Saturday, 21 January 2012


So we left behind Hanoi and its 10c weather (and 6,000,000 scooters) and took a flight down to Ho Chi Minh City, 1100 miles away.

The first thing we noticed when we landed was it was no longer 10c and we really didn't need the fleeces under our jackets! The second thing was it is bigger than Hanoi. With even more scooters.

Ho Chi Minh City was called Saigon until 1976, and was renamed soon after the capture of anti-communist South Vietnam by the communist North. I guess renaming the musical 'Miss Ho Chi Minh City' doesn't have the same ring.

Similar to Hanoi, the French invasion of Vietnam lead to a number of impressive buildings throughout HCMC.
On the left is the City Hall, and the right is the inside of the post office with the obligatory portrait of Uncle Ho.

I guess at some stage it will close down, be turned into a Weatherspoons and the post office will end up in WHSmith - it just takes time for countries to develop.

Ze Cathedral

The french were obviously lazy when it came to naming buildings they built. 

'What shall we call zis cathedral Pierre?'
'Hmmm, a cathedral Jean Paul? Notre Dame!'

To be fair to HCMC, it has something Hanoi doesn't have; pavements! Granted a stray Honda will still try and use them as a short cut, but at least we didn't have to walk in the road! 

To infinity and beyond?

We wandered the streets for a while soaking up some sunshine, had a look in the war museum to get a southern
anti-communist view on the war, found a few statues to imitate, ate some food, attempted some more Vietnamese coffee (awful) and had an early night in preparation for our trip early in the morning.

Just jammin'

At sunrise (!!!) we were picked up from our hotel and transferred to the harbour to board our speed boat. After the horrendous journey to Ha Long we decided that a speed boat along the Saigon River for an hour was preferable to a two hour road trip in a transit van!

The first bridge we came to just summed up Vietnam - a moped jam at 7am!

But just 15 mins outside of the city, the view turned into a lush jungle paradise with locals going about their daily business

Time for reflection

Anyone for punting?

No pies for Loc

After an hour on the boat we arrived at the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding places, transportation, kitchens and to treat the sick and injured and stretch for over 250km. What makes this even more impressive is that they were all dug by hand.

Our guide for the day was Loc, and he showed us how tight the tunnel entrances are. Considering we weighs about the same as my right leg and could easily fall down a UK drain, you can see there isn't much room.

Cu Chi 


Loc showed us a number of traps that the VC set, including the one on the right. You'd have thought the Americans with their tanks would easily destroy the VC and their primitive traps, but the VC were simply too cunning and organised.

Now cut me up moped!

We couldn't come all the way to Cu Chi without having a go crawling through a tunnel section. It started tight and got tighter every 10 meters. By 20 meters it was hands and knees only and it was so hot and dark and it got tighter so we were advised to come out.

HCMC is much more developed and affluent compared to Hanoi, and also therefore, the difference between rich and poor is even more evident. Within a 100m section of the river the new execute housing, District 2, stands opposite traditional self-builds in District 4

We headed back to the centre of town in time for sunset, and headed up to the top of the Sheraton for a drink or two.  A nice way to round off our time in HCMC. I did take my proper camera to take some nice photos - just forgot the memory card! But the iPhone saved the day!

As we headed back down we stumbled upon the Vietnamese version of the Brits, Mai Vang.  Not sure who these people are but the crowd loved them!

Next stop KL!

1 comment:

  1. Still loving the pictures, although the video of the tunnels gave me the heebie geebies, remind me to stay fat! Keep well. Jules xx