I just found out the person I was dating was already committed to someone else when I booked my flight to Vietnam. My original plan was to stay in Vietnam for 4 days, but because my mind wasn’t at its best form – I accidentally booked it for 2 days, 48 hours to be exact.
The flight was booked months in advance and I just learned about the mistake three weeks before the flight. And so I had to immediately streamline my itinerary to maximize my travel. Additionally, I also needed to inform my friend who was expecting to stay in Vietnam for 4 days about the change of our plans, and had to manage my friend’s reaction over my mistake.
We arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) 50 minutes past midnight. I arranged for a car in advance to pick us up and bring us to Mui Ne, Vietnam. The driver was strictly observing the speed limit being implemented on highways, and he also kept honking the car’s horn whenever we pass by an intersection. It made me feel safe during our drive, but at the same time kept me awake all night. It took us five hours to arrive in our hostel in Mui Ne. We just unloaded some of the things in our backpacks, and immediately started our tour.
Day 1 Activities: (Wear a conical hat, visit the reclining Buddha at the top of Tacu Mountain, ride a motorboat to Ke Ga lighthouse, walk along Fairy Stream, have a quick break at fishing port and Red Canyon, trek through White sand dunes, watch sunset at Red sand dunes)
We rented a jeep to take us around Mui Ne. On our way to our first destination, I asked our driver to stop at one of the souvenir shops so I can buy a Vietnamese conical hat. Our driver can only speak limited English, so most of our communication was done through sign language.
In the souvenir shop, I was trying to haggle with the lady vendor to get a lower price, but the she was not budging. I tried again, but this time I said, “I will buy two hats, please” and started winking my puffy sleepless eyes trying to be charming when she busted out laughing, and said, “Okay, okay”.
After a two-hour drive, we were dropped by our driver near the entrance booth and pointed to us the vacant lot where he intended to park.
We went straight to the booth and bought our tickets. The lady at the counter does not know how to speak English. She was pointing to a picture of a tram and a cable car with prices on it, and so I asked where could we ride the cable car. She could not understand what I was saying. So, I looked for other foreigners in the area who were traveling on their own in the hopes that they could point us to the right direction, but there was none. All of them were part of a group tour from Russia.
The lady spoke to a Vietnamese tour guide who can speak English, and he asked if we are part of his group. When he learned that we weren’t, he literally shooed us away as if the place was his. He kept saying, “No follow!” but we still followed them.
After several minutes of walking, we successfully located the area where we could ride the tram that would eventually take us to the cable cars. My friend and I, together with an Old Russian couple entered the cable car. They were laughing at me because I looked terrified inside the cable car. The lady pointed to me and asked if I am Japanese. I said I am Filipino, and they were amused. They kept saying “Ahh! Philippine! Philippine!”
At the end of the route, we hiked for another 20 minutes to reach the top of the Tacu Mountain where a huge Buddha is reclined. It was an amazing sight to see. There were pagodas in the mountain as well.
After roaming around at the top of the mountain for an hour, we bumped into the male tour guide again. He was looking angrily at us so I gave him a sneer before we head back down to our jeep.
My friend wanted to go to the lighthouse, but it was situated on another island and we needed to ride a boat for that. I was reluctant at first because I do not know how to swim, but eventually gave in.
We boarded a small boat together with an American family of 5, their guide, and the boat driver. The ride was extremely bumpy and water was splashing on us already.
The Americans were shaking the boat. They were screaming and having fun while water splashed onto us; it felt like we were on a rafting journey. Even their guide was encouraging them to shake the boat even more.
I was trying to endure the rough ride quietly even though I am trembling already. After 5 minutes of their continuous shaking, it felt like I couldn’t breathe properly anymore. I looked down on the floor and it has loads of water already in it and that’s the time I stood up and shouted to them “No! Sit down!” pointing to each one of them. I was like a high school principal telling them to stop having fun. They all looked shocked and immediately stopped what they were doing.
After about 5 more minutes of bumpy boat ride, we finally arrived at the Island where Ke Ga lighthouse is located. I didn’t expect much from this destination, but the beauty of the island pleasantly surprised me. We only stayed on the island for an hour before we returned to the main island. Had we not experienced that rough ride; we would’ve stayed longer.
Fairy Stream and Sand dunes
After our sumptuous lunch, we head down to the Fairy Stream. We were shocked to learn that the entrance to it was full of garbage. But as we graced along the shin-deep stream for about ten minutes, the view turned from unpleasant to heavenly. The rock and sand formations were unbelievably beautiful!
After visiting the stream, we had a quick stop at the fishing port and Red Canyon before we visited Red and White sand dunes. The sand dunes were both picturesque, but I enjoyed my stay more at White sand dunes.
It was around 7pm when we arrived back to our hostel and we decided to have dinner. We had already booked a midnight sleeper bus back to Ho Chi Minh when we decided to sleep for the next 3 hours until our bus came when we saw a snake trying to sneak its way into our hostel room. At this point I was just too exhausted to care so I just rested.
Day 2 Activities: (Visit Cu Chi tunnel, walk around Saigon to see Notre-Dame Cathedral and Saigon Post Office, buy pasalubong at Ben Thahn market and Saigon Square, join a street party)
Back to Ho Chi Minh City
The sleeper bus arrived around 1 in the morning to pick us up. We were instructed to take shoes off and to put it inside a plastic bag. This was my first time riding a sleeper bus and it was surprisingly comfortable enough to sleep in.
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh at around 6 in the morning and immediately looked for our hostel. We were shocked to learn that our hostel was overbooked! We had our plans for the day and we needed a room to leave our bags. But instead of arguing with the hostel staff, we decided to walk along the streets of Saigon and look for another place to stay.
Upon settling to our new hostel, we immediately booked a tour to Cu Chi tunnel. It was an interesting tour, boring at parts, but we enjoyed still.
After the tunnel tour, we went for a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh to visit the cathedral, post office, and went to Ben Thahn market and Saigon Square to buy pasalubong.
We arrived at our hostel around 8pm and decided to buy a taxi coupon going to the airport. We still had two hours before the taxi would pick us up at our hostel when we decided to have dinner. We were staying at Pham Ngu Lao which is the red light district of HCM and there was a street party that night.
My friend and I were talking about how our trip went after we had our dinner. We were laughing about the misadventures we encountered and at the same time we were still in awe of the adventures we experienced. We decided to buy beer with our last money instead of bottled water.
We were in a foreign land, with no money left in our pockets, and there we were joining a street party with a beer on our hands – definitely the best way to end a travel adventure.