We arrived at Saigon airport about 9:30 PM flying from Sydney via Darwin on a Jetstar flight. Since we were arriving so late in a new and unexplored city we had already booked accommodation and airport pickup. I just did not want to be hasselling around in a new city with a twelve year old girl at that time of night. We were staying at the Phan Lan hotel which was recommended to us by seasoned Vietnam traveller.

Pham Ngu Lao area

The Phan Lan is in the Pham Ngu Lao area of District 1. This is the area to head to on arrival in Saigon as it is a maze of inexpensive hotels and cheap restaurants intermingled with some bargain shopping and a huge number of travel agents. The best thing about the Phan Lan was its location. It is in an alley which runs off an alley which runs off Pham Ngu Lao street. The Pham Ngu Lao area is a hive of activity 24 hours a day and can get quite noisy so a hotel tucked away in a quiet part of town is something well worth thinking about.


On the taxi ride from the Airport the roads were absolute chaos with mostly bikes and some cars interweaving in constant mayhem with no observable pattern or road rules being followed. Welcome to Saigon. It is best not to think about this too much, just enjoy the unusual sights and trust the taxi driver to know what he is doing. The trip only takes about 25 minutes and we had soon booked into our room and ventured out for a bowl of Pho at a nearby stand. We went to bed fairly excited, what with a new city in a new country to explore the next day.


Our plans for Day 1 were pretty simple. Rhiannon wanted to have a ride in a cyclo so that was task number one and I wanted to have a look at the War Museum at some time. Basically the plan was to observe Vietnamese life and absorb the atmosphere and culture of a new country.

Crossing the Road

One significant thing we did discover however, was that a simple thing like crossing the road took a certain amount of bravery. There is no pedestrian crossings or walk lights, and no riders or drivers that would stop even if there was. The method we evolved was to step into the never ending stream of motor bikes and keep moving using little steps. The riders are expecting people to be crossing the street and will swerve around you. The trick is to keep taking little steps but not to stop, as stopping confuses the riders who are expecting you to keep edging towards the other side. When you are getting close to the other side, and you see a break in traffic, it is then time to take big steps and get to the safety of the other side. This is not for the faint hearted.