Welcome, dear reader, to the first post in a series detailing my adventures in Vietnam and Cambodia. First up is the sights, sounds and smells of Ho Chi Minh City. I arrived about 1am on a Monday morning, and after the normal issues of getting through baggage claim, immigration and security, I set about getting a cab.
Pro Travel Tip One – Even at 1am, bargain for that shit.
Marta and I decided to go get a cab to our hotel. We paid the $15 requested by our driver. In retrospect, we were ripped off. Our hotel was perhaps a 20 minute journey (at most) away. We could have got there for much less (around $5, for those who are interested). So, when you travel remember my pro tip – haggle them down (even if it is 1am and you have been up for 18 hours). The place that I stayed with Marta was the Hoa Bao Hotel. We found this through various reviews on TripAdvisor and I can say were both extremely happy with the service here. The staff were incredibly helpful, ordering us taxis and making our entire stay a pleasant one. The only issue we could find was it is quite a way out of the city centre – it took us about 20 minutes in a taxi to get there everyday.
We set out, fresh-faced and excited, on the Monday morning with very little idea of what we should do. We ended up sightseeing for the day. The first place that we ended up was the Notre Dame Cathedral in the centre of the city. It was absolutely beautiful to look at, and the city itself provided a soundtrack of street food stalls, taxi drivers and (perhaps the sound I will associate most of all with Vietnam) scooters. We didn’t actually go into the cathedral itself. In fact, there didn’t seem to be a way in. But we were both glad that we saw it. It was a beautiful start to our vacation.
Over the next few days, out sightseeing adventures continued. We visited the Reunification Palace, the War Crimes museum and the History of Vietnam museum. The Reunification Palace was an extremely interesting place to visit. It is extremely famous from the Vietnam War as the residence of the President of South Vietnam and one of the most influential places to fall towards the end of the war. Packed with history, both about the building and the Vietnam War, I would say this is a must visit for anyone even remotely interested in history or Vietnam. It took us around two hours to finish (and this was with us going at a rather slow pace). The palace itself is an amazing example of mid-century architecture.
We visited the Museum of Vietnamese History and the War Crimes museum on the same day. The War Crimes museum was a very sobering experience. It discussed the influence the Vietnam War has had on modern day Vietnam and addressed a series of serious topics, such as the influence of napalm and (more importantly) Agent Orange on Vietnam and its people. One of the most interesting things I learnt there was that, in the US, soldiers who used Agent Orange as a weapon and suffered as a result of the toxic effects were awarded compensation in a lawsuit. No such compensation has been offered to the Vietnamese victims, even though Agent Orange has had a much more devastating effect on them. I would again put this in my list of places that you must visit when you are in Ho Chi Minh City.
Finally, I will talk about the Museum of Vietnamese History. Although I wouldn’t say this was a must visit, I strongly urge you to go if you have some extra time (or if, as I do, you love history). This was a more general history of Vietnam from Prehistory up until the modern day. Amongst some of the more interesting segments was on religion and how open Vietnam was (and is) to different religions. They had a great number of artifacts, including Buddhist and Hindu statues. I can say that I probably learnt the most about Vietnam as a country by visiting this museum. The great thing is that all of these museums are within walking distance of each other and within walking distance of the centre of the city.
So, my friends, that was my round up of the sightseeing I did when in Ho Chi Minh City. I hope this post has been helpful to you and convinces you to visit these very interesting museums. My next post, which will be on Friday, is going to cover shopping, Vietnamese markets and my trip to the tailor. I hope you come back and read it!
Think I missed something from my trip? Comment below and let me know!