S_S_S_S_Sai Gon, or Saigon....or Ho Chi Minh City - all work and all are recognised in Vietnam. Hey, capital of the South, famous site of the evacuation following US withdrawal and a great place.
Sharan and i started our visit with a sleep after a less than refreshing overnight train journey. The rest of the group went for a boat tour of the Mekong delta - we moved to our room in the hotel from the day room and started exploring....it was boiling hot on the streets and we wilted in the heat. The walk was otherwise very pleasant....we made our way through a park, hello'ed some cheeky schoolkids, laughed at some christmas decorations being built - couldn't believe it, here in the sub tropical South of Vietnam!!!
Saw the reunification palace, Ho Chi Minh's old digs that the US used to occupy, the Notre Dame church - French design looming large, like being back in Europe...the Post Office was very impressive, designed by the guy who did the Eiffel tower. Saw City Hall and the powerful War Remnants museum - quite one-sided but it is unbelievable what the country and its people were put through - quite graphic displays and stories here.
In contrast, chilled, literally, in the air-conditioned shopping palace that is Diamond Plaza - nice food court too! Saw the busy market in the day and returned with the group for a lovely dinner in the evening.
The next day we visited the Cu Chi tunnels, actual VC tunnels with guides explaining the history of the area and the lifestyle of the occupants of these amazing feats of engineering. The tunnels can be entered at one part, and have actually been widened for western tourists - Sharan dove in, i backed out with some mild claustrophobia - don't know how they did it but they had living areas, hospitals, munitions factories all underground. Termite mounds acted as natural air filters. Some of the punji bamboo traps invented for the guerilla fighting were gruesomly efficient - ouch!
Interestingly, they had a firing range next to the tunnels - i didn't partake but have video of a friend firing an AK47 - live rounds too - but it was (sensibly) on a fixed mount. Other options included M16's - probably captured by the NVA/VC and never returned to the US - lots of tanks/planes etc from that time are on display. The Vietnamese tanks or anit aircraft guns usually had a plaque next to them with their achievements. One US tank was there in the crater where it was stopped. An american in our group chose not to pose on it as they perceived this to be disrespectful - the history is alive in this place.
This was to be the last leg of our tour through Vietnam, Cambodia awaited, we said goodbye to Truong and hello to Kakada, our Cambodian Intrepid leader...