After years of threatening to visit Vietnam I finally got around to doing it. In my early days of traveling to Asia, I was told a few horror stories about the country. None of which would bother me today, but I think hearing rumours about dodgy taxi drivers or currency issues created a deep routed apprehension about coming alone but, on first glimpse of Ho Chi Minh City, I wondered why I had left it so long.
Usually I can find, and book, a hotel on Agoda.com in less than fifteen minutes but, a few weeks previous to the trip, I spent over four hours browsing hotels. I had never seen so many bad reviews for hotels in all my travelling days. Possibly weakening in will-power, I booked a place that only had one review, which of course was impeccable. Like a newbie, I paid for the room straight-up, in line with hotel policy. Afterwards I thought it was probably a mistake to book a place with only one review because anyone could have written it. A week before the trip, I went back to see if there was any other reviews … when my heart sank. A woman had left a review saying that the place was down an alleyway and right in front of the hotel was a building site. She also said that she had been robbed outside the hotel, and the place wasn’t near any of the hotpots. Seeing as I had already paid (with no refund), I was committed and decided to just go with the flow.
I usually try and stay in cheap to mid-range hotels in Thailand and avoid backpacker places unless I’m in a party mood. Nowadays I prefer my own air-conditioned room, preferably with a TV and my own bathroom. My rule is never more than £20 a night, but I normally stay in places from anywhere between £7 to £15. Since I was visiting Ho Chi Minh for a week’s holiday, I thought I would push the boat out a little and book what I thought would be a good hotel.
I always get a little nervous when visiting a new country and reading about places can often be a bad idea. I managed to skip through Immigration without having to queue. My suitcase was the first to come out on the carousel and there were plenty of kiosks to book a prepaid taxi, in the terminal building. Everything was going swimmingly until I enquired about getting a SIM card for my Tablet. The girl wanted to fit it for me and asked me to remove it from its case when … smash the screen went. Absolutely gutted, I didn’t bother with the SIM card in the end. Feigning happiness, I left the kiosk and headed for my taxi.
My mood was quickly lifted though when I walked into my hotel room which was absolutely amazing, and it’s safe to say that it’s probably one of the nicest hotel rooms I’ve ever been in. It was huge, and the luxury bathtub made everything nice and cosy. I hooked up my media player to the 42” flat screen TV on the wall and now my palace was complete.
I was checked in by 10.00am so I still had the whole of the first day to go and explore, so I spent an hour on Tripadvisor and Google Maps, whilst I figured out my next move. I then took a walk around the city for a couple of hours, but I was slightly out of the tourist areas and was the subject of many a bewildered look, as I followed the map around fruitlessly trying to find an HSBC bank. I found myself walking through some local alleyways where there were loads of people playing cards and gambling on games I had never seen before. All shops seemed to be closed. It was a Tuesday and I was wondering whether it was a public holiday (Chinese New Year). After a long day of no sleep and too much caffeine, I took solace in relaxing in my fantastic, spacious hotel room and had and early night.