Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City

Tripoto
18th Jun 2014
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 1/26 by mountains&beyond
Central Post Office
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 2/26 by mountains&beyond
Central Post Office
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 3/26 by mountains&beyond
Souvenir for Cu Chi Tunnels
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 4/26 by mountains&beyond
Underground Dining and Workshop area
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 5/26 by mountains&beyond
Reunification Palace
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 6/26 by mountains&beyond
Reunification Palace
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 7/26 by mountains&beyond
Reunification Palace
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 8/26 by mountains&beyond
Notre dame Cathedral
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 9/26 by mountains&beyond
Notre Dame Cathedral
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 10/26 by mountains&beyond
Cu Chi Tunnels
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 11/26 by mountains&beyond
Cu Chi Tunnels
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 12/26 by mountains&beyond
Cu Chi Tunnels
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 13/26 by mountains&beyond
Cu Chi Tunnels
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 14/26 by mountains&beyond
Water Puppet Show
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 15/26 by mountains&beyond
Water Puppet Show
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 16/26 by mountains&beyond
Lacquer Workshop
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 17/26 by mountains&beyond
Lacquer Workshop
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 18/26 by mountains&beyond
Lacquer Workshop
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 19/26 by mountains&beyond
The Thien Hau Temple
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 20/26 by mountains&beyond
The Thien Hau Temple
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 21/26 by mountains&beyond
The Thien Hau Temple
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 22/26 by mountains&beyond
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 23/26 by mountains&beyond
War Remanants Museum
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 24/26 by mountains&beyond
War Remanants Museum
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 25/26 by mountains&beyond
War Remanants Museum
Photo of Uniquely Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City 26/26 by mountains&beyond
War Remanants Museum

Vietnam was my first out-of-country experience and thanks to Cebu Pacific for offering promo fares. The anxiety of being far from home worried of what might happen here and there were things that kept me jittering. All the time, I kept praying for the Lord’s guidance and protection for myself and for my 3 kiddos and family that are all hoping for my safe return.

Well, for this trip being a first timer, I left all the researches and arrangements to my companions and I just went with the flow. First lessons before boarding the plane as follows: (a) pay travel tax of P1620, (b) terminal fee of P750; (c) fill-up departure card for the declaration of your travel details – where to stay, purpose of travel, duration, etc – to be surrendered to the PH immigration; then (d) go by the local immigration and pass their queries, if any.

While on board, I learnt that several documents are to be filled-up for declaration to the country you’re visiting. So another lesson was to carry a pen. Then upon arrival, we went through the immigration again for passport stamping, a sign that you were permitted to enter their country.

We were able to enter Vietnam hassle free and it was 2 am already when we left the airport. Along the way, though partly lit, I noticed the clean orderly surroundings and no sign of smoke from the vehicles. Can’t help this early to compare and wish for the same back home.

On our Second Day, we were referred by our hotel attendant to a tour operator for our Cu Chi Tunnel Tour. Tours offered are either in big groups (in a bus) or small groups (in a van). For this one, we chose the bus which costs only USD5 per head. The fee covered the two-way transportation, the English speaking tour guide, a quick drop by to a lacquer workshop along the way, and complementary bottled water.

From Wikitravel: Cu Chi Tunnels is located 40km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The tunnels are an elaborate underground community made up of 250km of tunnels and chambers below the city. The tunnels were dug with simple tools and bare hands during the French occupation in the 1940’s and further expanded during the Vietnam War in 1960’s to provide refuge and a defensive advantage over the American Soldiers. So despite all the bombings in South Vietnam, the Cu Chi people were able to continue their lives beneath the soil – where they slept, ate, wed, gave birth, planned attacks, healed their sick and taught their young.

Originally published here.

We stayed at Saigon’s Sports 1 Hotel at USD30 per night with free buffet breakfast for two. The room can actually accommodate three persons but you need to pay extra USD3 for the buffet. The narrow lot/floor area was something noticeable of Saigon as most of establishments around occupies an average of 75-100sqms. Another uniquely famous about Vietnam is their coffee. According to some, it’s far beyond the Starbucks taste... Hmmm.... as a coffee addict, I was longing for the morning already to savor Vietnam’s coffee....

Ho Chi Minh City, previously called Saigon, was named after the Vietnamese communist revolutionary leader who led and established the communist-ruled Democratic Republic of Vietnam who defeated the French Union. It used to be the capital of South Vietnam until the reunification of Vietnam in 1976. The breakfast for the day officially marked my first foreign meal and since it was a buffet, I made the most of it particularly the coffee. I tried several coffee mishmash and true enough, the aroma, the taste and the experience was truly one of a kind.

Photo of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond

10:00 am: The War Remnants Museum is a three-storey building that houses collections of artilleries, armories, aircrafts, unexploded ordinances, bombs, tanks, pictures, etc. It used to be called the “Exhibition House of US and Puppet Crimes”, and then renamed to “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression”, then finally “The War Remnants Museum” after the diplomatic relations with the US. I was amazed by how they have preserved and valued the history despite the horror and fright that it caused in their lives. As for them, the museum is a testament of how their elders fought for the future generation and for the young ones to value the life that they enjoy today -- it made them the proud Vietnamese of today.

Photo of War Remnants Museum, Võ Văn Tần, phường 6, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of War Remnants Museum, Võ Văn Tần, phường 6, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of War Remnants Museum, Võ Văn Tần, phường 6, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of War Remnants Museum, Võ Văn Tần, phường 6, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond

12 noon: The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau or the Lady of the Sea. Small figurines adorned the roof while lanterns hang at the entrance. The pink prayer flags contain the name of the people who made donations for the upkeep of the temple.

Photo of Thien Hau Temple, Nguyễn Trãi, phường 11, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Thien Hau Temple, Nguyễn Trãi, phường 11, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Thien Hau Temple, Nguyễn Trãi, phường 11, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond

3:30 pm; From Wikipedia: It was formerly known as Independence Palace and was built on the site of the former Norodom Palace. It was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was also the site of the end of Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on 1975 when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates. We were not allowed to enter the palace during our visit because of a rumored bomb or something. We actually saw from afar the guards scanning the whole area to rule out the said rumor. Because of that we just made funny poses with the cyclos parked outside of the palace.

Photo of Reunification Palace, Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Reunification Palace, Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Reunification Palace, Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond

4:30 pm: The Cathedral was finished in 1880 and was established by French colonists following the conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon. It has two bell towers with a height of over 58 meters. According to several online articles, initially it was called Saigon Church but in 1959, Bishop Phan Van held a ceremony to install the statue of Peaceful Notre Dame made with granite from Rome. In 1962, after the Vatican anointed it as Saigon Chief Cathedral, it was called Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica.

Photo of Notre Dame Cathedral, Bến Nghé, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Notre Dame Cathedral, Bến Nghé, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond

Just across the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Central Post Office. The design was said to be a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and French Influences. Telephone booths and ATMs are housed in red/orange maple-toned wood enclosures that added elegance to the place. Souvenir items are available here and for me rightly priced. It was here that I bought my fridge magnets which I discovered were cheaper than the market price without the need to haggle.

Photo of Saigon Post Office, Công xã Paris, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Saigon Post Office, Công xã Paris, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond

After the puppet show, we had our dinner at Nha Hang Ngon, said to be the number 1 authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Ho Chi Minh. We paid a total of about VND320000 or Php625. Wow! Before we went back to our hotel, we did a quick shopping at the Ben Thanh Market where I bought several bags -- Krumpler camera bag, Kipling bag, Vietnam souvenir bags and kapis-shell shoulder bag. I less cared whether the Krumpler and Kipling is original or otherwise, I was simply happy with my loots for the day. I thought we will call the day off early but of course, we can't afford to miss the nightlife and the Saigon beer. Since establishments are pretty small, the alleys at night serves as an extension of the club. Foreigners and locals alike party all night as a way to end the day.

We arrived at the tunnel past 11 in the morning after a 1-1/2 hour travel. At the entrance, we were oriented with the rules, the restricted areas, and of course our time limit. The tour allowed us to crawl around in the safer parts that are partially illuminated with low-powered lights. fter our actual underground experience, we were allowed to wander on our own for a short while. There were plenty of souvenir shops but I found the one near the shooting range as the most budget friendly. I bought a wooden carved flower vase and a small wooden pot with Cu Chi Tunnel engraving for my keeps.

Photo of Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
Photo of Cu Chi Tunnels, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam by mountains&beyond
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