20th May – Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnamand what you’d call the most ‘Western’ of all the Vietnamese cities. It has a really great buzz to it, with millions of scooters, roadside food stalls, high rise hotels, green parks, top designer stores, cheap knock-off stores, top historical mueseums and sites and a large number of great cafes and restaurants. We’ve only spent 3 nights here (2 on the 19th and 20th May and 1 night on the 26th before flying out of Vietnam), but could have explored the city a lot more given more time. Walking around the city you quickly get the impression that Vietnam, well the south at least, are moving ahead quickly in the world and have certainly not dwelled on past events.
Our trip in HCMC started with a final night out with Cutts, Bel- it was going to be the last time we were going to see Cutts and Bel since first meeting them in Laos. Dinner and beer were the order of the evening and we said our farewells (holding back the tears of course) – thanks guys it has been an awesome trip with you both and we look forward to some good times up in Manchester and Liverpool later in the year!
The next morning Jono and I were up relatively early (9am!) with plans to visit the War Remnants Mueseum. We took a 20 minute walk through central HCMC to get to the mueseum – taking in a few sights like the Ben Thanh market on the way. The War Remnants Mueseum houses a number of US planes, tanks and guns that were used in the Vietnam war – we took a look around these and snapped off some obligatory pics. Inside the museum there are a number of sections which depict the Vietnam was from a very Nth Vietnam point of view – you get a good idea of some of the atrocities that the US/Sth Vietnamese inflicted on the VC – although some of it is very much designed to take the side of the Nth Vietnamese. They have reconstructed the ‘Tiger Cages’ which were used to house Nth Vietnamese POW’s and also gave you an insight into some of the methods of torture used by the South on suspected Nth Vietnamese people who were thought to have held important information about the Viet Cong.
Our next stop on the ‘getting cultural’ map was Re-Unification Palace. This is a palace built to house the president and his family, which was re-built in 1975 after sever bombing from the US. This is the site where the Vietnam war pretty much ended, as the Nth Vietnamese burst down the gates to Re-Unification Palace in their tanks, climbed the stairs and waved the Nth Vietnamese flag from the balcony (just after this the president and his cabinet surrended). It was an interesting spot, with a war planning and radio room in the basement and some pretty top notch dining rooms and cinima’s in the upper floors!
Saigon was a great spot to take in some history and turned out to have some cheap beer which we made the most of!! The next destination was Phu Quoc, an island off the bottom of Vietnam (we’ve returned from here since but will do the post in as few days – potentially one of the best spots in Vietnam!)
Parting shot is of Jono and a street vendor in intense price discussions! The funny thing about this is that we met this guy in Hanoi and got to know him as we saw him a few times. We were walking back through the city in Saigon and bumped into him there! Small world even in Vietnam!