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We took our first day train from Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City which lasted approx. 7.5 hours and therefore the large part of the day. If I had to chose between the day trains and sleepers I think I’d pick the latter, it’s much more convenient being able to travel and save money on accommodation at the same time. As usual we booked trains using 12 Go Asia.
9 Hostel and Bar was home for our three night stay in Ho Chi Minh City. As with other many of the hostels during our stay we booked a private room with an ensuite via Booking.com. Our room was small but perfectly formed and great for a three night stay where we spent most of our time out exploring the city.
With two days in Ho Chi Minh City we divided our time between seeing the city and the Cu Chi Tunnels, both of which were equally interesting but I’d say the tunnels would be my favourite.
We booked the Best of Ho Chi Minh City Private Tour via Viator and spent half a day with our lovely guide Ted who took us around a number of sights on foot. At the start of the day we met Ted at the statue of the Burning Monk, a monument which represents a landmark moment in Vietnamese history. On 11th June 1963, Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức set himself on fire and burned to death in a political protest during a time of great social unrest amid Buddhist for calls for religious equality.
We moved on to the War Remnants Museum next, where Ted left CLB and I to walk around the different exhibitions, most of which were harrowing. I think the one exhibition that will stay with me forever is the Agent Orange room, documenting the devastating effects of this chemical weapon. However sobering this visit was, it was absolutely necessary to understand what the Vietnamese people went through during the Vietnam War.
After the museum we moved on to look at the exteriors of The Independence Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon which is currently undergoing refurbishment, due to be finished in 2023. Saigon Central Post Office was our next stop where of course we wrote a couple of postcards, along with about fifty other tourists!
We walked by the People’s Committee Building and Saigon Opera House before coming across a repurposed apartment block which was now full of restaurants and boutiques. We didn’t venture in but it looks incredible from the outside alone.
Our penultimate stop was Antique Street which is filled with, you guessed it, antiques shops. Some of the shops were full to the brim with the most elegant furniture but it was the lighting fixtures and traditional record players that caught my eye. Ben Thanh Market was then our final stop where Ted left us wandering around before making our way to a local market to pick up a Banh Mi for lunch. After a quick stop back at our hostel to freshen up we ventured to Five Oysters for dinner before moving up the road to the incredibly busy ‘bar street’ for a couple of Bia Saigon.
We visited the Cu Chi Tunnels on the afternoon tour booked through Klook. We were picked up from the TNK Travel office and driven out to Cu Chi via a workshop which sells crafts made by victims of Agent Orange attacks.
On arrival at the tunnels we were ushered from our bus to the ticket office and then through to the site where the tour begin. The guide started off with a brief history of the site and showed us a map of the extensive system of underground tunnels.
Following this we began to walk around the vicinity to look at examples of the traps used during the First Indochina War and later during the Vietnam War. After viewing some of the Viet Cong’s operations bases we moved on to learn about and explore the network of tunnels. The best part of the day came at the end when we were able to go inside the tunnels ourselves and really see how small they are, before boarding the bus and heading back to the city where we dined on soft shell crab at the excellent Ben Thanh Street Food Market.
I have somewhat mixed feeling about Ho Chi Minh, on one hand I found there wasn’t a huge amount of life and soul to the place, but on the other hand perhaps I didn’t explore it enough and need to give it another chance one day.