At the beginning of this, my third post I thought I’d briefly explain the name of my blog ‘a worried traveller’. I am not afraid to admit that I am a worrier. I like control and I’m not very good at going with the flow! Not an ideal personality for a traveller. The first few times we were moving on and doing something new I lay awake at night worrying about how we would find the hotel, would the visas be ok, would we get picked up on time to get the bus etc etc etc but I gradually got more laid back as the time went on! Hotels like The Blue River certainly made life a lot easier. If you ever need a simple, clean and astonishingly helpful hotel in Ho Chi Minh City then try The Blue River. They organised our airport pick up and booked us onto a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels before we even arrived. We went back to Ho Chi Minh at the end of our travels to fly home and The Blue River looked after our bags for the afternoon and let us use a shower. They even gave us towels. Thu and Zuyen were so helpful. Check out the hotel if you are going to Ho Chi Minh City. http://www.blueriverhotel.com/
Something that I think would probably terrify even the most relaxed person is crossing roads in Ho Chi Minh. Our guide at the tunnels explained that they have only recently brought in pedestrian crossings and old habits die hard…meaning that most people ignore them. Crossing a road basically involves stepping confidently into the road. and holding up your hand. There may be 50 + bikes coming towards you but if you hesitate they will keep going! I slowly learnt that the best thing is to not look as they won’t necessarily stop but they will go round you…at the last minute! The first few times I did it I was so scared I refused to move and then squeaked and screeched all the way across the road! I wanted to make a video of this whilst we were there but was usually too busy clinging to my husband’s arm and concentrating on not getting mowed down. I found this video on youtube. It’s filmed on a road by the Ben Thanh market that I write about later in this post. Check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiyeIHpMbP0
Have you experienced this?
I love shopping and we visited several markets during our travels. In Ho Chi Minh we firstly visited the Night Market next to Ben Thanh market and then Ben Thanh market itself. The good thing about night markets is they are not boiling hot which means you can concentrate on shopping and haggling without feeling as though you might pass out. Whilst exploring Ben Thanh market I think I got the hottest I’d ever been. It is a covered market with really narrow alleys and very little air circulation. It sells a range of things and parts of it had quite a local feel to it. Although they sell all the usual tourist souvenirs there was also a big section of household goods, clothes and a food court. I have always been a bit scared of haggling. I generally just feel really bad offering anything lower than they have suggested but haggling in Vietnam and in Cambodia is so easy. I was quite keen to buy a handbag and had seen a few quite good Michael Kors copies. My haggling experience basically went a bit like this…
I see an item I like the look of and step towards it. A seller leaps to their feet and says something like “what you want madam? I have many colours.” They seize the item and thrust it towards me. It can then go one of two ways. I decide that actually upon closer inspection I don’t want the item and I say ‘no thank you’ and start to walk away. This usually results in the seller shouting ‘I have many designs, many colours, I give you discount, what you want madam?” and sometimes being grabbed. Or…I like the item and ask for a price. The seller then whips out a calculator and writes in a high number. In the case of my bag it was 1,000,000 VND which is around £28. I shake my head and say it’s too much. They hand me the calculator and tell me to put in the number I want to pay. I hate this bit and make my husband do it. He’s really good! He jumps right down to 400,000 VND. The seller says 700,000 VND. We say it’s too much and try to walk away. “ok ok, I do discount” they say and offer 600,000 VND. Eventually we get the bag for 550,000 VND which is around £15.
It can be quite tricky if you really do just want to have a look at something. The sellers really get their hopes up and a few times they followed us telling us they would do discount and actually grabbing our arms but we just didn’t want the item! You have to be really firm and just ignore them! In Vietnam you can use US dollars or Vietnam Dong (VND). You can get away with using dollars in restaurants and bigger shops but don’t try at the markets. The prices they give in dollars don’t make any sense at all! We were buying some chopsticks to take home and only had a little bit of cash left. The guy said it was 120,000 VND (around £3.50) but when we asked how much it was in dollars he said $19. It was the same with the bags. One lady was offering me 500,000 VND or $95!!!
What are your haggling experiences? What has been your best bargin?
A couple of other quick tips for the city. In District 1 there are lots of little salons which do really cheap treatments. I got a manicure with colour for 50,000 VND (about £1.50). You may not be wanting to eat pizza when in Asia but if you do need a break from Asian food (I have to admit we did) there is a little place called Vittorio on Bu Vien which does the best pizza I’ve ever had and amazing super cheap iced coffee!