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IMG travels to Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City's People Committee
Ho Chi Minh City or formerly named as Saigon is the business and financial hub of Vietnam, the land of the Ascending Dragon, where IMG held it's first International Leadership Summit last July 2016. 

Motorcycles rule the streets
The city is also known as the "Motorbike Capital of the World", I never seen so many motorcycles on the streets in my entire life. But you need to be careful when crossing and walking the streets because these motorcycles just zooms away even in the sidewalks. 

I'm a Millionaire!
Do you want to be an instant millionaire? Come to Vietnam! Now it's time to get used to having 6-digit money on hand. 

How to Get There

Tan Son Nhat International Airport
There's no direct flight from Cebu, you need to book a connecting flight to Manila then Ho Chi Minh City which takes about 2 hours and 35 minutes. 

Or you can book a flight to Singapore going to Ho Chi Minh City which takes 2 hours as well. This was my option since I was in Singapore for a work-related trip. 

From the Airport to Hotel

The easiest way to go is hire a taxi, you can get an airport taxi which costs about 200,000 VND or a metered taxi. Make sure you have the address of your hotel, I'm going to really highlight this because it's one of my blooper experience. 

I was travelling on my own and I thought I had my hotel voucher with me but it was not there, the taxi driver doesn't know how to speak in English and he is not familiar with the name of the hotel. Luckily, he called his brother who gave the directions and it cost me 160,000 VND only. Lesson learned, always have the address of your hotel and have a backup copy in your phone or tablet especially if you are in a non-English speaking place.

Accommodation

Beautiful staircase in The Spring Hotel
Elegant Designs in the Hallway
There are a lot of affordable accommodations in the city, ranging from P500.00 budget inn to P3000.00 hotel accommodation.

The Dining Area with a touch of Greek architecture
Breakfast Time, Plates all Mine
Breakfast with the Team
I would really recommend the hotel where we stayed, The Spring Hotel, it has a nice architectural design, big rooms, plenty of food serving, and good costumer service. They are a bit strict with the number of persons in the room, they would check your passport as well, but I presume it's part of security measures.

Places to See

You can actually tour the city for one day just by walking or riding a motorcycle. The weather is same as ours, it's hot but I would prefer it that way than the rain. The place is also similar to ours, it's a rising city. 

Luckily, a close family friend, Uncle Tim was residing in HCMC and he gladly toured us around. So hats off being the tour guide for this trip. 

Saigon Opera House

Outside Saigon Opera House
First stop, the Saigon Opera House or Municipal Theatre, one of the city's landmark which is an example of a French colonial architecture. 

Ho Chi Minh City Hall Square

Statue of Ho Chi Minh
Just a walking distance, we went to Ho Chi Minh City Hall Square. A bit of history, Saigon changed  it's name to Ho Chi Minh City in honor of their great leader Ho Chi Minh after the victory of the north government. 

Nguyen Hue Walking Street

Bitexco Financial Centre
Across the city hall square is Nguyen Hue Street, it's a place where people gather especially on weekends to eat and have fun. We went there at daytime so there was no fuss around. Nearby is Bitexco Financial Centre, Saigon's tallest building. 

Notre Dame Cathedral

Front view of Notre Dame Cathedral

Side view of Notre Dame Cathedral
Another architectural masterpiece and a popular destination in Saigon is the Notre Dame Cathedral, a Catholic Church in downtown area. We were able to hear mass but it was in Vietnamese but still the same flow though.

Central Post Office

Outside the Central Post Office
Inside the Central Post Office
Beside Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the oldest building and a top destination in the city - the Central Post Office which has preserved beautifully it's French architecture. 

And because we were hungry and thirsty, we had our lunch in the nearest food place - guess where? In Mcdonald's! So far in every country that I visited, Mcdonald's is always part of the trip. 



Rice Pork Meal
The food price is really not that expensive, for this pork rice meal costs 45,000 but in VND which is P90 in PHP. 

The Book Stores
 Just beside McDonald's there's a line of book stores for book lovers like me, but the books were mostly in Vietnamese. 

Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace
This is another known landmark which was previously a home to previous South Vietnamese presidents. Now it holds as a meeting place and reception for foreign and national dignitaries. You can see some tanks that were being used during the war but you need to pay an entrance fee of 20,000 VND. We didn't go inside, so we just took a photo. 

Me riding the Rickshaw
Along the way we met a rickshaw driver, we hopped on to ride it (for picture purposes only). 

Remnants of War Museum

Now here is a place where you really get to know more about Vietnam and the city, I'm not really a fan of history but I learned from a friend that it is important to know the history of a place, you'll get to understand and love the place even more. 

War Remnants Museum Building
Hand Salute!
Bombs & Missiles
The Photo Exhibit inside the Museum
There's an entrance fee of 15,000 VND, you'll get to see air crafts and tanks being used during the Vietnam War. There's an exhibit of old photos, articles, and other remnants from the war, it's heartbreaking to see such devastation happened before especially when you see the photos of the young children and how they were affected. 

We spent more than an hour touring the 3-storey building, it was like an educational tour - I was ready for my reaction paper (lol). 

Benh Thanh Market

Pasalubong Area
Last but definitely not the least, shopping time! Saigon is known for it's affordable bags like Kipling and North Face. Benh Thanh is a public market where you can buy local handicrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese goods and foods - in short "Pasalubong". You can use your bargaining skills when dealing with the store owners, my way of getting a discount is letting other friends buy from that same store. 

Don't buy immediately, look around first and ask which stall gives the lowest price unlike in Hong Kong who gets mad at you, these are more friendly store owners and some even accept Philippine Peso currency.

Saigon Square

There's another shopping place where you can buy more pasalubong like shirts and bags - in Saigon Square. Unlike Ben Thanh which is so hot, here it's air-conditioned but we were really tired from all the walking. We opted to go back to the hotel to rest our aching feet and also not get tempted more on shopping. 

Ngoc Chau Garden

I'm not so into food trips when I travel because my stomach is sensitive, but I'm a fan of Vietnamese Roll and that's all I wanted to taste in Vietnam. And my request was granted thanks to Uncle Tim and his family, he took me to this Vietnamese Restaurant for dinner. Vietnamese food is more on herbs and spices - more on the green stuffs.

Authentic Vietnamese Food
Uncle Tim and his Family
The next day was the main event of the trip, IMG's Leadership Summit held at InterContinental Asiana Saigon. Around 500 leaders gathered to learn more on how to be a great campaigner not a recruiter, because we are here to promote financial literacy. This campaign is about touching other people's lives, turning spenders into educated savers. 

Registration Area
Mozone Time
With the the ProsperPinoy Team
Saigon is also known for it's coffee, there's a coffee shop on almost every corner. It's a common scene here in the Philippines seeing a lot of people drinking in the sidewalks with a beer in their hands - but in Saigon it's coffee! Iced-coffee, Frappe, or whatever you call it. So we also tried to be in with the crowd, we went to the all-time favorite Starbucks and Highlands Coffee.

Mocha Frappe for 90,000 VND
Highlands Freeze for 78,000 VND
It was a weekend getaway well-spent - seeing new places and knowing it's culture, learning new insights from our mentors, and eating my favorite Vietnamese Roll! 

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