Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon

The customs process entering Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, was weird and a little complicated.  First you had to apply online and pay.  Next, you had to show up at the airport on the exact day as your visa approval letter.  At the gate you had to pay again for a stamping fee and submit passport photos, along with another form.  You drop all of this with your passport with the agent, who takes about 20 minutes to file the papers and stick the visa into your passport.  Then you walk to the actual customs gate where they inspect the visa and stamp your passport, taking up an obnoxious 1.5 pages.  But this was the cost to enter, and we were happy to pay it.  This would be our second visit to a Communist stronghold country and we expected to jump through hoops.

Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon

Upon exiting the Ho Chi Minh City airport we were barraged with taxi drivers all offering different prices to the Saigon city center.  All the taxis were supposed to be metered but no one offered us a metered rate.  The lowest we found was 200,000 Dong (23,000 Dong to $1 US) which our Airbnb said was an OK price so we went with it.  After leaving the airport the driver said that it was 200,000 plus a 150,000 airport tax.  We had a big argument where he told us to get out and still pay 200,000.  I said “No, you’re trying to cheat us.” But eventually we settled on 300,000, as I didn’t really want to get out.  The driver was happy and we arrived already annoyed.  For the record, the airport tax is 15,000 Dong and the trip on meter costs less than 150,000.  Taxi drivers can really suck sometimes.  They are the first impression travelers sometimes get in a new place and a bad one can start your trip in a bad way.  We got over it; you live and learn.

Lets take this pup for a ride!

Our first stop was for “bahn mi”, the classic Vietnamese sandwich.  It was so nice to get good bread finally and the toppings were amazing.  We walked around the city for awhile, hitting the sites.  The hardest part was avoiding death by motorbike, as they drive very crazily and all over the sidewalks.

In 1976 Saigon’s name was officially changed to Ho Chi Minh City, but many people still call it Saigon today.  We hit many of the attractions including the War Remnants Museum, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, and the Central Post Office which was designed by Gustave Eiffel and built between 1886 and 1891.  We have seen many of Eiffel’s works throughout the world, this one being very similar to the main bus terminal in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
The Ho Chi Minh Post Office.
Colonial Architecture

The Ho Chi Minh City Ben Thanh Market was definitely a must see.  There are hundreds of vendors selling all types of food and souvenirs.  We had our first pho, the classic Vietnamese noodle dish with amazing broth.

Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
Ben Thanh Market

Once the sun went down it was fun to go to Bui Vien Street.  This is backpacker central for Ho Chi Minh with cheap hostels and many bars on the street.  It reminded us a lot of Khao San Road in Bangkok, but a little less wild.  It’s nice to get a 15,000 Dong beer and sit on the street in a plastic chair watching the madness stroll by.

Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon

Our friend Flora has a cousin who was a very popular DJ around Saigon called D-Roc.  We went to watch him spin at a fancy nightclub called Qui.  This place was the worst– weird service and an annoying management.  However, the music was great and we hung out for most of the night.  After David’s set was over we went to another club called Lush.  They had several rooms with different types of music.  Their light shows were also very impressive.  They were open until 4 but we headed out before 2 cause we’re not as young as we used to be.  Clubbing is not really our scene but it’s fun once in a while with good friends!

Before leaving Ho Chi Minh City we went on an epic food tour with Flora and David (“D-Roc”).  We tried squid beaks, salt water snails, spice soup with chicken blood, and many other dishes.

Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
Squid beaks and snails!
Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
Vegetarian food was easy to find in Ho Chi Minh!
Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
This soup had a huge chunk of chicken blood.
Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Motorbike Madness in Saigon
Dinner with friends!

It was sad to say goodbye to them after such an epic few days, but we were full and our curiosity for Vietnam had increased greatly.  We couldn’t wait to come back and explore more of the county.

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Mojanda Mountains of Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo Mojanda - Mountains of Ecuador
Mojanda Mountains of Otavalo, Ecuador

From my journal…At 2:30 we met up with some gringos we met the night before at the language exchange.  Included was a woman from Peace Corps who had a friend with a truck.  So this Swedish guy and I rode in the truck bed and everyone else in the cab.  I always like riding in the back on nice days, the wind flies through your hair and it makes you feel more adventurous.  We rode for 30 min up a cobblestone road, riding up and up into the clouds then out the top.  Clear and beautiful, huge volcanic peaks all around us, we parked next to a cold, crystal clear lake.  Most beautiful landscape so far this trip, breathtaking.  Took so many amazing pictures!  We walked and talked and had a blast just because of the beauty of the place.  But as soon as the sun started to fade, all the heat was drained from the land and it got COLD!  You would never expect it to be so cold only miles from the equator.  So we packed it up and drove back down through the clouds, on the road that was so old and going no place but to this perfect lake that is here only for us to enjoy.  We left our friends after exchanging email addresses, most of us traveling south and sure to meet again.  We were so hungry so we searched for this pizza place we had heard of.  Finally found it and it was delicious with real cheese and only $2.50 for a personal pizza that was about 12 inches and SPICY!

Otavalo Mojanda - Mountains of Ecuador
This is what happens when you build your home too close to the lake…
Otavalo Mojanda - Mountains of Ecuador
Super filmmaker!
Otavalo Mojanda - Mountains of Ecuador
Above the clouds

If you enjoyed this post about  the Mojanda Mountains of Otavalo then check out our archives for other adventures! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and our subscribe to our Youtube Channel.