Nha Trang to Ho Chi Minh City

Day ten sees us departing Nha Trang to board our flight to Vietnam's most famous city, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Traffic in SaigonAlthough Ho Chi Minh City stands on the site of an ancient Khmer city, it was not until the end of the 18th century that it came into its own as an important trading centre. In 1954, the country was divided and Saigon became the capital of the anti-communist south.

Saigon was re-named Ho Chi Minh City by the Communists, after the founder of Communism in Vietnam. Naturally, this was a bitter blow to the inhabitants of the city, some of whom still refer to the city as Saigon.

Today, Vietnam's largest city set on the Saigon River, covers 2,000 square kilometres. The city is exuberant and noisy, burgeoning with new construction sites, hectic commercial activity and heady, exotic, and sometimes seedy, night-life.

Presidential PalaceA city tour in the afternoon takes in some of the city's prominent features. The former Presidential Palace, rebuilt from its former 19th-century glories after a coup d'état in 1962, has become a Communist symbol of the decadence of South Vietnam.

On 30th April 1975, a North Vietnamese tank crashed through the gates of the Palace, ending the South Vietnamese regime. The Palace was subsequently renamed as Thong Nhat (Reunification Hall or Palace) and is now a museum where time stopped still in 1975.

The day is finished off with a cruise and dinner along the Saigon River experiencing this energetic city from a different view.

Golden Buddha inside temple at Xa Loi The next day we declined the offer of a trip on the Mekong Delta and instead took ourselves off to the city to explore. First port of call was Bin Tay market in the Cholom district (Chinese quarter). We wanted to see it before it closed for the New Year celebrations. It was Chinese New Years Eve after all and shops, markets, banks etc. were closing early.

Our second port of call was the Xa Loi pagoda with its golden buddha rising from floor to ceiling.

We then walked to the horticultural gardens where there was a huge variety of orchids on display. Out came my camera for one or two macro shots of these beautiful flowers.

Notre Dame CathedralNext was Le Duan Boulevard, where the statue of the Virgin Mary welcomes visitors to the red brick façade of the twin-towered Notre Dame Cathedral, consecrated in 1880. Across the street, you will see the Central Post Office, which boasts an iron and glass ceiling designed by Gustav Eiffel.

The following morning there was an excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels, about 75 kilometres northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. I decided not to go (bit claustrophobic) but my husband did. A tour of the tunnels themselves involves bending and crawling in some places and it is advisable to wear old clothes.

Cu Chi tunnelsThe first of the tunnels was dug during the 1940s as a defence against French colonialists and during the 1960s a network of over 250 kilometres of tunnels was constructed by Communist resistance forces, who even tunnelled underneath the headquarters of the US Army's 25th Division. Soldiers and villagers inhabited the complex which included kitchens, meeting rooms, field hospitals, weapon factories, booby traps and escape routes.

The Americans bombed the area heavily and even sent in teams of tunnel rats (highly trained, slimly built members of the chemical platoon accompanied by hunting dogs) to deflect the threat of communist guerilla warfare.


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Scenes from Vietnam

street food

street food

street food