Hello Ho Chi Minh
2.10pm – 3.20pm Vietnam Airlines VN0329 (JMBXHL) Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City $107
We had a very smooth flight from Da Nang to HCMC. The hotel had recommended 2 types of reliable taxis so after we managed to find one we made our way into District 1. We had booked a room at Saigon Mini Hotel 3 ($40 I think). HCMC is like Hanoi’s big brother. There are still millions of scooters to contend with when crossing the only roads only here they drive much faster!! There was a thunderstorm in the evening so we spent a few hours in this cool bar called Go2 playing pool and drinking…we have spent a lot of this holiday drinking beers! Afterwards we went to this restaurant called ‘Wrap and roll’ where you make your own fresh spring rolls. It was really good and 2 gay boys were working and they were so funny!
The hotel is in a smaller side street that is lined with eateries. Before going up bed we stopped at the little plastic chairs at the bottom of our stairs and had a few Saigon beers. We booked the half day Cu Chi tunnels tour for the next morning.
Up bright and early for breakfast and the tour. The bus ride was about 3 hrs including a stop at a handicrafts store for handicapped people. They make these beautiful pictures and bowls with egg shells and lacquer. It was a pretty hot and muggy day, but we were thankful for the blue skies. We had 2 guides one was a Vietnam war veteran (flighting on the USA side) the other had an uncle in the Viet Cong. I still don’t really understand this war and what went on. Anyway we first watched this video about the war which was very anti-American, talking about the great glory and trophies of killing Americans. From here we walked around the site where we were shown the different doors to the tunnels, some of the nasty booby traps that were used, the uniforms and utensils used by the VC. The tunnels are in 3 levels the top being the largest and were liveable (120x80cm), then the 2nd level you could only crawl in, and the 3rd you had to snake it on your elbows. We went inside a tunnel, it was hot, pitch black and freaky! It’s amazing to think they lived down there for so long. We also learnt about the bombing, burning, and agent orange used to try find the tunnels and flush them out.
The whole time we were there you could hear the sound of gun fire (American M16s and VC AK47s) because the had a shooting range where you could buy rounds. It is so loud, I never realised quite how loud it is to have a bunch of machine guns firing a few meters away.
Back in HCMC and we went to the War Remnant Museum. It primarily contains exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War. We didn’t spend much time here, the photos were too graphic, awful and disgusting. Photos of piles of dead children, people being shot and tortured….I know we need to know what happened, but this was way too much.
Later on we were back at our street eatery drinking beers. We met a man called Lou who was Vietnamese and worked for Coasta Cruises as a bar tender. We got talking to him for ages and 5 bottles of beer (about pint size) later we were quiet relaxed and happy. It was such a shame that we had no more time in HCMC as it would have been really good to hang out with him for a few more days. I’m also really sad to have missed out on seeing the Mekong Delta (but there’s always a next time!)
Oh yeah, another thing we learnt is that Vietnam is a really young country, Vietnam has a relatively young population with 32 percent of the population under 15. Our guide was saying there are not many old people, so in a few years they will all have died and no one will have first hand knowledge of what went on.
We had bought tickets for Phnom Penh on the Mekong Express Bus leaving at 8.30am and taking about 6-7hours $12p/person.