At the end of the year the Covid situation in Vietnam looked like it has never happened. Europe started rolling out the vaccination campaigns so we thought it’s about time to start planning our next trip. We believed that at the beginning of 2021 all countries would start to open up again and we could finally go back to our nomadic lifestyle. With that in mind, we decided to go to another city in Vietnam and then move to Ho Chi Minh, as most of the international flights from Da Nang always included a layover in Ho Chi Minh anyway.
Local feel in Nha Trang
We found a nice and very cheap apartment in Nha Trang, a city halfway to Ho Chi Minh from Da Nang. It was near the sea as well. It was in an unfinished building but the apartment was completed, clean and well equipped with a fantastic sea view! Near the building were all kind of shops, restaurants, cafes and street food. It’s located next to a local university so even though there were no tourists it was still full of people. It was nice to watch local people in their daily activities.
We also noticed a lot of shops have Russian signs and some shopkeepers spoke Russian to us so we believe it’s a Russian holiday destination. Unlike Da Nang though we didn’t see that many businesses closed. There were some but not as many. There were very obvious tourist places with closed restaurants but the place we stayed in was very lively full of local small shops and day to day activities.
Taxi adventures in Saigon
After living in a local area for a month, we thought we want to look for the same feeling in Ho Chi Minh so we searched for a place far from the town centre. We found a lovely big house in District 12. We had some problems with finding the place. First, our taxi driver from the airport obviously didn’t know where to go. He said he knew but very quickly we figured out it was a lie. He checked his GPS a few times, then called some friends to ask about the address we gave him. All that while still driving in some random, I assume, direction. We ended up in a completely different place than our GPS was showing.
We decided to thank him for the effort and call another taxi. This time the driver took us to the right place, unfortunately the address in Airbnb was not correct… or google maps didn’t find it correctly. That happened to us before so it wasn’t such a big surprise. We tried to ask some local people and at one point a grab driver asked us where we want to go. I showed him an Airbnb reservation. He called the host and (I think) asked to come for us because it was getting dark already.
Local Ho Chi Minh
Our host didn’t speak English so she came with a friend who could speak a little English and we finally got to the place safely. The house was amazing. Everything we could ever need was there. Fully equipped kitchen with all kinds of plates, pans and even spices! There were three bathrooms and all three were full of cosmetics that we may need. Bedrooms looked fresh and clean and in each one was a steam incense running, making the whole house smell amazing. When we arrived there it was already a bit late so we ordered some takeaway and went to bed.
The next day we went for a walk in search of some local grocery shop. Not only did we find a small shop, but also and more importantly a small local market with everything we could possibly need to cook fresh meals. At first, I felt a bit uneasy to buy meat there but other people were buying it so I decided it’s time to start buying and cooking like locals. Everything on this market was surprisingly cheap and I am pretty sure those prices were already adjusted with a “tourist tax”. It was still the cheapest we have ever bought food in Vietnam.
The unfortunate surprise
We loved this place, the local feel, the house. It was a perfect place… until we run out of internet. To our surprise a few days later the internet stopped working and we found out that it was limited to some small number of data. We didn’t expect that to happen. We called the host, explained the problem. She came with her English speaking friend, checked for herself and said she can upgrade the internet but we will need to wait a week because it was Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) and everything was closed. Unfortunately we couldn’t wait that long, so we told her we’re very sorry but we are going to move out the following day. She was very kind and understanding and even gave us a refund. According to Airbnb policy, she didn’t have to so it was a nice surprise for us.
Back to town center
We were very lucky to find a last-minute place in District 1 this time. It was difficult to find anything free because of Tet so we didn’t think much and took the place. It was located 2 minutes walk from our first-ever place in Vietnam and the centre of the city. We knew the surrounding very well already and it wasn’t a big surprise for us but at least we had a nice big apartment with good and stable internet.
This apartment was actually nearly too big! Nice big bedrooms, huge living room, 3 bathrooms again and cleaning service once a week. We said we don’t need cleaning, that we always keep the place clean ourselves but the host insisted so we agreed to it. This was the first and only place in South East Asia with the oven! So obviously we couldn’t resist and one of our first meals was home-baked pizza! 🙂
This place wasn’t that local like the other one but a huge advantage for us here was that we know the centre of Ho Chi Minh City very well so we didn’t have any problems finding shops or restaurants. It was a bit sad to see that many of those small restaurants that we enjoyed two years ago don’t exist anymore. A bit strange was walking on Bui Vien Street this time. We remember this place packed with people, loud and very lively. Now we found it very quiet and empty with most restaurants, pubs and even hotels closed.
Covid messing with our plans again
In the middle of February, it became obvious to us that Covid is not going to end that soon. Most of Asia didn’t even get vaccines yet. What’s worse, Europe started to panic about the Indian variant of Covid that appeared there… so we decided we want to leave noisy Saigon and go back to the peace and quiet in Da Nang.