Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City
And so I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City after a good 14 hours bus ride from Siem Reap.

Travelling around HCMC is pretty convenient and cheap as Google Maps have bus routes here and is able to tell you exactly what buses to take, from where, to where. Bus rides are a steal at 5000-6000 VND (~S$0.30). Cabs are available too but it's nowhere as cheap as buses.

Pretty much all the sites you might want to visit are around town so that's a plus point for me. The negatives though is that there's just absolutely too many people and motorbikes around.

Ho Chi Minh Statue and City Hall
Ho Chi Minh Statue and City Hall
This statue is located right in the heart of the city where you'll see high end shopping malls around. Besides the statue, it's worth to look up at the architecture of the buildings surrounding the area, very much evident of the colonization by the French in the past. You'll also be able to find the famous Opera House here, which I failed to take a photo of. Generally, the whole area smells of modern lifestyle in vintage clothing.

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace
Meeting Room inside the Reunification Palace
The Reunification Palace was the very place where the Vietnam War ended when the Communists stormed the palace previously occupied by the Democrats (and the US). Ho Chi Minh then took over the use of the palace and stayed here while he was in rule. Today, you can find the leftovers from Ho Chi Minh's occupation, historical photos and artifacts from the Vietnam War victory and the replica of the two tanks which charged down the gates to end the War.

It opens from 730AM-1130AM and 1PM-4PM and costs 30000VND (S$2).

War Remnants Museum

I didn't manage to take a photo of the place, but this place is truly worth the visit.

This museum displays photos from the hidden war, a part of Vietnam War which was covered and unreported by international press for many years. Chemical (known as Agent Orange) warfare was employed by the US to try to defeat the Vietcong, who were proving hard for the US soldiers to fight due to their use of guerrilla warfare.

The mood was pretty somber as photos showed atrocities that the US committed in a country in the name of democracy and even up till today, you can see how many tourists (especially Westerners) are shocked with the displays here. It also houses a replica of the torture cell employed by the US during the war.

It opens from 7.30AM to 12PM and from 1.30PM to 5PM and costs 15000VND (S$1) to enter.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral
Statue of Mother Mary
The most famous cathedral in HCMC. Another leftover from the French occupation in the past. A good photo spot. For people of the same faith, Mass is held at 930AM every Sunday. Have a look inside if you come on time, to see the architecture and the beautiful stained glass windows.

Central Post Office

Central Post Office
Located just beside the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Central Post Office, which is still operational today. Inside, you'll be able to find vintage phone booths fitted with actual public phones which you still can use, maps of South Vietnam drawn on the walls and a photo of Ho Chi Minh framed on the far end of the post office. You can still post a letter/postcard back home from here since it's still operational.

Photo of Ho Chi Minh
Vintage telephone booths
Map of South Vietnam

Opens from 7AM to 7PM and it's free.

There are also other places of HCMC that are worth visiting.

Ben Thanh Market. Located in the city, the market sells virtually anything from tea to kitchen utensils to counterfeit branded goods. Be sure to bargain to get the lowest price here but beware of pickpockets as the place is crowded and famous for pickpockets.

Pham Ngu Lao, or the Backpacker's Street, which I stayed in, has pubs littered with cheap beers and plenty of drunk Westerners stumbling all across the road. There are also chairs available by the side of the road where you can get beers and sit on to people watch, think about life and what not.

Cu Chi Tunnels. The much famed Cu Chi Tunnels were an integral part of Vietnam's victory against the US during the Vietnam War. 250km long and dug barehanded by the Vietnamese, they literally lived inside the tunnels during the War. Booby traps and the narrow depth meant that the American troops were practically unable to touch/reach/kill them. Very very interesting.
Side note: I didn't visit this on this trip as I had visited during the last one.

Next up, moving up north to Hanoi.
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