The pristine beaches and fishing boats that came and went with the resort areas of Hoi An and Da Nang made up for the glacial pace of our train. After 21 hours, we pulled in to Ho Chi Minh train station 2 hours late and made our way by taxi to our guesthouse in the centre of the city. Formerly Saigon, the city its madly busy and the streets thronged with motor bikes. We made our way through the city to spend an enjoyable time catching up with the friends that Sue made while taking part in a CELTA – English teaching course in 2013. As English teachers, they can make a good living and many have stayed on since the course. (See Feronia’s posts with info on teaching English overseas here and here and here.)
Ho Chi Minh brings a surprising number of ex-pats from tourists to ex-Vietnam vets returning for their own personal reasons. Everyone has fascinating adventure stories about their travels. It was also nice to see how ex-pats get on with making a living and day to day life in this very busy city. Most of the tourists can be seen in sizeable numbers particularly around Bui Vien, the backpacker area.
There is also a thriving medical tourism business and we visited a state of the art clinic for a look at their facilities. We were amazed at the technology available such as 3D CT Scanning for dental work and cosmetic laser treatments at a fraction of the price of home. The numerous staff members available ensure you are treated as a very special guest and every need is catered for. Check out www.dentalcentervietnam.com for more information about the facilities and procedures. Definitely worth considering if you throw in a week or two in a fancy resort! (Also check out Feronia’s posts on medical tourism in Thailand here and here and here! Stay tuned for our book due out in the coming year on how to plan a trip for medical procedures.)
Part of the excitement of this remarkable city is the markets, which are incredible. Anything can be bought, but be prepared to haggle and most items can be purchased for around 50 – 60% of the asking price if you persevere. Copies of designer labels and local produce are side by side and the displays seem to go on forever! Be careful of handbag snatchers, it is very common and bags can even be snatched by passing motorbikes so stay vigilant.
We love the idea of helping our women’s causes and found a wonderful shop, Mekong Plus, at Le Loi which specialises in making creative products from recycled materials. The produce is all hand made and the non-profit making proceeds go to helping women in the Mekong area of southern Vietnam. This area is particularly poor and still suffers from the devastation of the 1970’s war with the U.S. Check out the website for the Mekong Plus Organization development for more information on the struggles and how to help.
Ho Chi Minh is modernising and attempting to deal with traffic congestion by building a new urban rail network which will run underground in the city centre. A Japanese company plans to have it up and running in 2019 and should help the city cope with its 4 million + motorbikes.
Our next destination: Cambodia via The Giantibis. It would take a full day including a stop to get a visa at the Vietnam/Cambodian border. While we try not to fly and to see as much countryside as possible, we are not teenagers and comfortable overland travel is a priority. Giantibis is the only coach service that actually drives over the border. Many cheaper options need to change operater at customs and horror stories abound of vans packed with people and no air conditioning for six or seven hours…maybe ok at 21 but definitely not at 50 something!!
Feronia’s Frolic and its writers do not endorse the medical facilities mentioned in this article and may not be held responsible for any visits or procedures the reader may choose to undergo. As always, consult your primary physician before embarking on medical tourism of any kind.