Was so excited to be going to Vietnam, having visited a few years ago I couldn’t wait to get back and explore the south. I was even more excited to be leaving Phnom Penh. This was my last land border crossing in South East Asia and so I tagged along with Ole for it. Man, waiting in the hot stuffy room at the Vietnamese border control was intense. After over an hour sweating and crammed in our coach load was called to pass through into Vietnam. And instantly the scenery seemed better (guess Phnom Penh bothered me more than I thought) passing fields with a load of people flying kites. I couldn’t wait to arrive in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). And even better, the bus dropped us off right in the centre of HCMC and a mere 5 minute walk to the hostel – Suite Backpackers Inn. Again, lucky with hostels and this was another decent, airy and clean. Worn out from the journey and already being evening, we cleaned ourselves up and went for a walk around and stumbled across a night market for a fresh and tasty pho bo (beef noodle soup). So good to be back here!!!
HCMC was a more modern and lively city than I thought it would be and quite a contrast to how I remembered Hanoi to be. But the following day I couldn’t wait to go exploring as I left Ole to go find a motorbike. I spent the day wearing the pavements down and went to have a nosy at the Reunification Palace, but only from the gates as I wasn’t that fussed about looking around it. Then I wandered over to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office which were both very European in feel but impressive buildings. I also visited the sky deck at the top of one of the many modern buildings to have a bird’s eye view of the expansive city. The most powerful and impressive tourist attraction is the War Museum. Wow, now that had some impact and the photos are not only graphic but hard hitting. Possibly biased to represent the Americans as brutal but it did the job, some of the photos will stay with me for a lifetime. I went to find the Women’s Museum and after supposedly walking past it several times, I gave up looking and headed back to the hostel sweaty and shattered. Met up with Ole and we went to try find a sky bar to have a few drinks in but got turned away for wearing shorts. Oh well, we grabbed a pizza and found an expensive Dutch beer café for an overpriced Rochefort beer before swapping it for a cheap bar on the way back to the hostel.
HCMC is an overwhelming city with motorbikes and scooters everywhere you turn, we had a budget friendly day and met up with some of Ole’s friends who were passing through the city and just went for a stroll around the city. However, the evening was spent splashing out on a drink in the sky bar (they let us in this time) which had cracking views of the city as the night descended. With the rest of the evening being dedicated to an Indian meal and several beers exploring the bars of HCMC.
The final day in HCMC, as I realised I have a deadline to reach Hanoi by and I didn’t want to miss a thing. So myself and the Danes booked a trip to the Chu Chi Tunnels. Here you are able to see a glimpse at the network of connecting underground tunnels that were used in several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong soldier’s hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. We were able to go through one of the tunnels which had been widened but even then they are tight so to imagine using this network of tunnels on the actual size for so long is unimaginable and brings on a claustrophobic feeling. But a huge importance to Vietnam’s history against the Americans. A fantastic day trip rounded off with a farewell tasty meal and of course, some Saigon beers and even a shisha stop.
Vietnam, already off to a winning start and HCMC, a city I felt sad to be leaving so soon but looking forward to the next stop on my way up to Hanoi…Mui Ne.