13.07.2016 – 16.06.2016
We loved our time in Vietnam, it really is a fantastic country to travel. The food, culture and history was something that really amazed us, and we really wish we could spend more time. However, we were a little underwhelmed by Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Yes, it’s buzzing and there is loads of places to eat, especially in District 1 (Backpacker District), but there really isn’t much to do within the city once you have seen all the main sites (which takes a half day walk mostly looking at buildings). We thought we would need to spend 5 days or so within the city itself, but left after 2 full days. You could even do everything in 1 day! We think people rave about HCMC because the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels are so accessible. The Mekong Delta is often wrapped in with HCMC; it shouldn’t be, as it’s only a few hours away, and a region in its own right.
We arrived in HCMC, in the early evening after an all-day bus ride from Dalat. The biggest news to report, other than the heavy traffic was our reuniting with our close food friend who we hadn’t seen since Korea, McDonald’s. Totally a weak spot, diet wise, on our trip. In too many cities, it offers easy and cost effective food.
For our first full day in HCMC we thought we’d do our own walking tour of sorts and cruise around. In a matter of 2 hours we walked through the Ben Thanh Market and took some cool photos of the Independence Palace and Saigon Notre Dame from the outside and the Central Post Office from the inside. Then it was time to head to the War Remnants Museum. It closes from 11:30am – 1:30pm every day, so beware! As a tourist you are also charged 7½ times the price of a local, which is still not that much when you convert it back to dollars.
The War Remnants Museum is not for the faint hearted, but we both got a lot out of our time here. It gives a photographic look into the Vietnam War, showcasing journalist and photographer images almost exclusively. While pictures are mainly taken in Vietnam, there are others showing protests from around the globe. We both learnt so much about the Vietnam War during our time in the country and it gave us a greater appreciation for the sacrifices that so many men and women made. The section of the museum that showed the effects of Agent Orange was, by far, the most confronting.
Pham Ngu Lam Road and Bui Vien Road are swarming with backpackers and tourist offices that really do nothing much other than sell tour packages to tourists for the Mekong Delta or Cu Chi Tunnels. The cost of day trips to these places are stupidly low. We thought and researched long and hard and decided to give the tourist-trap Cu Chi Tunnels a miss and do the Mekong Delta ourselves.We ultimately decided against the Cu Chi tunnels, as they were fake ones set up for tourists and not original, and full of weird propaganda. Doing it this was will give us the opportunity to do it when we want and at our pace. That’s where we are going next!
OUR FAVOURITE BITS
- War Remnants Museum – graphic and confronting, but a worthwhile visit.
- Seeing McDonald’s again.
- Doing our own walking tour of the city.
- Not spending more than 2 or 3 days in Ho Chi Minh itself. Many travelers/tourists use it as a base to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels or the Mekong Delta or as start or end point of their time in Vietnam.
- Doing research on both the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels. There are ways of visiting yourself for the same price or cheaper. Many people we spoke to said tours to these places are very rushed. We had a great experience doing it ourselves for half the cost!