Okay, so everyone keeps asking me why I decided to travel to Southeast Asia. Well, this whole trip was the brain-child of my dear friend Catharine. She and I started working together about 4 years ago at a small local company. She was the Human Resources Manager and put me through a pretty tough interview. After I was hired, we became fast friends and grew very close. So close in fact, she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding taking place later this year.
Catharine, born here in the USA, is half Vietnamese. She’s gone to visit her dad’s side of the family every few years over the course of her entire life. She hadn’t been to Vietnam in a while, and was overdue for a visit. But this time she wanted to bring her fiancé in order to introduce him to family. She decided to extend the invitation to their entire bridal party. Four of us were able to attend.
Naturally, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to go to a new country with someone whom I know personally and trust, and who speaks the language and knows the lay of the land.
This trip had been in the works for quite some time. But we were certain we’d be traveling to Vietnam in January 2020. Which for me meant I had to be sure to carry over 40 hours (1 work week) of PTO/Vacation time into the new year. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have accrued any time to be able to use this early in the year.
With my style of travel, I never stay in one city for more than 72 hours. So naturally I started to explore the map for some nearby cities to hop over to after the first few days in Ho Chi Minh City. Part of me wanted to go and explore northern Vietnam. But when I learned that Bangkok, Thailand was a mere 2 hour flight from Saigon, I was sold. I could hit 2 countries in 1 trip.
Ho Chi Minh City
Everyone’s arrival to Vietnam was staggered. One person flew in with the bride and groom. Another couple came 2 days later. And Kayla and I were the last to arrive a couple days after that.
Since we’d be arriving the latest and staying the shortest amount of time, we decided to make our own accommodations. As opposed to troubling Catharine and her family to make accommodations for us.
After completing my usual exhaustive hotel search, I decided on Alagon Hotel and Spa in District 1. I chose it for location, price, and positive reviews. It was a 4-star hotel in the most popular district which only cost us about $71 per night. Had I booked it sooner than 1 week prior to our arrival, I probably would’ve got an even better rate.
Our time in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon flew by. But we got to do and see a lot. Staying in District 1 was great advice from Catharine. We were walking distance from all the major tourist attractions. The War Remnants Museum, Independence Palace, Ben Thanh Market, City Hall, Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Saigon Central Post Office. We were able to see all those places within 48 hours.
Overall Ho Chi Minh was cool. It looked way different from anywhere else I’ve traveled to before. The people were hard working, kind, and friendly. The city felt busy and crowded at all hours. Yet it was beautiful. A mixture of modern and ancient. Oh yeah, it was so HOT and HUMID. My face had a constant glisten the entire time.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the hospitality of Catharine and her family. Though we didn’t stay with them, they did host a fabulous catered reception dinner for Catharine and her fiancé Bobby. The food was delectable, my mouth waters every time I think about it. It was really great to experience a family dinner with Catharine’s peeps. Everyone was super friendly and made sure we had enough to eat and drink. We were STUFFED by the end of the night.
After 3-ish days in Vietnam, we flew right over to Thailand. In order to make the most of our limited time, we pre-booked all our activities. After checking into Nouvo City Hotel, we went to a restaurant right across the street from some traditional Thai lunch. We took a little nap and then got ready for our dinner cruise. A driver picked us up from the hotel and we headed to River City to board our cruise on the Chao Phraya River. The scenery was breathtaking. The city is so gorgeous at night, all illuminated and regal.
On day 2 we woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel. Our private tour guide, Arys, met us on time in the lobby and escorted us to our air conditioned van. We had a 9-hour full-day tour booked with him. He was so cool. Spoke excellent English with a slight British accent. We toured the most popular Buddhist Temples, the canal, the flower market, and Chinatown. What a day. Afterward Kayla and I grabbed some dinner, took a rest, and headed back to River City. We really liked what we saw just the night before. It was part mall and part art gallery. We got all our souvenir shopping done, and headed back to the hotel for bed.
Overall Bangkok was amazing. The highlight was definitely the temples which were so ornate and meticulously decorated and maintained. I was in awe the entire day. And those images will never leave my mind.
I’m skimping on many details since I have a vlog posted below for your viewing pleasure.
It looks like my next trip will be my long anticipated return to SPAIN in April! It’s been 10 years. I’ll be traveling with my newly retired mom and my lovely Godsister.
Cheers until then!