Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City - The fashionable city
Jan 3, 2005
|After a week of relaxation and retail therapy in Hoi An, we were ready for a change of scenery and looking forward to the hustle and bustle of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is officially known.
Expecting the same amount of chaos as in Hanoi, we were pleasantly surprised to find that at least the roads were wider and the traffic lights obeyed.
Our taxi ride from the airport took us through the vibrant city impressively lit up in many different colours and past smartly dressed women on motorbikes. The fashionable clothes and hairstyles were a world apart from the comfortable yet mismatched pyjamas worn by the women in Hanoi at all hours of the day.
The taxi driver stopped on a dark, quiet road and led us through a tiny alley towards our guesthouse. Passing many other guesthouses squeezed into the smallest of spaces, we were glad to see the sign for ours by a lovely looking large house. The room was great, the family really friendly and it was near the main backpackers street without actually being on it....fantastic!!
The only peculiar sight was when we returned at night to find a few motorbikes parked inside the house and several people sleeping on the floor. All had returned to normal the next morning as we sat eating our breakfast on deckchairs, watching as people filed out the house with their bikes on their way to work.
Whilst in Saigon we visited the War Remnants museum and the Cu Chi tunnels.
The War Remnants museum consisted mainly of photos taken by the war reporters, arranged in several small buildings, haphazardly scattered across a small area. Intermingled with these buildings were tanks, aircrafts and weapons. The most disturbing exhibition showed the effects of the chemical bombs and this was our lasting impression of the museum.
The Cu Chi tunnels was organized as a half-day tour with one of the popular tour cafes and so we were bundled along with at least 60 other people into 2 coaches bound towards the tunnels. Not such a big problem when watching the introduction video but more of an issue when actually in the tunnels!!
The video was a very entertaining black and white movie illustrating how the "people of Cu Chi" were fun loving, carefree villagers until the "dreaded Americans arrived with their big bombs". They then learnt how to make traps and bombs and dug tunnels under the ground in which to hide.
The networks of tunnels were amazingly built, going down many different floors underground. There was a separate area for sleeping, cooking and eating. The villagers spent most of the days underground and only came up in the night to get supplies and shoot the American soldiers while they slept - they had unknowingly built their barracks above the tunnels!
Kiran's claustrophobia hit on approaching the tunnels and so he decided against going down but Neha unwittingly followed the others down. It wasn't long before she had to give up and take the first exit point out. The tunnel had got narrower, shorter and darker as everyone progressed away from the entrance, making movement only possible by crawling on all fours and breathing very painful. The tunnels had been purposefully built in this way so that any Americans following the Vietnamese into the tunnels would eventually get stuck!
After all the war sights, we chilled out one night where Kiran found a football match to watch on tv and Neha decided to get a haircut, this being a fashionable city and all. She returned after experiencing what Kiran repeatedly calls a "redbull moment"....that is to say she's now got wings!! (You'll just have to look for the photos to see for yourself).
Although our short time in Saigon has been lots of fun and very informative, we were now looking forward to relaxing for a few days on a small island South of Vietnam called Phu Quoc. We hope to be truly relaxed before hitting Angkor Wat as Siem Riep is the next destination.