Good Morning Vietnam!… land of pyjamas and smiles!
05.12.2009 - 08.12.2009 30 °C
Our bus from Phnom Pehn took us straight across the Mekong River, across the border and into Vietnam where it finally stopped in the heart of HCMC. We got off and to our shock we were not hounded by hotel touts or people trying to sell things. We didn’t know how to deal with the sudden lack of hassle and almost felt neglected!
The bus had stopped right by the main tourist/backpacker area and so within an hour we had found a nice guesthouse and we were checked in.
Right outside the alley where we had decided to settle in was a huge park which was hosting a world food festival. Of course we were intrigued and so we headed straight for the wonderful smells.
After sampling a few of the dishes on offer we settled into a small bar for the night and enjoyed our first night in the City with a local Vietnamese Ice Coffee (amazingly tasty and the first of many!) and a few beers.
For the next few days we spent our time wondering around and exploring the sites and sounds of this wonderful city and its surroundings.
We visited the War Remnants Museum which showcased the country’s history during the war with the USA. As well as the various impressive war tanks, planes and helicopters, this was another place where we were made aware of a history that we didn’t know existed. What the Americans did was horrendous and what the Vietnamese were subjected to was horrific. We walked away with very strong views about the USA and even at one point stated how this felt so similar to what the Pol. Pots regime had done in Cambodia.
We went to see the Reunification Palace - which was a symbol of the coming together of South and North Vietnam. This was where the communist tank crashed through the gates in 1975 and Saigon surrendered.
From there we headed over to the other 2 iconic buildings in the City - the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Main Post Office.
On one of the days we managed to book ourselves onto a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels which were located just outside of the city. We made one mandatory stop at a local craft centre where all the souvenirs were made by people affected by the Agent Orange a chemical used by the USA in the war.
We then made our way to this amazing placed which looked like any forest, apart from the odd pond or dip in the ground. It was here we learned that the craters which made the ponds and dips were in fact the result of bombs dropped by the US army in an attempt to dislodge the Viet Cong people who lived here. As a means of avoiding the bombs the Viet Cong created a huge underground tunnel network. After watching the video on the history of the Viet Cong we were then taken around the area to see the tunnels and even at one point enter the tunnel network (which had been enlarged to allow tourists to get in!). Even with the ‘enlarging’ the tunnels were tiny and very hot. We probably made it about 20 meters before calling it quits and finding the nearest exit hole; not very impressive when you realise there are 200km of tunnels underground.
We spent most of the day here learning how the Viet Cong lived, seeing the underground kitchens and meeting rooms etc. We were even treated to a real Viet Cong meal - green tea and boiled cassava root!
As well as the above mandatory tourist stops we spent most of our time wondering the city, visiting the many shopping malls and markets (where the food and coffee was amazing).
We loved this city - shockingly more so than Bangkok - maybe because it was more laid back than the busy cities we had visited so far and also because the people were so nice.
We saw so many random things here - raw meat being sold right on the pavement:
A birds nest drink made from the spit of swallows and fungus (which of course we had to try and which was actually quite nice:
...and more random than anything was bumping into a friend from Leicester whilst out walking down a random side street at night.
After nearly 4 days in HCMC we were intrigued to see more and so we booked ourselves onto a sleeper bus armed with a few street baguettes (the yummiest street food in HCMC!) which would take us to Hoi An (up along the east coast and our next stop in Vietnam) some 23 hours later… yes you read that right… 23 hours on a bus!….