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Published: October 15th 2014
Glueing a stamp on in Saigon Central Post Office.
Another 7 hour coach trip which included a ferry crossing of the Mekong got us to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The border crossing and entry was pretty straightforward, much assisted by having the visa stuck in the passport already; well worth the trip up to London and the Vietnamese embassy.
We've felt more relaxed here, even though we have been on the speed setting in terms of sightseeing. Most noticeably, whilst there is plenty of traffic, including an enormous number of mopeds, there are no Tuk Tuk's so less hassle and much less pollution.
Our hotel has been pretty central allowing us to walk everywhere over the last three days. The historical/cultural points of interest have largely been to do with the country's French colonial legacy, the Vietnam War and their own north/south struggle. The War Museum is a chilling place, it sets the scene so well in terms of what went on here and why. Needless to say, the reality doesn't quite match with the propaganda'd view we have been fed back in the UK. Images of atrocity abound, as do images of the consequences of the use of Agent Orange, which 3 generations on is still
Carol emerging from one of the tunnels at Cu Chu.
resulting in the birth of significantly deformed babies, both here and in the USA ( passed down through the families of servicemen).
Yesterday we visited the tunnels of Cu Chu, just outside of HCMC, preserved now so that we can see how the poor, rural people were able to put up such an incredible defence against what was then the world's richest country. They were a vast interconnected system of tunnels many kilometres long, which allowed for movement, cooking and sleeping at various depths beneath the surface. We didn't take up the offer to take guns from the time on to firing range, some visitors did and the noise was enormous.
In chatting to other visitors we had been told that the AO Show, at the Saigon Opera House was really special, a sort of Cirque Du Soleil presentation of aspects of Vietnam's history. Well there was a bit of acrobatics, the live music was very good and the simple set and props did the job, but to be honest we've seen as good for free on the Southbank, whilst on a Sunday morning stroll. A pity, not least because the tickets were expensive.
The city generally
Old and New
The Sky Tower, in the centre.
has lots going on. There is plenty of new development that gives an impression of prosperity. For the first time the city is building a metro type system, so lots of evidence of that in the centre. Within the space of five minutes you could spent 2 dollars (provided you have haggled) on a pair of "Ray Ban's" or thousands of dollars in one of the many designer shops with security guards.
Our Vietnamese cookery course fortunately was much better. Starting with a guided walk round the local market, looking at the traditional produce that goes into the cooking. After that we were taken to the school to be taken through the preparation of four traditional dishes. It was done well, good fun and with a good mix of people.
Just one more venture out here, then in the morning we move on to Hoi An.
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