Being back home in Holland was lovely but I knew there was another adventure waiting for me. A couple weeks ago while I was driving around in Nusa Penida in Indonesia I got the confirmation that I was selected as one of the bloggers to come to Ho Chi Minh City to attend a Travel Trade Show. After the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul last February this was going to be my second Travel Conference and I could not wait to hop on a plane and get my ass back to Vietnam!
Being sick on a flight
It already started when I woke up that Saturday morning with a soar throat. I could feel that a cold coming. Damn this was the worst timing to get sick. In the train to Amsterdam Airport I knew this was going to be a horrible journey. Having fever up in the air is the worst believe me! I was flying to Dubai Airport where I was shivering and laying in a corner on the ground waiting for my connection flight to Ho Chi Minh City. As soon as I got onto my second flight I asked for more paracetamol and told the Emirates crew I was feeling very sick. They took great care of me and gave me a row of 3 chairs. Lucky me the flight was not full. As I woke up there was a form I had to fill out saying: Medical Clearance For Entering Vietnam. Did you have signs of fever the last week? Did you take antibiotics? Oh no damn it I should not have said anything I thought. Then I looked around and luckily saw everyone had to fill out this form. On paper I was feeling perfectly fine! :)
Scams in Vietnam
Unfortunately Vietnam has a bad reputation of being the leading country in South East Asia for scams. This does not mean it happens call the time it just means you have to be a little extra alert in Vietnam, don’t be naïve, don’t get fooled! As soon as I arrived I had to pay $25 for my visa on arrival, which is fairly easy to get by getting a letter of invitation by email, print that out and hand it in together with 2 photos as soon as you arrive. After a 20-minute wait you will get your passport back including a 1-month single entry visa. Easy right? In my case it went very smooth but I was still waiting for my $75 change as I paid with a $100 note. I am sorry you can only pay the exact amount we don’t give change. It took me 10 seconds, a face expression showing I was fuming and a little raised voice but then suddenly they were able to give me $75 back. Just don’t let them fool around with you! Fight for your right in Vietnam!
Make sure you stay connected when traveling to Vietnam and get yourself a local prepaid sim card on arrival or order an e-sim card on the internet. There are a couple mobile internet operators but there is only one recommendation for tourists. Check out all about it in my article with everything you need to know before buying a sim card for Vietnam.
ITE Ho Chi Minh City
As I felt extremely shit as arrived to Vietnam I spent the first 32 hours in bed and I unfortunately missed the openings dinner for media. The staff of the best boutique hotel in Ho Chi Minh City took great care of me and I was able to attend the schedule the next morning. The International Travel Expo was about to start and I listened to some speeches from experts in the tourism industry. Yep that is how a Travel Trade show usually starts: networking, listening to keynote speakers, meeting people and introducing yourself a ton of times. The Gala Dinner that evening was opened with an incredible video showing all attendees including diplomats, high officials, ministers and Traveltomtom :) the most amazing places to visit of every South East Asian Country. I must say a spectacular video of places I mostly all had been before in my long travel history. From Angkor Wat to Halong Bay and from the Thai Islands to the pagodas of Bagan.
I came back for ITE HCMC 2018 and stayed in the Grand Hotel Saigon, just opposite from the Myst Boutique Hotel. Read here which one was my favorite!
Travel Trade Show
The next morning was the official opening ceremony by cutting the pink ribbon. So what exactly is a Travel Trade Show? It is a place where buyers and sellers in the tourism industry meet. At the International Travel Expo in Ho chi Minh City there were more than 300 companies and brands, such as hotels, resorts, airlines, regions and countries promoting themselves to potential clients.
What does a blogger do at the ITE Ho Chi Minh City
I guess for a lot of people it is still not clear what our task is visiting a Travel Trade Show as we are clearly not buying anything. Of course as a media invite we are there to spread the word about the fair: sending out Tweets, making Instagram stories, and writing blogs like these all add up promoting the trade show to any audience interested in travel. On top of that bloggers are the modern link between brands and costumers and we are used as marketing tools, which gives us the opportunity to get in touch with marketing representatives of leading brands in the tourism industry.
What to do in Ho Chi Minh City
The event is not just the trade show only as all media invites are also shown the rich culture, the history, the tourism attractions and the culinary side of Ho Chi Minh City. In and between our visits to the expo we were shown a list of unique things to do in Ho Chi Minh City:
Temples in China Town
Although it was bloody hot and I was walking around in formal attire the temples in Chinatown were definitely worth a visit. There is the Women Temple and only a few meters away there is another impressive Chinese Temple. Chinatown is definitely a must do in Saigon.
Notre Dame Cathedral
When doing a city tour through Ho Chi Minh you most definitely have to take a look at the Notre Dame Cathedral dating back to from the French colony era.
Binh Quoi Village
Ho Chi Minh is known as the motorbike city. Nowhere in the world have I seen so many motorbikes and only a few cars. To escape this craziness there is a park a little outside the city, which officially is called Binh Quoi Tourist Village. The name is a little tacky but surely this is one of the places to go in Ho Chi Minh to find your lush green craving.
Sky restaurant EON51
EON51 is the most unique dining experience in the city. From the 51st floor in the Bitexco Financial Tower you have the most amazing 360 degrees view over the city. The food and the ambiance was great the view incredible. Unfortunately I was still not feeling well and had to pass for the champagne. If you are looking for a dining experience with a view then this is the best place to go in Saigon.
A visit to South East Asia can never be complete with a massage. Everywhere around the city you find wellness centers and massage salons. The more expensive doesn’t mean the better. Choose one where you feel comfortable.
Vietnam History Museum Ho Chi Minh
This is where you can find the famous water puppet show in Saigon alongside all the historical facts of the country. This museum has no AC so be prepared to sweat! ;)
As part of our city tour we were taken to the Opera House, the most iconic theater in Vietnam. In this incredible venue where we were shown the absolutely outstanding A O Show. A performance in Cirque Du Soleil style showing us the local life in the countryside and huge contrast with the rushed and racing urban lifestyle. To me this was definitely a highlight and one of the most amazing things to do in Saigon. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take photos. Believe me it was fantastic and I am not a theatre person normally.
Fam trip Mekong Delta
As part of the trip I was able to choose a so-called fam trip. A trip in where a certain region or activities will be promoted to invited media. I chose to go on a 2d/1n trip to the Mekong Delta just a couple hours South of Ho Chi Minh City. Back in 2009 I visited this area already but as I lost all my photos of my last two months of my year long trip around the world this was the perfect opportunity to relive that trip and bring back old memories. Within a couple days I will upload my blog about this trip as well. Keep an eye out or sign up for my newsletter.
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