His name is Tung (email him here). He's a himble 60-year old veteran of the American War and a native of Ho Chi Minh City who takes his job very seriously. We met him in the park along Le Lai Street near the Ben Thanh Market and the backpacker district. He carried a small journal full of testimonials and photos of many of his previous customers. They all wrote such great things about him and even included their contact info. Some of them were even repeat customers. His price was VERY reasonable and he helped us plan a 10-day itinerary throughout the south and central parts of the country.
His value as a translator (and a price negotiator) was often worth his fee for the day. He also suggested cheap places to stay in every town we visted, which also helped to cover the cost of hiring him!
U.S. Veterans of the Vietnam war wishing to return to Vietnam would especially benefit from Tung's knowledge since he fought along-side U.S. GI's for several years right up to the final U.S. evacuation.
Do yourself a favor and hire him, even for a day, a week or a month. You will see a part of Vietnam that you can't find in the guidebooks! We will definitely be hiring him again when we return to his beautiful country.
I was informed about the photographer by a friend I met during my visit to HCMC. Apparently, the photographer - Mr Cuong (pronounced Keng) - has a private museum which I do not have the time to visit. Based on his name card, you can see the famous photoes during the war taken by him in the museum and all other things that include the fine Asian & European Art Collection. For direction to the museum, u can contact him personally or visit him at his home at the following address:
64, Dong Du, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
On Dong Du street, go towards Sheraton Hotel. Hotel should be on your left hand side. Walk up ahead and next to Sheraton you should be able to see the Mosque. Immediately after the mosque, the first art shop numbered as 64, on the 2nd floor is where Mr Cuong lives. You can ask the sale attendant to call for Mr Cuong.
Opportunities for massage abound, but almost exclusively they involve pretty young girls in short skirts make a living on "tips". I dare to say that it is almost impossible for a male not to be groped during a massage.
Perhaps the only prefessional massage centre free of debauchery is at the Saigon Prince Hotel where the treatments are superb!
Foot massage is popular in the city and there are plenty of little lounges to sooth weary feet. There's little between them and they seem ver y friendly and welcoming. Comfort Foot Massage opposite the Saigon Prince Hotel is a friendly place to put your feet up!
Don't be afraid to try out all kinds of yummy vietnamese dishes!
Eat where the locals are, on the streets, in the market, or just sit beside the roads!
Follow your nose and explore the famous kitchen!!!
You can easily get a rider service and go around Da Lat area to explore some country side and tribal villages.
Chicken Village which is about 20KM away from Da Lat town is one of those great spot to meet locals, taking picture of tribal kids and shop for some local crafts. Remember to get your rider to tell you one of those very touching love stories that had been passed down for generations by villagers of the Chicken Village.
Click Da Lat for detailed tour around the area.
Most tourists will cover Mekong Delta when they are visiting HCMC, but Da Lat is also a great getaway especially after some burning hot sun at HCMC.
Da Lat is my 2nd stop after Saigon. This is a highland town and slowly becoming a popular holiday destination for local, especially those from Saigon. The vegetations will be slightly different here as compare to Mekong Delta & HCMC, where casuarina trees are found abundantly. The sound of wind passing through those casuarina needles is something really welcoming & you can easily feel the zephyrs kissing on your cheeks.
After two days of sitting on wooden stools in a boat on the Mekon Delta, we found ourselves incredibly stiff and sore! The Phuc Chau Massage Centre (just don't pronounce it phonetically!) was recommended to us as a clean, reputable and non-sexual massage parlour. Roughly translated, Phuc Chau means "Four Hands" and for about $15 you can indulge in a full body massage from two masseuses at once.
Once inside it's certainly an... experience! Mum and I were shepherded into a shower room with only a hot tap (ouch!) and then required to don robes which would probably only fit a child! We opted to stay wrapped in towels. You are then led to the massage rooms where you lay down and the two masseuses enter. For an hour they work on everything from your back to your hands to your temples, using fragrant massage oil. By the end of it we felt fantastic!
(Address copied straight from business card, hope it makes sense): 32 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, P 19, Q Binh Thanh - Lau 1
The massage is upstairs from a regular looking office block, making it a little hard to find. I'd recommend trying to find Cao oc Age (the building it's in on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh St) and going from there.
Sometimes you can have this museum to yourself. Ton Duc Thang was Ho Chi Minh's successor as president of Vietnam. He died in office 1980. There are many photos and displays that illustrate his role in the Vietnamese Revolution, including his time spent imprisoned on Con Dao Island.
Not essential viewing but if you need a break from the heat it's only 10,000 dong. Open 8-11 am and 2-6 pm Tuesday to Saturday
5 Ton Duc Thang
A Hiu Quan supposed to be the chinese assembly hall but this one there are actually worshiping a few Gods. The pagoda is near a school so if you visit there at the time the student finished school, you will have trouble getting in or walking out from the pagoda.
This is the main backpacker area. If you are staying outside of Pham Ngu Lao, no harm strolling in to have a look at this buzzing place, with its many cafes, internet shops, souvenir and craft outlets, tour agencies, restaurants and shops and peddlars selling pirated DVDs and books and a place crawling with backpackers from all nations.
My Cyclo driver took me here. I am not so sure that it is such a good idea now with the Avian Flu going strong in Vietnam, but then it was really fun to see so many chicken cackling away in one spot. It is within Cholon, the traditional Chinese area in HCMC and you shouldn't miss it - you can smell chicken poo from miles away.
Experience a piece of everyday life by visiting the wet markets - Ben Thanh and Thai Binh for examples. You don't see this in the West. This is where folks get their groceries - fresh meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables and breakfast! Watch the ritual of the morning unfold before your eyes with cries of sales, stalls hawking weird and exciting food items and smell the aroma of the place, as long as you do not mind the chaos, the dirty water and the jostling crowd of ladies/mothers going about their shopping!
My cyclo driver took me here. This is the part of HCMC that the Vietnamese government does not want you to see. Hidden away at the local quarters, the Black River (and it is REALLY black) slums are a depressing sight to behold. This is a first for me, coming so close to one, and I must say, I am a little taken aback by the living conditions. People are actually living on those boats in those brackish smelly waters. This is real culture shock and really makes you appreciate the comforts you have. I took a reality check.
Yes, dog meat! Dog meat has been a staple for the Viets for thousands of years. (Before you start campaigning the Viets to stop eating dog, try convincing your folks back home to stop eating cow. They are both just as cruel) Get chummy with a Cyclo driver and he will most likely bring you to the haunts. Today, many of HCMC's dog meat stalls have been "exiled" to the local quarters of the City, hidden away from the eyesight of tsk-ing Westerners. Which honestly, is a shame!
A fruit quite indigenous to Indochina, it's a green "hardy" looking fruit (kinda resembling a round guava or green apple) but when fully ripe, the flesh is soft, very sweet, tasting like condensed milk, and with the texture of chiku (sapodilla) and soursop (guanabana). It's quite a delight! Folks either sliced it as you would an orange or simply cut an opening and scoop out the content (kinda like how you would eat a grapefruit).
Note: The fruit should be in season during December and you should be able to see it in most fruit stalls/shops.
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