Backpacking in Saigon, Vietnam: Of Expenses & Meeting Strangers

Disclaimer: Yet another long post!

Part 1 of my backpacking experience in Saigon, Vietnam can be read here.

When I wrote Part 1, I did not expect some of my friends to find it interesting and informative. Within only 3 days the entry has yielded 50 reads. Thanks for the encouraging feedback guys!

As of late I think I’m gradually rediscovering the meaning of blogging.

I know I have been blogging for close to a decade now and may have earned a couple of bucks by running two blogs, on of which is a highly commercial and money-making platform.

But I have now come to a point where I feel that money is important but not everything.


As I slowly let go of certain things in my life, despite being a few bucks poorer I have in fact become spiritually happier.

I used to cling to my laptop to check on how much I had made for that day and how many unique visitors my blogs had yielded for me.

Sure it gave me some kind of satisfaction at one point. But then what is life if I have to keep worrying about hits or about getting a Google PageRank smack-down?

Right now with more time on my hands I get to work on more meaningful things, such as painting and travelling and coming out with home ideas.

I only blog whenever I feel like, so naturally the things that I write about become more sincere and truthful.

All right, enough of sudden emotions!

Back to my backpacking experience in Saigon… If you ask how much in average to spend per day for a budget trip, I’m going to have to tell you that it depends on where you are in Vietnam.

Well you have to bear in mind that foreigners WILL always be taken advantage of as they get charged higher compared to the locals.

But to be fair you know that Vietnam relies a lot on its tourism industry and that is mostly where its folks earn money from. So do understand from that aspect too!

If you’re on a budget trip, I would just assume you don’t spend much on non-necessities other than food, drinks, and accommodation.

This list explains my observation on what it costs to travel in Saigon:

  • Food (pho/noodles/economy rice, etc): 20,000 VND (RM3.20) – 50,000 VND (RM8) per bowl/plate
  • Bread(fast) (as in French toasts widely eaten across Vietnam): 15,000 VND (RM2.40) – 20,000 VND (RM3.20)
  • Dessert (tau fu fa/iced coffee pudding, etc): 5,000 VND (RM0.80) to 10,000 VND (RM1.60)
  • Mineral water 1.5l: 6,000 VDN (RM1) – 10,000 VND (RM1.60) per bottle
  • Non-alcoholic drinks (coffee/iced coffee/tea/coconut): 8,000 VND (RM1.30) – 20,000 VND (RM3.20)
  • Saigon beer: 20,000 VND (RM3.20)
  • Budget hotel/Guest house: 210,000 VND (RM34) double room with air-con and Wifi.

The reason why the range for food in the list is relatively bigger, is because if you stay in highly commercial or popular places like Pham Ngu Lao, it is most likely one bowl of pho (Vietnamese soup noodles) will come up to 30,000 VND (RM4.80).

Also, Cat once had this plateful of economy rice with a GENEROUS amount of meat and vegetables and the amount came up to 50,000 VND (RM8) and that is inclusive of the tea that you can refill.

During the last evening in Saigon, I travelled solo out of the backpacker area and had a bowl of the Vietnamese equivalent of the Asam Laksa. It only cost 20,000 VND (RM3.20) and had a giant pork feet in it, which I did not eat.

If you ask, eh, food prices can bargain boh?

The answer is… WHY NOT?

I never knew people actually bargain for food prices until a Taiwanese whom we met in our guest house in Saigon gave us the tip.

Just ask them the price of the food you are going to order, and if you think it is expensive after conversion to RM, just politely tell them to give a “discount” and see how it goes from there.

Another strategy to strive for cheaper food is to tell them the price is expensive and pretend to leave.

Chances are, they may retain you by offering a cheaper price!

Hahaha, simple as that! But just don’t go overboard to bargain prices in restaurants leh.

How much did I spend on average per day?

  • Accommodation: RM17 (per head for a double room)
  • Breakfast: Bread with omelette with Vietnamese iced coffee: RM3.50
  • Lunch/Dinner with drink (most likely Vietnamese coffee): RM14
  • Snacks/Desserts: RM3.50
  • Saigon Beer: RM3.50
  • Mineral water (in case some guest houses don’t allow refilling) – 3 bottles of 1.5l each: RM3

Total is around RM45 per day inclusive of accommodation.

Food and drinks alone cost about RM28 but it can certainly go lower than that if you survey more stalls and look out for more budget meals or if you have that energy to bargain a lot.

If you intend to travel for a month in Saigon, RM1,500 should be EASILY sufficient for food and accommodation. Other things not inclusive hor!

Don’t bother including cost on transportation because we never took any cab during our stay. The only public transportation we had taken in Saigon alone, excluding our 2-day trip to My Tho and Can Tho, were buses, which cost RM0.60 or 4,000 VND per trip.

Modes of transportation from Saigon to My Tho and Can Tho, and back, included buses and boats, but I can’t provide details on the exact cost as it came in a package which we signed up with a local travel agency.

I prefer walking though, as it allows me to see much more!

The Taiwanese I mentioned earlier told us he had spent only about RM1,000 for his one-month stay in Saigon.

Best of all he said RM1,000 is A LOT to spend for a month’s stay in Saigon!

I have no idea how the hell he made that happen but I guess he pretty much just went around bargaining for cheapest prices.


Now… Our trip to My Tho and Can Tho!

Had bread with omelette as my breakfast on the second day before departing to My Tho. Just look at the amount of the omelette given, on top of other things.

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The breakfast only cost RM3.70 inclusive of Vietnamese iced coffee. Not exactly cheap but I think I can deal as it was a tourist spot.

Bought the following (in)famous “iPho” shirt at only RM6.40 or 40,000 VND.

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Sapu-ed a few more shirts with other designs as I found some of the designs humorous. But most important of all they’re really cheap!

Upon departure to My Tho and Can Tho, I found it super amazing how the donut man in the below picture could just leave everything on his head, and talked and walked like a boss as if no burden was on him.

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-_-

He looked super chillaxed loh! Must make a great circus candidate.

And the onlooking girl in the picture is the very friendly Misaki from Japan.

She’s a 21-year-old university student who is now on a break and has travelled all the way from Japan to China by boat and from China to Vietnam by bus! Amazing not?

I know this is likely gonna be something I will do in the very near future.

If I’m not mistaken she will be in Malaysia next. Dropped her a FB message the other day to ask her to let me know if she is coming.

Gotta admire her courage and her supportive family!

You know not many Asian parents would allow their daughters to travel alone, especially to developing countries and by using less common modes of transportation like a boat.

Didn’t take much photos in the bus as it was kind of a bore.

The journey from Saigon to My Tho is about 2.5 hours by bus. Surprisingly the road condition was much, much better than that in the neighbouring Cambodia and the careful bus driver was driving at a faster but reasonable speed.

For the careful bus driver, I was really, really impressed!

Stopped by a R&R and had yet another dose of the Vietnamese iced coffee. As you may have realised I have mentioned “coffee” too many times in this entry, so much so that you can probably tell how addicted I was!

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To be quite honest Cat and I didn’t enjoy our 2-day trip to My Tho and Can Tho too much. As a matter of facts they brought us to too many fruit plantation farms and all we saw were fruits that are also available in our countries.

I think a trip like this will better suit those who do not come from tropical countries.

But I really, really dug making friends from all over the world!

I had met friends from the US, Germany, Austria, Japan, Netherlands, etc, and the best part is to listen to their stories and get to know how they have worked their asses off, resigned, and then conquered different parts of the world to look for the happiness they want.

American guy Jason (third left in the photo below) and his girlfriend (second left) had saved a total of 10,000 USD each t0 go on a 5-month backpacking trip that would cover both Asia and Africa.

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Felt totally inspired after chatting with them. They may have come from the different parts of the globe, but each of them has something in common: they are risk takers.

By risk takers I don’t mean you jump off KLCC okay!

Well, these people have a vision of what they want in life. They work hard and they go after their dreams.

Sounds easy? Definitely not! Because by chasing after your dreams, you may have to sacrifice certain things in life.

Can you deal with having spent all the hard-earned money you have saved for past five years?

Would you regret having tendered resignation to make room for your long holiday?

What about having to start your life all over after your holiday? Some people go to the extent of selling off their property just to make long travelling possible!

How many can do that actually?


Abruptly back to the trip. I don’t remember much detail on our stay of several hours in My Tho as it was boring to death.

But I remember being led to visit a fruit tree garden (boring), enjoy some fresh fruit platter with tea (boring), and listen to traditional music (boring).

OK maybe I take the last part back. I give the local folks credit for full-heartedly entertaining us with traditional music.

At where we were having the fruit platter, this cute little amgmoh kia just wouldn’t stop stalking and “harassing” the Vietnamese girl!

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Aww, they look so cute together!

Afterwards we were taken on a small boat that went through a shady canal where you can see mangrove trees and water coconut.

Meet Evelien from the Netherlands!

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She’s a very pleasant lady who has been travelling across the Indochina countries for a couple of months now!

We chatted for quit a bit during our 2-day trip and I just felt that we pretty much had the same wavelength. Probably because she had a seemingly matured mind that I could relate to whatever she was saying.

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Evelien and Cat during the boat ride along the canal:

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Evelien looked so very uniquely oriental with that Vietnamese hat on.

And on the front part of the boat there were Misaki and myself. Thanks Cat for this great picture!

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Misaki just LOVED posing with that peace sign, which I find amusing. Part of the Japanese culture right?

The boat eventually took us to a place which I think is called Ben Tre, which is actually a factory producing coconut candy. There, you get to see the processes of making coconut candy.

I remember being served honey tea and talking pictures with a snake wrapped around the neck. Not uploading the photos as they look horrendous.

Afterwards we were taken on a motorboat where they would transport us to another port (in Ben Tre?). From the port the bus that fetched us earlier would continue driving us all the way to Can Tho for another 2.5 hours.

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Some great scenes taken on the motorboat:

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Picture above: The bee finds the smell of my hand niceeeeee I guess.

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*Peaceeee!* With the easy-going Misaki:

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We were I was cam-whoring at the bow of the boat. Super the buey paiseh as there were so many other tourists on the boat who sat facing our direction. -_-

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On the way from Ben Tre to Can Tho, we dropped by a temple with a huge statue of Buddha. Not the biggest I have seen but it just gave me a sense of serenity by looking at it.

Evelien trying to simulate Buddha’s hand gesture:

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And me trying to act dramatic in front of Buddha.

No lah just kidding. Evelien wanted to capture a photo that would look as though I’m touching Buddha’s hand but failed miserably haha.

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Views from inside the temple:

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I remember chatting with Evelien in the temple about Buddhism for quite sometime until our tour guide came looking for us and rushing the two of us into the bus.

Best of all, the rest of the tourists had been waiting for us.

The bridge that led us to Can Tho – a bustling city in the Mekong Delta:

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I think the main main attraction at Can Tho is the floating market at the Mekong Delta. It was such a let-down though. Will probably blog about this in the next entry.

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After arriving at Can Tho, it was free activities in the evening, which Cat and I loved, so we went hunting for dinner after checking into our hotel and taking a shower.

Had super awesome food as dinner in Can Tho and the prices were so very reasonable.

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After dinner we explored around town, bought a few clothes items from its local market, and had this:

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Well they were not boiled eggs, but ones cooked using charcoal.

There was no egg yolk in each one as they had carefully poked a hole on the eggshell before stirring up the yolk together with the white and adding some spice into it.

Simply awesome.

I got so inspired over this that I attempted this with my charcoal stove 2 days after coming back. The outcome? One of the eggs exploded miserably in the charcoal stove.

Fail.


Other thought on “Backpacking in Saigon, Vietnam: Of Expenses & Meeting Strangers”

  1. finish a long post from u again! =D
    simply amazing when u can actually get to make friends with people from all around the world, exchanging culture and experience with them! i think i need to brush up my english for me to understand them or for them to understand me!
    thanks a lot on the budget part!~ super helpful!! hope i can do the same as u soon! travellllll