Published: December 7th 2012December 7th 2012
The scooters looks like predators going after us, but they didn't catch us!
After a nice stay in the rainy Hoi An, we arrived to the vibrant city of Saigon. Officially its name is Ho Chi Minh City after the north won the war. Most people in the south still refer to it as Saigon, so it is also our choice. We arrived after dark and immediately we noticed, that this city was very different to the other cities we have visited in Vietnam. There is no doubt that Saigon is the economic capital of Vietnam, even though Hanoi is the official capital.
The first day we spent walking around in the city. We walked for 11 hours and yet we only discovered a small part of the city. Saigon in headlines must be: The traffic, the markets, shopping, the monuments, the pagodas, the war museum and the ultra modern buildings.
It is hard to believe, but the traffic is even more hectic than in Hanoi. We were told that more than 10 people are killed in the traffic in Saigon each day. Let us just say, that we are rather happy having survived this traffic madhouse. The markets are also found in Saigon,
Ben Tranh Market
Yet another paradise for a woman. You can buy all kind of crap. Sorry girls.
though the shops in general are more westernized in comparison to Hanoi. It is interesting to watch a market where they are selling fresh meat without any cooling with a view to the modern skyscrapers in the financial district. You can buy all kinds of funny stuff, so a paradise for any woman. Saigon is also a paradise for finer shopping. Here you find Gucci stores, Louis Vuitton and many more. They are really beautiful shops and in addition we were quite happy to borrow a very nice toilet in the building. The shopping centers are much more sophisticated than the ones we find in Aarhus and they are definitely comparable with the ones you find in major European cities. Saigon is also a city full of monuments. Ho Chi Minh is immortalized with statues. You’ll find a copy of the Notre Dame cathedral. The building materials were actually sailed in from France. The post office is designed by the one and only Gustave Eiffel and is a beautiful building. It is still used as a post office although it is possible to buy a souvenir or two. In the middle of
A street vendor with the Bitexco tower in the background. A typical scene in Saigon.
the hectic of the city, you’ll find beautiful pagodas. Believing in ancestors is pretty big in Vietnam. As a contrast to the old pagodas you’ll find some fantastically designed modern buildings. We were very impressed by the Bitexco Financial Tower. It is beautiful in the daytime, but almost more during nighttime with all the lights. The Vietnamese are pretty fond of lightshows. Whether it is a bridge, a big building or a temple, there are always a lot of blinking lights in different colors. The war museum deserves a special mentioning. There is no doubt, that the Vietnamese propaganda machine has its say, nevertheless it really shows the ugly face of war illustrated by photos and different war articles. The area where articles from Con Dao Island are on display give me (C) qualm. Only if 10% is true, the prisoners were treated in a not human manner. This does not a give a good image of the west. The North Vietnamese themselves were not too nice either, so it is probably close to a draw in this “game” of war. We will get back to
An architectural masterpiece (in our view).
that, in the paragraph about the Cu Chi tunnels. We will recommend a visit to the museum, if you get to Saigon, but as a local South Vietnamese said, then the communists are lying about the scale of Agent Orange and also the war museum is part of the propaganda machine. They want to get hold of American dollars. We like the Vietnamese, but if the official Vietnam resembles the Vietnamese sales people, then we should deduct about 50% and then we are close to being correct.
On our second day we went on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. They started digging the tunnels, when they fought against the French. There is a network of approximately 250 kilometers of tunnels. There are dug in different depths, so the VC’s could take shelter deep down, when they were carpet bombed by the B52’s. To put it mildly, they are tiny, and when we tried to crawl in one of the tunnels, I (C) got quite claustrophobic and crawled out at the first possible exit. This particular tunnel was even made bigger, so western people would fit. It is amazing that they could live in conditions like these year
The post office
Beautifully designed by Gustave Eiffel. The nicest post office, that we have been to.
after year. According to our guide, the VC’s pretty much lived on tapioki. We tried to taste it, and it wasn’t really bad, but actually eating it every day for years. Well, not for us. Even the food in North Vietnam almost compares favorably to this.
There were also numerous examples on traps. The guide told us very enthusiastic about the workings of the traps. Let us just say, there were quite a few different. They had one common characteristic, the metal spikes. When an enemy went into a trap, he was first spiked and then shot in the head by a VC. It is this form of warfare that gives a draw in brutality. We will conclude, that we are grateful, that we weren’t young American soldiers, walking around in this area. By the way, we are also pretty pleased that we weren’t VC’s.
We finished our visit on a shooting range. Christian tried to shoot with the legendary AK47. It was fun, but boy they are noisy. It is hard to understand how soldiers are able to communicate when in combat.
You must not miss out on Cu Chi, if you visit Saigon. It is
Inge get your gun
After spending 24 hours in each others company, sometimes one can be a little fed up.
a very interesting visit.
We ended our day with a visit to the Sheraton Hotels sky bar on the 23 rd floor. We really looked good in our sweaty t-shirts, trainers and Christian in shorts. We didn’t at all look different to the rest of the clientele. The view was worth every cent. We went up there in the late afternoon and had a great view of the big city. The sunset was fantastic and watching Saigon in the dark with all the light shows was also a big experience. Another must do in Saigon.
Saigon at night also deserves a brief remark. In our quarter quite a few young ladies appeared outside the bars. My self esteem is on the rise with all the offers a 45 year old man can get within 10 minutes. It is however a little gross to watch older Western men with young Vietnamese girls (not children though). We can only hope, that they are treated ok. It happens just in the middle of the street with old people, sales people and children.
We really liked Saigon and wished we had one more day to explore other parts of the city,
An American helicopter on display in the war museum.
but we had to go on to the Mekong Delta and Cambodia.
The bus ride to the Mekong Delta went surprisingly well. No near death experiences on this occasion. We went on a small sailing trip on the big river. Unfortunately we kind of missed out on the floating market. It is most active in the morning, but we did get a feeling of the rivers significance for the people living here. We only really used this tour as a transfer to Cambodia, but we did get a little taste of the area. We would recommend that you spend at least 3 days on a smaller boat, if you really want to experience this part of Vietnam. We slept in a floating hotel in a really gangster border town. We didn’t experience any unpleasant things apart from the food in the restaurant. Fortunately we didn’t get stomach issues.
This was the last paragraph in our Vietnam chapter. We are a little sad to say good bye to Vietnam, since we have had so many good experiences in this beautiful country. However, we already look forward to new exciting adventures in Cambodia. It is a country that we know
Maybe the one photo that capture all the horror and tragedy of the Vietnam war. A brilliant photo of a sad event.
very little about beforehand.
There are more photos below