doubt be much amused if you say that this is what you’re looking for Perhaps directions would be a Letter bet - the Old Market can be found on the north side of ĐL Ham Nghi between Đ Ton That Dam and Đ Ho Tung Mau
Dan Sinh Market
Also known as the War Surplus Market, Dan Sinh Market ( 104 Đ Yersin) is the place to shop for a chic pair of combat boots or rusty dog tags. It's also the best market for electronics and other types of imported machinery. Dan Sinh is next to Phung Son Tu Pagoda. The front part is filled with stalls selling automobiles and motorbikes, but directly behind the pagoda building you can find reproductions of what seems to be secondhand military gear. Stall after stall sells everything from handy gas masks and field stretchers to rain gear and mosquito nets. You can also find canteens, duffel bags, ponchos and boots. Anyone planning on spending time in Rwanda or New York City should consider picking up a secondhand flak jacket (prices are good).
Binh Tay Market
Cholon's main market is Binh Tay Market (ĐL Hau Giang), a Chinese-style architectural masterpiece with a great clock tower in the centre. Much of the business here is wholesale.
An Dong Market
Cholon's other indoor market, An Dong , is very close to the intersection of ĐL Tran Phu and ĐL An Duong Vuong. This market is four storeys high and is crammed with shops. The 1st floor carries nothing but clothing, including imported designer jeans from Hong Kong, the latest pumps from Paris and ao dai (Vietnamese national dress). The basement is a gourmet's delight of small restaurants - a perfect place to lunch on the cheap.