A February 2004 trip
to Ho Chi Minh City by Laura Rabbit
Quote: My first trip to Vietnam was a pleasant surprise. I only uncovered part of what its largest city has to offer. I can't wait to return.
Hotel | "Windsor Saigon"
The lighting was good, there were two separate controllable A/Cs in each room, and the sparkling tile floors were gorgeous. Compared to other SE Asian hotels, this hotel had nice modern decor with tasteful artwork on the walls. The front desk staff and doormen were all wonderful.
The breakfast buffet was decent. The French restaurant downstairs (Le Petite Paris) was FANTASTIC and cheap: $11 for a three-course meal for two people.
The location was good (it was a short walk to backpackers row, but not actually IN the chaos).
This is not a five-star resort with a pool, but it’s great value and certainly four-star!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 10, 2004
Windsor Plaza Hotel
18 An Duong Vuong Street, District 5
Restaurant | "Le Petit Paris"
The ambience was that of a high-class restaurant in Chicago. There is a full bar and attentive staff. We were there for lunch and only a few tables were occupied, mostly by businessmen at lunch. Dinner didn't seem too crowded either. This place is a hidden treasure.
Le Petit Paris at Windsor Saigon Hotel
193 Tran Hung Dao
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Restaurant | "Rex Hotel Rooftop Bar"
The bar had an extensive list of mixed drinks (ie. sex on the beach, sex in the snow, snake in the grass) for about 70.000 dong ($4.50USD). This is very pricey for Saigon. This hotel/restaurant also has quite a sense of history and presence. During the war, news media camped out here. The decor in the lobby and on up gives you a strange feeling that it actually IS 1965. You must stop in to experience this cultural institution. FYI: Saigon Export is pretty darn good beer too. Although the prices were a little high and it is definitely a spot full of tourists, it’s a lot of fun and quite relaxing. The location is central to many other shopping and dining venues.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 15, 2004
Rex Hotel Rooftop Garden Bar
141 Nguyen Hue Blvd.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The ao dai is typically a fitted top, full length with slits beginning at the waist and continuing to the ground. Underneath are pants, usually white. The women in South Vietnam are said to wear this dress much more extensively than those in the north. Whether it is a special occasion or just a day spent riding the city on a scooter, the visions of these beautiful women will leave a lasting impression on you.
For US$40 ($20 deposit and $20 at pick-up) a group of young girls giggled and took my measurements in their small store near the blind massage institute. They spoke almost NO English except "How you are?" It is a miracle that we were even able to communicate to each other, period. I pointed out what I liked and many hand motions were used to indicate the various choices I was to make. I highly doubt that they had EVER made a garment for someone of "American size". I returned two days later and was stunned to find a beautiful silk dress with embroidered detail complete and waiting for me. I was (and still am) totally impressed with the quality of the work and speed in which it was done.
These girls all looked to be about 14, but I learned that that they were all in their 20s. Their smiles and laughter made that day a fantastic memory for me.
Even if you don't need a gorgeous ao dai, the experience alone is worth it. It is obvious upon arriving in Vietnam that the women here are very beautiful and their flowing, conservative way of dressing gives them a certain classiness that I had never seen before.
Tailor-made garments (NIL)
Near the produce market and blind institute
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Without any problems, we collected our bags and emerged from the arrivals gates to the grandest scene imaginable. A half-circle of hundreds of people was gathered around waiting for people to exit the airport. We felt as if we were accepting a Grammy and should give a bow. It was awesome and I WISH I had had a camera ready.
This is one of the few airports where we did not find an ATM upon arrival. Don't worry, you can find plenty in Saigon and our cabbie took US dollars. There is a currency exchange and plenty of taxis willing to take you into town. They were not nearly as pushy as in other countries.
If you are flying into Saigon to catch another international flight, they have a transit area where you may wait to catch your flight. The airport is rather boring and there is only one place to purchase food or drinks. A Coke was $3, so be sure to bring your own. A few duty-free shops and Vietnamese TV can help you pass the time.
For approx. $550 we bought one-way flights traveling Bangkok-Saigon-Kuala Lumpur-Bali-Bangkok. Thai Airways rules require that you start and end your trip on Thai Airways, which essentially means you will no doubt be in Bangkok twice. But this price is amazing. The pass encompasses the following ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand. You purchase "coupons" based on the number of one-way segments you wish to use. You can find more information by visiting Thaiairways.com; however, you must book through a travel agent. We found the airlines as well as the available flight times, to easily fit into an efficient schedule.
From Bangkok, we flew Thai Airways to Ho Chi Minh City (and I always enjoy the service from Thai Air). We took a side trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia from Saigon, as it was not included in the ASEAN pass at the time of our booking (however, today I see that it is!!!!).
Vietnam Airlines flies several times a day to Cambodia and our flight was midday. For the less than one-hour flight we were served a sandwich, cookie and water. The seats were LARGE, comfy and clean while the service was impeccable (gorgeous Vietnam flight attendants in traditional ao dai dress). Both the outbound and return flights were on time and without problems. Most impressive was that from Cambodia the airline desk checked our bags thru to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, despite our stopover in Saigon and everything actually ARRIVED with our flight!
I was very impressed with ALL of our Asia airline experiences. It puts United and American to shame.