HCMC - Saigon
31.10.2010 - 03.11.2010 23 °C
After 5 hours of travelling, 1 of which we spent in the traffic mayhem that is Saigon we get dropped off in the main tourist area, all sleeping, dining and party quarters reside here in Pham Ngu Lao. As we go out for a walk, one can still sense a bit of the old days in this crazy part of town. Bars and bars served by all-female staff, (like the aptly named Crazy Girls), the giant sign of the Crazy Buffalo Bar Saigon which towers over two storeys, and the hair salons with scantily dressed women, bring to mind the (unfair) images of a town once nick-named Sin City. This however seems to be only concentrated in this quarter and as we walk along the ‘boulevards’ the next day, we find this be a more cosmopolitan city, German and international bakeries, posh cafes, expensive looking restaurants, slightly more greenery and a higher number of cars and motorcycles. Our first stop was the ‘War Remnants Museum’ originally named ‘Museum of the crimes committed by the USA’ or something along these lines, when it first opened. Four floors of history, archives and images showing the struggles for independence endured by the Vietnamese people, first against the French and later against the US. It was all a very solemn experience to say the least. It was in this town we would find one of the best eating experiences in this country, Nha Hang Ngon. A pastel coloured building in French colonial architecture, with outdoor seating, housing a series of stalls in a market atmosphere all serving Vietnamese delicacies. Bun Thit Nu’ong (Vermicelli and grilled pork with fresh herbs), Goi Cuon (fresh rolled shrimp and pork), Banh Hoi Chao Tom Cuon Banh Trang (Pounded Shrimp fried on sugar cane served with vermicelli, rice paper and vegetables), just imagine the feast! Needless to say that night it was a more modest meal in one of the many city bakeries. One of Saigon’s nearby ‘attractions’ or sights is the growing town of Cu Chi. We take the tour to this town famous for the network of underground tunnels it developed during the war against the USA. It seemed to us they are a little too proud of the inventive ways in which they ‘killed’ GI’s during that time. Yet it was impressive to see how they lived and moved in this minuscule tunnels and the vast area these covered. We tried it ourselves, and crawled along 100m of dark and sandy tunnels now lit intermittently by electric light bulbs (as opposed to the oil lamps used in the old days) and trust me not an experience for the faint hearted. The tunnels (now enlarged for the public) are approximately 1 metre in diameter, and expand over three levels some even 8 metres below the surface. Their camps where all equipped with kitchens which for obvious reasons exhausted the kitchen smoke kilometres away from the source. If after all this you’re feeling a bit trigger happy, you can try your firing skills at the firing range and burn some money (30 000 dong a shoot with a minimum purchase of 10 shots, so a minimum of $15 dollars). You can try anything from a MP-5 to a M-16 and M-60, not all too appropriate we thought, given the history of the country. Upon our return to HCMC we are inclined to have another go at enjoying a little beach time and perhaps head to Phu Quoc a Vietnamese island in the Gulf of Thailand, but after close scrutiny of the weather reports, which are in no way positive we decide to try our luck further along the way. Next morning we leave for Cambodia.