We arrived here at night and found our way to the Eco Backpackers Hostel, which we were advised to stay at by some friends we met in Bangkok.
For $6 I couldn’t complain, each bed was in a “cabin” ie was walled on three sides. It was clean, with good security and most importantly had a powerful shower which successfully blasted the days accumulated dirt away. If you’re a backpacker heading to HCMC, stay there. It’s also in a good central location, close to lots of bars and the main sights as well as being sociable too.
You go to Paris and go up the Eiffel Tower, you go to Ho Chi Minh City and visit the Cu Chi tunnels.
The Cu Chi tunnels are a couple of hours away from HCMC on a small bus, trips can be organised from the hostel or nearby travel agents. The tunnels run in a complex maze underground, in the Vietnamese forest and played host to the Viet-American war where the Viet Cong executed their guerrilla warfare on American soldiers.
We met up with my cousin Katie and her boyfriend Andy who are also travelling, and headed to the tunnels. The forest was extremely hot and dry, our first glimpse of the tunnels was a small look out hole in the ground that could be easily missed. I went down to investigate…
We then made our way through the forest to see examples of the excruciating traps that the Viet Kong army used on enemy soldiers.
Then we finally got to go into the maze of tunnels. We were told that the ones that we were led down were widened for the westerners, which amused me. The tunnels were still extremely narrow and low. You have to do a sort of crouching shuffle to move around.
Here I am posing as a television historian.
The war theme continued, our next stop was to the War Remnants Museum. Which attempted to educate it’s visitors on the Viet-American war. Naturally it is biased, and extremely anti American. The museum is designed to shock with horrifying images of injuries and pain.
I say “attempt to educate it’s visitors” because it doesn’t really educate you. The museum doesn’t particularly explain why the war happened, or effectively and explicitly delve into the obvious “who? What? Where? Why? When? How?” (Thanks GCSE History) that you’d hope to see and expect from a museum. If you don’t already know much about the war you should read up about it before to truly understand what you’re looking at.
This format is consistent throughout, a picture with some text underneath. The museum seemed to concentrate on a “this is what the Americans did” sort of tone, which is fine if it is indeed true, rather than a “this is what happened during the war” the museum didn’t tell a story or have any illustrated timelines to give some perspective to the war. It was nevertheless interesting and strongly bore the harsh realities of the war, albeit from the Vietnamese perspective.
That night we met Katie and Andy, and our American friends Mike and Allie at a roof too bar for drinks. The views were pretty cool but my camera didn’t manage to capture it very well.
From my experience, the best way to experience a city is to wonder the streets and get a bit lost. So that’s what we did, with a few stops along the way.
We went to the Fine Arts Museum. Here are a few of my favourite paintings and sculptures.
Next we visited the Ben Thanh market where you can pick up a pair of knock off trainers, a handbag, a pho, and coffee beans all under one roof.
This pho was the best thing there…
Here’s HCMC’s Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, which was closed by the time we got there but still nice to see.
…we also stopped at a bakery, there are some very good ones in Vietnam, I think it’s the French influence. This Woopie Pie was gooood.
That night we went to see the new Captain America film, because, when in Rome…
Next stop, Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.