Ho Chi Minh city and Mekong Tour

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June 12th 2012
Published: September 14th 2012
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Arrived in HCM about 4pm. Very, very busy. Bus stopped in the main backpacker district so there were no shortages of hotels. Eventually paid $18 but later found quieter ones down some of the alleys running parallel to the main street. Lots of choice for bars and places to eat and types of cuisine. Mostly Vietnames food has been delicious.

Next day we followed the Lonely Planet walking tour of the city. We first walked down a shady park with people doing Tai Chi and playing chess and swing dancing. This led to a major intersection with cars and bikes wizzing from all directions. It really was a matter of taking your life in your hands to cross the road. The secret is to just walk at a steady pace and let the vehicles avoid you..OK with the bikes but a bit problematic with cars. The market involved such continuous harassment from the salesladies that we beat a hasty retreat...there was no possibility of browsing.

We walked to the centre of town down lovely wide shady streets with interesting shops. The centre had a lovely old French Opera house, the Hotel de Ville and the Rex Hotel. The Reunification Palace was built in the 1960's for President Nguyen Van Thiew. It was the site of the famous photo of the tanks crashing thru the gates at the end of the American War. It had lots of airy staterooms but the helipad on the roof and the bunkers full of war memoriabilla were the most interesting.

Gloria Jeans provided some welcome airconditioning and good iced coffee.

The War Remnants Museum had a fantastic collection of photographs from both sides showing the futility of war. Its best to start on the top floor and work downwards as the museum closes at 12 for lunch. There was some detailing of atrocities especially the results of Agent Orange (dioxin). The US had 400,000 troops while we had 7000 and fortunately the Vietnamese largely ignore our role in the war. We just got a quick glimpse of the replica Tiger Cage Prison and the war machines in the grounds before it closed.

We had lunch neat the brick Notre Dame Cathedral watching 2 taxis bump into each other. There have been surprisingly few road crashes given the complete lack of road rules.

WE went for a long hot walk past many embassies to the History Museum near the Botanic Gardens. It was fairly uninspiring with lots of pots, buddhas and dioramas of the various invasions of Vietnam although the building was interesting.

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