At last, the long awaited day had come! We had been saving up for almost a year, packed 99% of our belongings into storage, and mentally prepared ourselves for a long, indefinite journey to Southeast Asia. The last few of our possessions were loaded into our backpacks, just small enough to fit Delta’s carry-on requirement; losing track of everything we effectively own just wasn’t worth the luxury of not lugging them around the airport. And thus, we embarked!
We started with a 5 hour flight from Cincinnati to Seattle, a 2 hour layover, 11.5 hours to Seoul, another 2 hour layover, then another 5 hours to Ho Chi Minh City. With a grand total of 25.5 hours plus losing 12 hours with the time change, our travel time was long, but pretty seamless! We got delayed in Seattle but we thankfully had enough time in Seoul that it didn’t affect the rest of our itinerary.
Our first few experiences in Saigon were a bit rocky. As soon as we stepped out of the airport, we were immediately approached by multiple people offering us taxi rides. We haggled with the first driver down to 400,000 vietnamese dong (14USD) which was a pretty bad deal, but after many hours of travel and it being 1:00 in the morning, we didn’t have a ton of energy to argue.
We put our backpacks in the trunk of the car and got in, but when the driver pulled up to the end of the parking lot, he stopped, turned around, and asked us for what sounded like “5 dong” to exit the parking lot. Not only was this confusing because 5 dong is not even convertible-because it is essentially nothing-but the smallest bills we had on us were 20,000s. As we were trying to understand what he was asking for, he started saying “half dollar.” We asked if he wanted coins, but that seemed to further the confusion, at which point he started reaching for our money and attempting to grab it out of our hands “to show us” what he needed. The vibes in this taxi were getting pretty sketchy so we decided to bail. Luckily he let us out and let us get our bags with no further issue. We walked back across to the taxi area and haggled another one down to 300,000vnd. This was still not a great deal (should be about 200,000vnd for where we were going), but no sketchiness and we actually got to our destination this time. Yay!
We arrived at our hostel, Vietnam Inn Saigon, which we had booked in advance because of the timing (didn’t want to risk not having a place to stay in a huge city during NYE, nor did we feel like walking around at 1:00am looking for a place when we got there.) We decided to splurge on a private room for the holiday and celebrate our first few days in Vietnam.
As we are standing at the reception desk to check in, another guest runs in frantically and tells the employees that he had just escaped an attempted robbery. He explained that he had hopped on a moto (you can pay for a ride on a motorbike here, same as taxis) and had the driver take him to an ATM so that he could pay him. When he got off the bike, the driver told him to give him all of his money, that he had a gun, and that he would shoot him if he tried to run away. Apparently he ran away anyway, and thankfully was unharmed. Between this and our scuffle with the taxi driver at the airport, this wasn’t the greatest first impression of a city we had ever received, but it wasn’t enough to put us off.
We retired up to our surprisingly lovely private room with huge windows overlooking the city. We finally got to lay down and have a moment to reflect, (we’re in Vietnam!!!!) and fell almost instantly to sleep.
2 Vietnam Visas: 3,100,000vnd ($144.96USD)
Taxi from airport: 300,000vnd ($14.03 USD)
2-1.5 liters of H2O: 30,000vnd ($1.40 USD)
Private Room: 641,571vnd ($30 USD)
Day 1 Total Spending: 4,071,571vnd ($190.39 USD)