Since I went back to working full time, I haven't been able to join my AirAsia family on their trips, as opposed to last year where I was fortunate enough to be a part of several media trips, for both domestic and international destinations. I won't lie to you, the travel bug inside me has been itching for quite a few months now, so when my friends from AirAsia asked if I would be interested in joining the airline's inaugural trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Having never been to Vietnam before, the answer was of course, a resounding yes!
Yes, you read that right! AirAsia is now flying to Ho Chi Minh City, one of the most vibrant and biggest cities in Vietnam, further strengthening the airline’s commitment as a truly Asean carrier!
Last Friday night, AirAsia, voted the World’s Best Low Cost Carrier for nine years running, flew its maiden flight from Manila to Ho Chi Minh City, and I was truly humbled to be a part of that historic flight. Before boarding the plane, a simple send off ceremony was held at the departure gate at NAIA 3, led by none other than AirAsia Philippines CEO Captain Dexter Comendador.
His Excellency Ly Quoc Tuan, Ambassador of Vietnam to the Philippines, was also in attendance, serving as the event's keynote speaker.
In a show of support for two neighboring ASEAN Countries, AirAsia Philippines CEO Dexter Comendador said, “AirAsia is a product of Asean and we are so proud to be part of this region we call home. Three days ago, we formally presented an ASEAN plane bearing ‘I love Asean’ logo or livery in one of our planes to mark the golden jubilee of Asean and to celebrate our commitment as the only carrier that services direct flights to all ten Asean countries. We do love Asean so much that today we are starting Manila - Saigon and early next year we are to fly Manila – Bali and Manila – Jakarta next.”
(In totally unrelated news, Air Asia Stewardesses are gorgeous)
AirAsia’s iconic red plane arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport at 1:05AM, and we were greeted by the hospitable contingent of AirAsia's Vietnam Office
PLACES TO VISIT IN HO CHI MINH
Admittedly, it looks like a University building , but because of the rich history it houses in its walls, The Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh is a definite must see when visiting the capitol City of Vietnam.
The Reunification Palace served as the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.
War is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a country, and The Vietnam War set into motion the most trying times that this proud nation would ever have to face. The War Remnants Museum serves as a symbol of the horrors of War, not to disparage any other country, but to serve as a heartbreaking reminder of the price humanity has to pay when countries resolve to resort to conflict.
Weapons used during the Vietnam War
Actual Shells used during the Vietnam War
A collection of Tanks, Choppers and Airplanes
that were active during the Vietnam War are parked at the Garden area.
NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAIGON
Though it is currently closed for renovation, you may still visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, and be enchanted with its stunning architecture.
Make sure you get a photo of the famous statue of The Virgin Mary,
that reportedly shed tears in 2005.
SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE
Right across the street from the church is the Saigon Central Post Office. Completed in 1891, the building has been beautifully maintained, and is a popular tourist attraction.
SHOPPING AT BEN THANH MARKET
Shopping at Ho Chi Minh is not complete without stopping by the popular Ben Thanh Market at District 1.
Easily one of the busiest spots in the entire city of Ho Chi Minh, the market features a whole slew of vendors selling products and merchandise, ranging from Clothing, Bags, Textiles, Fruits, Souvenirs, and so much more!
Interesting factoid: For some reason, quite a few of the Vietnamese sales ladies can speak Tagalog, or at the very least, have a basic knowledge of common words and phrases, such as "Bili na kayo ng pasalubong, mura lang", and "Anong hanap ninyo?", and "Ang pogi mo sir".
Ok I lied about the last one, but I swear that she said the first two, so just be careful when speaking in Tagalog.. They might understand you hehe..
MEKONG RIVER BOAT EXCURSION
We took a road trip to My Tho City, which is roughly an hour and a half away from Ho Chi Minh, as we went en route to the Mekong Delta. We headed off to the port, and boarded a rickety old boat that made the ride a lot more thrilling than it should have been.
FIRST STOP: BEE FARM
Our first step was an island that house a Bee Farm.
We were given a taste of several Honey infused products, such as Honey Tea, mixed with some Bee Pollen and Beeswax.
And Banana and Ginger Chips glazed in Honey.
There are quite a few Honey based products available for sale, however, the most delicious product they have is the pure honey itself.
COCONUT CANDY FACTORY
Our next stop was a coconut candy factory. It was quite amazing to see how these delicious treats are made, without the expensive industrial equipment.
Pieces of the Coconut are meticulously sorted and wrapped by hand..
And sold in a wide array of flavors to choose from!
After the Coconut Candy factory, we took a stroll down the Market lane.
(My face looks like that because I was shocked to see how much white hair I have in my temples now 😭)
The oddest thing I found in the market, was this bottle of Snake Wine. And because having a dead snake in your wine wasn't horrifying enough, they put a dead scorpion into it as well for good measure.
Afterwards, we settled down to taste some of the local fresh fruit produce, such as Pineapples, Papaya, Singkamas and Watermelon, that is apparently best enjoyed with a sprinkling of Chili Salt.
For our last activity before heading back to Ho Chi Minh City Proper, was the Sampan Boat Ride!
I kinda felt sorry for the little lady that had to row the boat with me in it. I felt a little guilty having that extra doughnut for breakfast earlier, as other boats seem to zoom past us with the greatest of ease. Good thing she had a male companion helping her out behind us.
This may have lasted roughly around 10-15 minutes but it was actually quite fun. It had a Jungle Log Jam feel to it, but in real life. Boats seem to slam into it one another without a care, yet thankfully, we reached the end of our destination in one piece, and without really ever being in danger.
I honestly didn't know what to expect when I found out that I would be visiting Vietnam, but I can safely say that I had a wonderful time during my short time there. The country has a rich culture with a lot of stories to tell, and their resilience in rising from adversity should be an inspiration to us all.
I'd love to visit Vietnam again soon, and explore more of what this beautiful country has to offer! Thankfully, with AirAsia's affordable flights, travelling to Ho Chi Minh has never been easier!
AirAsia Flights Manila to Ho Chi Minh:
Departs Manila: 10:25
Arrive Ho Chi Minh: 1:05am
AirAsia Flights Ho Chi Minh to Manila:
Departs Ho Chi Minh: 1:35pm
Arrive Manila: 4:10am
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Stay Tuned for a rundown of restaurants we visited in Vietnam!!