Safe in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Trip Start Sep 24, 2006
Trip End Sep 01, 2007

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Where I stayed
AZ Hotel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, April 7, 2007

Met Kim for breakfast at AZ Hotel in Hanoi and Huong joined us for a few minutes to say goodbye. She is my friend from Sinh Travel, whose husband Stephane is in Dalat with the raspberry farm. Arranged with the hotel for an 'airport taxi' prepaid last night at $10 and I believe the taxi was just a car driven by a family member but that is ok as I arrived safely, after a usual harrowing ride through Hanoi to the airport Noi Bai I believe, in 40 minutes. Got checked in, boarded relatively on time onto a crowded discount carrier, Pacific Airlines, I believe owned by Vietnam Airlines. Arrived on schedule into the 34 degree heat of Saigon. Didnt have a place to stay but thought I would, as per Kim's advice, take a taxi to the backpacker area around Pham Ngu Lao but first spotted a desk beside the luggage carousel with a sign saying airport taxi to downtown $5 US plus hotel bookings. The young woman looked welcoming and spoke English so I asked her for the best way to downtown and aside from taking City bus 152 and getting off at the market, I c hose to take a taxi to a hotel. She recommended a couple away from the backpacker area at about $25 as she said the area may not be safe. I looked at one brochure with a pool and thought for $25 it might be worth it be was full. I got my Lonely Planet guidebook out and asked her to look at some names and did she recognize any as safe (the one I was going to go to, searched on internet last night she said was definitely not a good place). She spotted one that is owned by 'Madame Cuc' and in fact she owns 3 here in the backpacker area and the guidebook says clean with a/c, sat tv etc. I asked her to call them, she did, and I got a reservation. Took the $5 taxi to the hotel, got out in the welcoming arms of hotel staff, who brought me my drink of choice, juice, offered among tea, coffee or juice. A group of people arriving from Paris came in and we were all told we would be shepherded to MC184, a quiet place across the street. We did, and what a wonderful place. Quiet and clean and free breakfast and DINNER, 20 min free internet, for $15 for me!.  I must say Vietnam is not very clean, the guesthouses leave a LOT TO BE DESIRED and one looks the other way. This one is so clean we have to take shoes off before we get upstairs and it is such a tall building (and narrow) that they have a hydraulic hook that transports guests' luggage to their room!   I Have a double room and am  now just going in for the evening after walking around in the daring traffic, finding both Sinh Travel and Kim Travel and getting info on boats on the Mekong Delta to Phomn Penh., Cambodia. Both agencies have 1 and 2 night overnight packages so think i'll opt for 1 night as I need to get to Siam Reap to see Angkor Wat temples which may take a few days to peruse. 
Tomorrow I am going on a full day 7$ UStour of the city and the next day to the Cu Chi tunnels and then I am off. I am not about to wander around the city as Ihave too little time as I need to be back in Bangkok April 15.
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