Published: July 3rd 2007July 3rd 2007
After a 'really busy' time in Mui Ne we woke in our hotel in one of Saigon's alleyways, to a day of planning and booking what we were going to do with the rest of our time in Vietnam as well as catching up on the blog, which has been pretty tough in Vietman due to slow internet connections.
Feeling happier that we knew what we were doing (roughly) for the next couple of weeks we treated ourselves to Pizza for tea before heading back to our room for a marathon watching of LOST series 3 (which we had bought on DVD for 2 pounds 50 - bargain!)
Getting up we plenned to do the walking tour from our guide book to explore a little more of what the city has to offer. With book in hand we set off through some of Saigon's markets and old streets taking us past some of the cities stunning architecture including the Municipal Theatre, The Rex hotel and the Hotel De Ville before realising that we were a little later than planned and our next stop was going to be closed for
Making an unscheduled stop at the Museum of Ho Chi Minh City (neither of us are big Museum goers) we found that it was well worth a visit taking us through the history (from a certain point of view) of the building itself and the former capital city and surrounding areas. Whilst there, we took the opportunity to use a helicopter used in the war and on display in the museum grounds as the backdrop for our next world challenge from Mr Murray. He had challenged us to perofrm a duet from the musical Miss Saigon in an apporprite location. We felt that there was no better spot and proceeded to sing our little hearts out! Attached is a short video of our 'performance' (Hope this is enough proof Simon, we can't upload anything longer!)
Feeling hungry, we went to go for a meal at a restaurant called Huong Lai that we had found in our guide book. This restaurant has a policy of employing disadvantaged or former street children in the kitchen and as waiting staff where they receive ongoing training and the opportunity to get qualifications in hospitality investing in their future employment. After reading
about it we thought it was a project we would like to support so rocked up for lunch.
The food was amazing and cost next to nothing. Jin, the owner, also has a collection which he takes to the local orphanages so we emptied the wallet and gave the rest of the money we had on us (unfortunately it wasn't that much!). A great project and a great restaurant which we would recommend anyone coming to Saigon visits!
Feeling really full we were next off to to the Reunification Palace. This used to be the office of the South Vietnamese Government and was the site of the famous photograph of Communist tanks breaking through its gates on the day that the South surrendered to the North. It has been preserved exactly as it was in its hay day for visitors to learn about the buidings chequered history. The government meeting rooms, offices and living quarters of the president were fascinating to go through with a guide who finally took us down to the 'secret' bunkers which were well used during the war in Vietnam. It was really interesting and we were not upset to have spent much longer
than we thought there deciding to finish the walking tour off another day.
Back to our hotel and we got a takeaway (Vietnamese style) before watching some Wimbledon on TV, very nice to have satellite TV!
Today we had booked to go on the full day tour to see the Cu Chi Tunnels. On the way out to our first stop we visited a local handicraft factory and watched people creating the laquered mother of pearl and eggshell picutres that are a local speciality.
Our forst major stop was a visit to the Cao Dai Holy See temple in Tay Ninh which is the centre of one of Vietnam's religions, Cao Daism - cunningly named I think you'll agree. We had a few minutes to check out the exterior of the building before taking our shoes off and taking a look inside. Cao Dai followers worship a number of different religious daities taking its influences from and mixing Christianity, Budism, Confucianism, Taoism, Native Vietnamese Spiritualism and Islam in an atempt to worship the 'ultimate' religion.
The building is colourful to the extent of being garish, but in its own way it was quite
beautiful. We were able to then watch a service from a balcony which was really interesting, if not a little confusing - we really enjoyed it and were glad it was included as part of the tour as we would have never made it out there on our own.
After a quick stop-off for lunch we were off to see the Cu Chi tunnels, an area which saw huge conflict during the war. Over 250km of tunnels were built by the Viet Cong and used to great success to hold an area very close to the capital city.
As we were shown around the area by our superb guide Mark was able to try out a VC sniper hole to find it very cramped for a person of his height! We saw some examples of the horrific traps that were set to halt the progress of American and South Vietnamese troops and also had a look at the real size tunnels that were used by the VC, 60x80cm in size they would have been an extremely tight fit and no good for someone with claustrophobia!
As you walk around the area the strangest thing is that you
can hear regular gunfire in the distance, getting louder as you continue the tour. This is due to the fact that the site also has a national shooting range and for a bargain price you are able to take your pick from a variety of guns that were used during the war and shoot a few bullets. Knowing that there were few places in the world that we'd have this opportunity we picked out the AK47 and shared 5 bullets. An interesting experience with earblasting noise!
After this we went down into a section of tunnels that have been made twice the size of the originals so that visitors can get some sort of an idea about what conditions in the tunnels would have been like. They are still extremely small involving bending right over and even crawling in places to get through. Even with the odd electric light (added for the visitors' benefit) it was disorientating being down there and we were pretty glad to come out at the other end having experienced only a fraction of some of the journeys the guerillas would have made.
Arriving back in Saigon we had had an excellent day and
were glad we'd booked our Mekong Delta trip (for the next few days) with the same company (TNK for anyone out in Vietnam looking for a good tour agency!)
We spent the evening in our little Bia Hoi place and met some fab local guys who we chatted to all evening and shared several jugs of beer with. They very kindly insisted on footing the bill (thanks guys - Yo!)
Just as we were about to leave we looked up to see Ben and Faye, another great chance meeting. We felt we just had to stay for another couple of jugs of beer to catch up on their news since we last saw them in Hue.
Day 100 (into triple figures - can't believe it!)
To celebrate our 100th day on the road we did...well not a lot really! Feeling a little lazy we spent the day pottering about in the backpacker area we are staying in and watching some tennis.
In the afternoon we visited a cafe called Sozo to meet Ben and Faye, another project designed to support and educate local families, we were able to enjoy some great cake, coffee and cookies
and still feel that we were making a difference - excellent combination.
Having been incredibly lazy the day before we wanted to make the most of our last day in Saigon. After running a couple of errands we went to visit the Cathedral and old post office (which is another imposing piece of architecture in the city) before making our way over to the War Remnants Museum. Entering the gates you are faced with an impressive array of tanks, planes helicopters etc. before you enter the first building of the site. The museum has a large and interesting collection of pictures from the Vietnam war mostly taken by photographers and jounalists who were there at the time. It was interesting and well worth the visit despite the very one sided view point. Like all other museums we have been to in Saigon an excellent piece of propoganda!
On the way back from the museum we got soaked in the daily downpour. After drying off at the hotel we headed out for dinner and drinks.
(check out all of the pics below - there is so many of them that they have gone onto a
There are more photos below