20.02.2013 - 23.02.2013 26 °C
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City from the Mekong Delta and the first thing that struck us was the quantity of mopeds and scooters on the road! It was incredible to see so many bikes and I really wouldn't want to drive with them weaving all over the place, even on the wrong side of the road.
On our first full day in the city we had a look around the place, stopping at several museums / places of interest, including the City Museum which chartered the city's rise over the past century. This gave us an insight into the fascinating history of Vietnam and showed our ignorance of what had happened here. From the museum we went to the riverside which was a little disappointing and not great views / promenade to walk along. In the afternoon we saw the impressive Notre Dame cathedral and Independence Palace where the end of the Vietnam War was signified with a tank ploughing through the gates.
To round of our day we visited the War Remnants museum to better understand the effect of the war on the Vietnamese people. It was very sad to see the devastating effects of how people had been affected by "agent orange" which the US splattered over the country. It also made me wonder if I'll be able to visit Iraq and Afghanistan in 40 years as a welcome tourist?
On our second day we took the bus out to see the Cu Chi tunnels, the underground tunnels used by the Vietnamese in times of war. There are 250kms of tunnels, all dug by hand and it was amazing to see how normal life was able to be conducted 5-25m underground with kitchens, movie rooms, schools, medical rooms etc etc. We went to the Ben Duoc tunnels which are apparently favoured by the Vietnamese tourists as they are less crowded and not recreated to accommodate the Western waistline! We were joined by a Japanese tour group which worked in our favour as the women were dressed like they were in a fashion show in 5 inch heels and the men scared they would get stuck so Alice and I were able to follow the guides straight into the tunnels while the Japanese mostly waited above ground. The tunnels were about 80cm high so being on all fours was more comfortable than trying to walk upright!
The tour took about an hour which was a little disappointing and there was a lack of visitor centre / museum to put everything into context. On the way back to HCMC on the bus, a friendly old man spoke to me. He quickly offered Alice and I to stay at his house and for him to cook us dinner. After politely refusing he came and sat beside me and started asking what information I had about the US bombing Thailand and what other information I had I could share with him. He stressed we were the people and we must stick together. I felt a little uncomfortable, and was professing I was NOT American, while Alice sat on the seat opposite napping, completely unaware of what this guy was saying.
Our last day in the city was a lazy one; we started with breakfast at a bakery (one good thing the French left in Vietnam were baking skills!). We took a bus to the Cho Lon, the Chinese influenced area of the city. There was a massive bustling market which seemed to cater a lot more for wholesale rather than retail customers. By this point we are a bit market-ed out, so we didn't spend long there before trying to find some pagodas in the area which we had no joy with finding. In the afternoon, we went to the Jade Emperor pagoda on the other side of the city, built by the Chinese about a century ago. The huge fish and turtle ponds amused us - we think people must buy small animals from the stalls outside and leave them at the pagoda for good luck - although several of the gold fish were now dead! In early evening we took the bus to the airport for our flight to Da Nang.