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Southern Land. Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam. 1999.

Elegant School Girl.

I wrote this page for Virtual Tourist several years after our visit to Ho Chi Minh, so it was written from long-term memory not as a fresh experience.

Our trip to Ho Chi Minh was a short Cathay Pacific Holiday package. We spent only about two days in Ho Chi Minh City itself and also took two fantastic day trips. One was to the Mekong Delta; the other was to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We booked both at the wonderful Cafe Sinh and could not believe what amazing value they were.

Typical Street Scene, Ho Chi Minh.

Within Ho Chi Minh we visited the war museum, the history museum, the zoo, the Hotel Rex and several temples. We ate delicious food and drank delicious beer. My own personal favourite thing was just wandering the streets which were teeming with life. People moved tables and chairs onto the street and ate their meals by the roadside. There was activity everywhere. The roads were an insane jumble of bikes, motorcycles and a few cars. Crossing the road was a battle of nerves. The secret was to keep going at a steady pace in a predictable manner. That way the traffic just went around you. Losing your nerve, changing your speed or suddenly trying to go back would result in accident or death. I also remember the elegant young school girls cycling in their wonderful white dresses known as ­ao dai.

My husband in the History Museum.

Temple in Ho Chi Minh.

Our Cathay Pacific Holiday Package included a free day tour. We started off by visiting the Museum of History. The Museum of History is housed inside a beautiful yellow building built by the French in 1927. The actual museum first opened in 1979. Among other things the museum displays items from Vietnam's ethnic minorities.

History Museum.

We also visited the very interesting but very depressing War Remnants Museum. The Vietnam War is famous and we were interested in learning more about it. This museum is very interesting, but also very sad with many horrific photos of the victims of the war. The museum mainly focuses on the war with the Americans with a few things related to the war against the French. The museum has 8 rooms. Outside in a courtyard there are tanks and helicopters and other remnants from the war. A word of warning some of the photos in the museum especially of victims of agent orange and napalm are very distressing.

War Museum.

War Museum.

The War Museum.

Our day tour also went to the zoo. The animals here lived in very cramped conditions. It was not a nice place. I will not include any photos.

In our own time we also visited the Hotel Rex though we did not stay here, we just had a look around, because it is famous. The Rex Hotel was initially built as a French garage in the early twentieth century. Then in 1959 the Rex Hotel was expanded into a 6 storey trading centre. During the Vietnam War the American Information Service was located at the hotel and the hotel became popular with U.S. officers. It was also the venue for daily press briefings to foreign correspondents ­ these were nicknamed the 5 o'clock follies. In 1973, the building was renamed the Rex Trading Center. It housed three cinemas, a cafeteria and a dance ­hall. Since 1975 the property was upgraded into an international hotel. The Rex Hotel was one of the first state­ owned five­ star hotels in Vietnam built and run by the Vietnamese. Address: 141 Nguyen Hue Blvd, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The Hotel Rex.

We did two day trips from Ho Chi Minh. One went to Tay Ninh and the Cu Chi Tunnels.

Tay Ninh is the home of Caodaism. Caodaism is a monotheistic religion, officially established in the city of Tay Ninh, Southern Vietnam in 1926. The religion's followers engage in practices such as prayer, worship of ancestors, non-violence, and vegetarianism and the ultimate goal of freedom from the cycle of birth and death. There are around 2 to 3 million followers of this religion. We visited the Caodaist temple in Tay Ninh. Adherents to the religion dress in bright colours either white, yellow, red or blue. We observed their religious ceremony from a balcony in the temple.



Our day trip to the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh also included a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Viet Cong fought against the Americans in the Vietnam War. To fight against their enemy they created a series of hidden underground tunnels from which they could launch sudden, surprise attacks. Life in the narrow, extremely claustrophobic tunnels was very unpleasant. Air, food and water were scarce and the tunnels were infested with ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions, spiders and rats. Most of the time, guerrillas would be in the tunnels by day working or resting and then come out only at night to search for supplies or engage the enemy in battle. During times of heavy fighting the Viet Cong could be underground for long periods. Malaria was rife in the tunnels. The tunnels are so narrow that they have now been widened for tourists. Despite my claustrophobia I went into the tunnels. Big mistake. My God I was relieved to get back out. Several horrific traps laid out by the Viet Cong to kill or capture American GIs are also on display. I found this area quite fascinating in a macabre sort of way.

Cu Chi Tunnels.

Cu Chi Tunnels.

Also on our trip to Tay Ninh and Cu Chi we also visited a lovely Buddhist temple in Chau Doc. Chau Doc is best known for a massacre. On July 11th 1957 anti­-Diem insurgents stormed a bar in Chau Doc and killed 17 people who were drinking inside.The victims were tied up and then machine gunned. The crime was apparently carried out by communists opposed to the Diem government.



The best part, in my opinion, of our entire stay was our day trip to the Mekong Delta. We started by driving to My Tho. My Tho is a town which was founded in the 1680s by Chinese refugees fleeing Taiwan when the general of the Qing Dynasty, Shi Lang, defeated the remnants of the Southern Ming Dynasty in 1683. This town had a market which was a photographer's dream. It rests on the My Tho River.

My Tho Market.

My Tho Market.

My Tho Market.

My Tho Market.

The River at My Tho.

My Tho Market.

My Tho Market.

After visting My Tho we boarded a boat and set out to explore the Mekong Delta. It was Hogmanay; we had lunch in a little restaurant on an island and the local children played us Auld Lang Syne on their traditional musical instruments. As a Scot, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with homesickness; something I thought I would never again feel. We later visited an island specialising in honey products, then one specialising in coconut products. Finally, we drove back to HCMC past motorcycles laden down with families and chickens and flooded paddy fields filled with ducks and water lilies.

Mekong Delta.

Mekong Delta.

In Ho Chi Minh itself we had an enjoyable meal in the Lemongrass Restaurant. I remember an attractive building, enjoyable food and picturesque musicians playing almost unobserved in the background. I looked this place up on Tripadvisor hoping to find a photo like mine to confirm I am writing about the right place. I found mixed reviews from fantastic to tourist trap. I do not specifically remember my meal here but I have extremely positive memories about all the food I had in Vietnam - I love garlic and lemongrass. Address: 4 Nguyen Thiep.

Restaurant Musicians.

Posted by irenevt 05:22 Archived in Vietnam Tagged chi ho minh

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Lovely memories.

by Beausoleil

Thank you for visiting. All the best.

by irenevt

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