I have officially been in the country and Ho Chi Minh City for 6 days. The one consistent question I have received is “why Vietnam?” I get this question from almost everyone that knows me or who I have talked to in the past couple of months about what I am doing.
My answer to that is still evolving as I find out more myself. My fascination of Vietnam began when I was young. I read several books about the Vietnam war in high school. No matter how bad the war was described in those books it stuck out to me how positively the soldiers spoke about the country. The soldiers in the books always said that outside of the fighting there was something about Vietnam that was fascinating and special. It stuck in my head and became a bucket list place for me.
After my first visit last year, I knew it was a place I had to come back to spend more time getting to know. The food was insanely delicious, the beer was economically priced ($0.25 - $0.50), the landscape was beautiful, and the Vietnamese people were some of the friendliest I have met in the world. I knew to satisfy my inner self I would have to spend significant time getting to know more about Vietnam.
I had never been to Ho Chi Minh City before this trip, but will be spending at least my first 5 weeks here while I get my TEFL certificate to teach English. I booked my hotel room on Agoda with a brand new hotel that did not have a lot of reviews yet from English speaking travelers. I took a small risk and booked 5 nights at Chill Box Saigon, but at $19 a night and 5 stars reviews I could not pass up this place. I will say the photos on their website are accurate and not in anyway enhanced to make it look better than it does in person.
Chill Box Saigon (Google maps knows it as “Chillbox Saigon” if you need to find it that way when you arrive) was everything I could have asked for and more. Due to a minor overbooking issue I was able to experience what it was like to stay in 3 different rooms, including one night by myself in the six person hostel room. All of the rooms were extremely clean, have great interior design, beds that were very comfortable, the staff members were friendly and the location in District 1 made it easy to get to some of Saigon’s most popular tourist destinations. I give this an A++ rating for anyone who is traveling on a budget or looking for a more intimate experience than staying at a big brand hotel chain.
It was a little difficult to find as it is tucked back in an alley and the street addresses in Ho Chi Minh City can be a little tough to understand. Google maps and Uber put me in a close location and after a few minutes of walking around asking locals who pointed me in several different directions I was able to locate it around back in the alley. I will admit after 24 hours of travel to get there I had to talk myself out of getting frustrated while I looked for it.
My new friend Hieu, #facebookofficial, was one of the staff members at Chillbox who was very accommodating to me. He took me out to dinner at a traditional street food cart for cơm tấm bro on my third night and picked up the tab. The following night we went to dinner at a local Bánh Xèo restaurant before going on a tour of the city via his motorbike.
Sidenote: the motorbike is my favorite mode of transportation. The Uber app makes it easy to book a ride and at $0.50 for a 10 minute ride you can not go wrong. Follow my Snapchat (jheilstyle) or Instagram (No_Regrets_Traveler) feeds if you want to see some live action videos of my motorbike rides around the city.
I also need to throw a shout out to my buddy Mike Brackman in Cleveland, Ohio who helped me get set up with some t-shirts to brand my new venture. His company, Spirit Splash, hooked me up with some very comfortable No Regrets Traveler t-shirts so I can wear them while I travel. I did not give them much time and Spirit Splash was able to produce and ship them to me in 3 days.