Ok so now it’s called Ho Chi Minh City, but for the purposes of our blog title the old name works better. Plus, i have been singing the opening number from the musical Miss Saigon since I got here, much to Kieran’s joy.
So when we arrived the heat was most definitely on- a kind of smoggy humidity that you only get in a sprawling city such as this. But hey, it wasn’t raining so it was fine by us! The first job on arrival, as always, was to find food so we hit the streets. It didn’t take too long for us to spot the usual tiny stools on the pavement and people tucking into a brothy concoction so we went for it. This time we had lucked upon a seafood noodle soup (don’t you just love how we sit down somewhere without having the slightest clue what we are about to eat?).
It was a bit pricier than your usual street fodder, about twice what we had been paying elsewhere in fact, but that’s what you get when you are in the capital I guess. And to be fair, there were huge chunks of fish and some massive prawns in there. We especially enjoyed it when the staff started rushing around and grabbing our lunch, and our table from under it, whilst shouting ‘police!’ and hustling us indoors. It seems maybe they didn’t have a license to trade, but we got to finish our broth in peace after this flurry of excitement thankfully. Never a dull moment.
On this first afternoon we decided to just have a general explore as most of the museums close at 4pm and 5pm, and to save our history lesson for tomorrow. Kieran had heard of an Adidas outlet store selling last season’s stuff dirt cheap so we trekked what felt like miles to find it. We finally arrived, only to discover the stuff wasn’t on sale at all! Very apologetic for dragging me out in such a fruitless mission, Kieran fed me a beer and all was well. At least we got to take in a few sights along the way…
That’s right, it’s gotten dark.
We went home for a very quick change before heading out to dinner at ‘Nha Hang Ngon’ which was recommended in the good old Lonely Planet guide and was placed inside a gorgeously lit leafy garden.
This wasn’t everything we ate, but they just bring stuff as soon as it’s ready so we only had a chance to take this one quick photo. As most of you know, once food is on the table Kieran and I can’t focus on anything else. We had an early night after dinner as we were up bright and early the next day to see the Cu Chi Tunnels!
Yes it was an early morning, and there was a long bus ride (50km worth of bus ride in nasty traffic), and my darling Kieran took this deeply unflattering photo of me asleep on his shoulder. (Also, Jackie Ostocke is that you photo bombing us?!)
So the Cu Chi tunnels are a network of underground tunnels developed by the Viet Cong in the 1960′s to help them defend the area of Cu Chi from American attacks during the Vietnamese War. The tunnels spread across a whopping 200km, reaching back to Saigon, and in another direction out to the Cambodian border.
A hidden tunnel entry point. Pretty tight wouldn’t you say? Our guide wanted a volunteer to squeeze themselves in and guess who stepped up?
Kieran did of course! Obviously it was pretty distressing for the Americans when the Vietnamese would just pop up out of nowhere then disappear into thin air again…
Where’d he go?!
Not one to be outdone, i stepped up for a little peek inside the entrance to another tunnel…
And peeking was all i would be doing here as the tunnel was just big enough for you to crawl through on your belly, and I wasn’t really up for that.
One of the tunnels had been widened and heightened so we fat Westerners could squeeze through and get the full experience. Even so, it was still a tight squeeze and a slow crawl!
There goes Kieran! As he was leading the way, I’ll pass you over so he can share his experience with you…
So, as you can see above they have laid out about 140 metres of tunnels for us to wade through and experience what the vietnamese did. The earth in this particular area was particularly good for tunnels as it had a high clay element which kept them solid. another reason they kept them small was that they would be less likely to collapse if the gaps were smaller. They had miles of tunnels reaching right over to the Cambodia border. The complex we visited was well laid out, we saw a film about the life in the tunnels then various traps and defences they used. The Vietnamese would take old bombs that had fallen and not exploded and recycle the materials in them against their enemy.
It was a very informative trip and well worth the time if you Visit Saigon.
On the ride home our guide offered us a lift to the War Remnants museum which came highly recommended in the Lonely Planet.
Within a few minutes of arriving I felt a bit overwhelmed to be honest. On the ground floor are a bunch of exhibits and photos from around the world showing the protests in other nations againstthe Vietnam war, there are accounts of US citizens who self immolated and also the two soldiers who intervened at the My Lai massacre.
On the 1st floor were images of torture and brutality which were pretty devastating. Of course there is an element of propaganda to it but it is so rare that we see the other side of this conflict.
Also on the 1st floor was a series of images about the devastation of Agent Orange, the chemicals used as defoliants during the War which continue to cause birth defects and horrible deformities even still. We had to step out after about a 1/3 of this exhibit. Needless to say we didnt take any photos.
Upstairs there was a photo exhibit called “Requiem” which was dedicated to the Photographers who have died in conflict covering the War. Some images by Larry Burrows in particular were incredible.
This image was of a young gunner who had seen his pilot and co-gunner killed in front of him.
Burrows himself died in Laos on a job, his images of Vietnam were used in Time and Newsweek and his use of colour brought home to Americans the human cost of the war.
We stepped outsdoe the museum into daylight, our heads were spinning and we were a bit numb.
In the courtyard outside are all kinds of US air combat vehicles.
In light of what we had just read and seen any feelings of awe were swallowed up by feelings of revulsion . It was that kind of an afternoon folks.
We quickly found a place to have a Pho and a Saigon Beer (apt).
We then retired back to our hotel to wash the day off our bodies and freshen up for dinner. We had such a good time in Bangkok at the Banyan tree rooftop bar that we were keen to repeat the experience here in Saigon. We skipped the recommendation of the book which was the Rex Hotel and instead hit the AB tower and the CHILL bar. Good choice.
Beautiful eh? (and saigon looks good too)
Some stunning views were had and we also made it in time for Happy Hour!
Anyway, having eaten our fair share of noodles and pho for the past few weeks we decided to have a change…Pizza!
Thin crispy cheesy and delicious ( the Pizza, not me)
We indulged and had a ball, it was a perfect way to end our time in this city.
And after a perfect night Becky had a little cornetto which matched her dress
And she also found a little slice of home
Bless, now we head to Phu Quoc Island… Lets chase that sun.