Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam
Let me say something about this review. This review is rather a journey diary that I have experienced several unexpected but I also provide some information in the between. ^^"
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Coming to Vietnam this time, I must come alone first and my other friend will join in the next day. The non-smooth journey starts at when I board at Don Muang Airport. I have to take the shuttle bus to get on the stairs to the plane. The thing is it's raining so super heavy. It's like the water is splashing on us like Songkran Day TT. Once we get on board, the cabin crews give everyone tissue to wipe out the wet. I sit cold for about an hour and arrive at Tan Son Nhat International Airport.
The next non-smooth thing is when I wait to collect my luggage at the belt. The second I take my luggage, oh my! My bag and bag strap is ripped, I can't backpack it but must hold onto it only. Well, it weights almost 20 kg T_T Since I'm afraid that I might miss the last bus, I just carry by bag and run out of the terminal, turn right, and go straight towards the bus no. 152. I thought that I made it as I see the bus is there but the bus won't go to town since the bus time is over T_T
The next option to go to downtown is by taxi. I must carry my ripped bag back towards different direction. I have to turn left from the terminal. I stand there without really knowing what to do but just to wait for the staff arrange the queue. After a while, I see an Asian tourist guy who might be my age so I talk to him. He's Chinese backpacking from Thailand so I invite him to go downtown together so that we can share the taxi.
Taxi drops us at the iconic Ben Thanh Market which is the main shopping center of Ho Chi Minh City. It is also located the roundabout monument of Tran Nguyen Han, the father of communication who was the first to use a carrier pigeon. On the opposite side of the market is the bus station of bus no. 152 which goes to the airport (I take this bus on my way back).
At this roundabout, I also experience one of the most thrilling moments in my life!!!!! I must go across the street through scooters army without a traffic light!!! It is said that Ho Chi Minh City has 9 million population and 7 million of them own scooter. There, I stand stunned and helpless for so long, it's about 15 minutes. Before I came, I learnt that to walk across the street here, we must firmly walk to the street and keep its pace. The important thing is we must not stop in the middle of the road. Scooters will try to ride around us and won't hit us when they see us. Well, even it's said like that, but who would dare that much... - -"
Finally I see a Vietnamese who is going to cross the street and the way to cross it is just like what I have learnt before I came. I quickly run and follow him. Hundreds scooters ride towards us without braking. The horns are everywhere. Some scooters go before me, some ride behind me. That second, I was very terrified T_T Finally, I was safe. - -"
I and my newly made friend separate at this market as our hotel is on different direction. The next non-smoothing is about carrying the heavy bag to find my hotel which is situated on Pham Ngu Lao Street, about a km away from Ben Thanh market. It is the tourism center where many tour companies are there to offer tourist package for every destination in Vietnam. The hotel is ranged from the most expensive one to the inexpensive guesthouses. Every tourist services is there like sim card, internet, money exchange, scooter rental, spa, bar, beer, etc. The atmosphere is similar to Khao San Road in Thailand.
I hold my bag and a booking reservation to ask for direction along the way. I finally arrive at the hotel. Everyone is very helpful. Although some can't speak English, they also try to point out the direction for me, I'm very impressed.
But!!!! The hotel I booked has no room for me!!! Since I booked it via booking.com and didn't pay yet, the hotel gives the room to the guests who want to continue their stay. The hotel apologizes to me and helps me find the new hotel. It's a bit more expensive and I need to walk a bit further but not too far. In fact, it's quite ok. After I got the room and connected to the internet, I inform my friend who will come tomorrow that I have changed the hotel immediately, otherwise, we might miss each other. I haven't had enough rest yet, my friend texted to remind me to book the half morning tour tomorrow while waiting for her. I must hurry before the tour company is closed - -" At this point, it's about 20.00 p.m. I go out to book a half day tour to Cu Chi Tunnels with Viet Sea Tour. I then also asked the staff about traditional Vietnamese food nearby and they recommended the Pho shop at the corner. After having Pho, I go back to my room.....
But.....I don't remember the way!!!! I was lost for quite a long time T_T because the hotel is in small alley. This time, I take photos along the way and plan to send to my friend so she won't be lost - -"
When I reach the hotel, my tear almost bursts out. I finally made it through the first day adventure. I have to say again, I really don't like travelling alone, it's much better to have friends T_T
I have talked about my adventurous first day trip so long, let's start travel from now ^^"
I wake up early to catch the van as appointed at 08.00 a.m. at Viet Sea Tour. Then, we set off for Cu Chi Tunnels which is about 75 km away from Ho Chi Minh City. Cu Chi Tunnels is the local wisdom drilling over 200 km long underground tunnel with the depth about 8-10 m. It takes 22 years to finish this tunnel. It is a secret underground rooms with low ceilings and narrow walkways. It is both the army headquarters and refuge place in times of war. There are meeting rooms, classrooms, weapons storage room, weapons training room, kitchen, bedroom, etc. It is so worth a visit, like what my friend has recommended, "Do not miss this place, it's very amazing!"
Once arriving at Cu Chi Tunnels, we firstly listen to the lecture about its history.
Our tour guide takes us around and explains things to us throughout the tour.
The refugee holes are also there to let tourists try out, it's both narrow and dark - -"
In addition to the tunnel, Viet Cong's way of life is also displayed here, for example, simulation of Viet Cong men and women warriors, how to build weapons, shooting range, etc.
Numerous traps of the Viet Cong is also exhibited. It was built from scrap coated with poisonous cobra to trap the US military patrol troops. These traps are not designed to kill the soldiers but just send back with the leg being gangrene due to snake venom....just that ^^"
US soldier fell into the trap.
Vietnamese way of life is also demonstrated here, for example, how to make dough sheets of Pho. After being fermented and milled, the dough is poured onto the cloth on top of the boiling water pot. It is the circle of about a foot long. When the dough is ready, it turns into clear color. After that, they use the bamboo stick to take and place it at the bamboo rack.
The shoe maker is also here to show us how to make shoes.
Back to the tunnels again....The tourists get to go down inside the tunnel to experience it. Even though the tunnel has been enlarged to accommodate European tourists, some parts of it still narrow and not height enough that we have to bend and slowly walk. This made me think about how Viet Con could have lived in this small and dark tunnels, it must have been difficult.
I'm very terrified of narrow and dark area and I'm also alone here. I have to follow the tour group and walk inside the tunnels. While we are queuing to get down, everyone is looking towards the way to go down but I look back and thinking can I change my mind and refuse to go down now? - -" When it's my turn, I bend and walk a step forwards before determinedly decided to step back and tell a person in a long queue behind me that "Sorry sorry I can't get inside. It 's terrible!!!" Then, I didn't look at anyone but just walk back towards the crowd and back to the mouth of the hole. I'm sweating all over my body and my face looks very terrified that the tour guide who waits outside start to laugh at me T_T
There're several stops for us to learn about Viet Cong life during the war, for example, below this cement is kitchen. This is the smoke vent from cooking. It must be small to not allow too much smokes out, otherwise the US military patrols might find it.
In addition, we also get to try boiled cassava dipped with crushed peanuts which is the main and simple found food during the war time. It's full and gives out high energy....quite delicious ^^
Exhibitions are along the walk way.
Cute small souvenir shops are also there.
After the Cu Chi Tunnels, I go back to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon and meet with my friend, I'm so happy. ^^" My friend takes me to the famous homemade ice cream here, Ken Bach Dang. It's such a big crowd....but I think the one in Thailand is much more delicious. ^^"
After finishing the ice cream, we go to the Ho Chi Minh Square (Tran Nguyen Hai Statue), which is a monument of the former President Ho Chi Minh. He is playing the harp while holding a child. It is the important landmark for calling for the freedom and civil rights as well as revolutionary acts of former national leaders and heroes of Vietnam.
Behind the monument is the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. It is a French style building with a clock tower in front of the Muk building. Doors and windows are decorated with stucco arts, looking very beautiful.
Next is the Notre Dame Cathedral, built for 6 years in 1877. It has the French Notre Dame Cathedral as a model. It is the western architecture called neo-roman. The church is built from red brick and featured twin bell towers. It is a popular location for shooting pre-wedding photos of local Vietnamese.
Next is the Central Post Office. It is located on the opposite side of the Notre Dame Cathedral, built in 1891 in French style. It is the first and largest post office in Vietnam.
Nowadays, it still opens and works as post office services.
Inside is spacious with the former leader Ho Chi Minh outstandingly there in the middle of the hall.
When keep walking, we will see the former Presidential Palace (Reunification Hall). In the past it was the French governor's residence. Later, it was used as the residence of the President of South Vietnam. In 1963, it has been damaged by the assassinated bomb of former President Ngo Dinh Diem. Therefore, it was reconstructed and named Independence Palace. Currently, it is a museum to commemorate the reunification incidents of Vietnam.
Here is the food on the road side. We sit in the low chairs near the side walk just like Vietnamese. Well, we have to try local way of eating. That I can eat anything, everything is delicious for me, haha.
It is served with pickled cabbage soup.
This is another must try item at Vietnam, Vietnamese coffee. It's highly concentrated.
Now, let's continue at the War Remnants Museum. It is to commemorate the history of long Vietnam war and the independence of Vietnam.
The white dove represents freedom and independence. Outside exhibits war aircraft, tank, weapons, prisons and killing devices that French used during the Vietnam War. Inside exhibits lives of Vietnamese during the war, the loss, and the brutality from the war....it's quite depressing T_T
Since I visited here during when the Chinese New Year is approaching, the Ben Than -Pham Ngo Lao park is full of strange looking trees and many flowers to welcome and celebrate the new year...it's very beautiful.
We walk to find something to eat at the market. Here are the fresh sugar cane juice which are so delicious and refreshing on the hot days.
I really don't know what this dish is called. It's something like pork sausage and fish balls together, quite delicious ^^"
Fruits cart is similar to what we have in Thailand ^^
And here is another highlight that if we miss it's like we have yet reached Vietnam, the Vietnamese Water Puppet Show. It is the Vietnamese local performance. Due to flooding for a long time, the puppet show was invented to entertain and make people relax during flood's time.
Musical is there with the puppet show.
The puppet show narrates Vietnamese methodology, history and stories in Vietnamese language. Even though I can't understand the language, I totally understand the story via this beautiful performance. It's really fun ^^
In addition to above suggested destinations, we can also visit Opera House where the performance is there from time to time. There's also Dong Kei Street which is the old town and important business center and located a lot of Buddhist temples like Wat Tian Hua, Jade Emperor Temple. In the evening, you can also go for a cruising trip along Saigon River and enjoy dinner under the Ho Chi Minh city lights.
On how to roam around Ho Chi Minh City, you can choose to go with scooter service, scooter rental that I must say you need to have high skills to ride yourself because the road is full of scooters and local scooter is quite professional. In addition to scooter, you can also take the taxi. I recommend Mailinh which goes by miter and meet the law's requirement. We can also take trishaw (tricycle) which is another charm of roaming around in this city but you have to well aware of how to negotiate the price.
Let me end a one day trip at Ho Chi Minh here :)