In which I visit various attractions in Ho Chi Minh City
I’ve already recounted my first day in Ho Chi Minh City, where Steph and I saw a Water Puppet Show, ate Western food, had cocktails on the 50th floor of the Bitexco building, drank coffee and I also got mugged.
I think now is a good time to mention that before I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Steph sent me a “to-do” list, which included around 24 things on it. I was determined to cross off as many as possible. With the aforementioned activities, I’d so far crossed off 8 activities:
– Ride a motorbike
– Ben Thanh market (pronounced “bin dan”)
– Water Puppet Show
– Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck
– Mekong Delta
– Cu Chi Tunnels
– River cruise (I count my boat trip back from the tunnels!)
Also on the list was the Notre Dame Basilica and the Post Office. “A post office?” I hear you cry! Patience, all will be revealed. We got to Notre Dame just as it was beginning to turn dark. To be honest, I had totally underestimated the French influence before I visited Vietnam. It’s everywhere: in the food, in the language and most noticeably in the architecture and religion. There are churches everywhere, hell, from the top of the Aston school I was spotting crosses everywhere!
Anyway, where was I? Notre Dame. We didn’t go in as the draw of sending postcards was far too great. Now, to step inside the post office.
Wow. I have never seen any post office like this! There is a massive portrait of Ho Chi Minh on the far wall and the decoration inside, well. I’ll leave the photos to show you.
Steph and I bought and posted some postcards and sent them. Steph even managed to accidently shoplift some. Two very annoying Chinese people were rifling around in the postcard boxes and tried to push in front of Steph to pay. The cashier ignored them and served Steph and I remember the cashier putting 2 postcards in Steph’s bag of postcards thinking “are they hers?” but didn’t really think any more about it until we got home and found out the lovely mistake!
Well, this brings me up to 10 things crossed off Steph’s list. What’s next?
Ah yes, the Dam Sen water park! We went during the week which meant that it was lovely and quiet. Somehow though, we ended up doing the fastest slide first. I hadn’t noticed the name “kamikaze” until we got to the bottom, despite what Steph says. Needless to say, I didn’t go on that one again. There were other more sedate slides that were much more my thing, including a lazy river where you sat in rubber rings (woe betide anyone who didn’t use them properly!), 2 slides where you went down in a double rubber ring of which one was completely black inside and the other you stopped in a little pool halfway down and a lifeguard pushed you onto the next bit of the slide. I liked the double rubber ring slides, although I could not manage to exit them elegantly. There was also a wave pool, again woe betide anyone who went too close to the barrier, and an awesome slide where it’s a normal slide to begin with, but you end up in a bowl in which you plop out of the bottom – hilarious as Steph hadn’t known what to expect this time!
Steph and I were beginning to get cocktail withdrawal symptoms, but knew exactly how to cure that. Now, as much as I love travelling cheaply, there is always room on an itinerary for a bit of extravagance. We’d already sipped raspberry mojitos 50 floors up on this trip and now we were headed into the history books for the Rex Hotel.
Not before a quick stop on Dong Khoi street, which included such names as Chanel, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Cartier and another few friends I could name, but I don’t name drop 😉 What was amazing about standing in front of the Rex Hotel, amongst all the designers shops and the gorgeous People’s Committee Building with the statue of Ho Chi Minh outside, was that I thought I was in Paris. At that exact moment, in the dark, with all the lights making the buildings glow around me, I thought I was in the French capital. It was a surreal moment, but one to enjoy nonetheless.
Now, to the Rex Hotel.
This was somewhere the US officers and journalists let their hair down during the war. I kept commenting to Steph about how under-dressed I felt walking into a 5* hotel, but we got in, so it seems that they let any old riff-raff in. The rooftop terrace was, unsurprisingly, decked out with tourists, mostly middle-aged and beyond, so you can tell it’s the kind of clientele that can “put it on the credit card.” I’m not bemoaning it, I’m just making an observation. It was fun to observe Ho Chi Minh City from above again, this time with sound as being a terrace, obviously it was open to the elements. I went for a suitably themed “Saigon Express” cocktail, which contained lots of lovely things, whilst Steph opted for a banana daiquiri. We had a little sneaky look around the hotel; it’s actually a building centred around a courtyard which was not what I was expecting. There was also a newspaper article reporting one of the best bars in South East Asia, but that’s from 1996, so considering that’s 16 years or so ago, I think they’re clinging on to it as much as possible! It was fun though, and I’ll always condone the odd luxury moment whilst travelling!
Let’s add these things to my list:
– Dam Sen water park
– Notre Dame Basilica
– Ho Chi Minh City central post office
– Dong Khoi street
– The Rex Hotel
I’m up to 13 things on Steph’s list of 24, so that’s over half, and yet I still have more to discuss! Two, are like the Notre Dame Basilica though, as in I saw them, but had no inclination to go inside. One of these was City Hall and the other, the Reunification Palace.
I’ll add them to my list:
– Reunification Palace
– City Hall
I’m saving the “best” until last though. I mentioned at the end of the Cu Chi Tunnels post that I would head to the War Remnants Museum to grasp a little more about what went down during the Vietnam War and I was not disappointed. In the museum grounds, they have some tanks, helicopters and planes, along with lots of other machinery used in the War.
Now, I’m one for going, “ooo, a pretty plane,” not really understanding all the technical details or whatever, but it’s always nice to get up close to machinery like this. For example, there was a Chinook, which I have seen flying around and honestly, I thought it would be bigger, but as I say, what do I know? I loved all the bumps and scrapes on each of the machines, showing that yes, they had played a part in the war.
I’d read lots of material before heading to the museum to be wary of some of the photos used, as they weren’t for the faint-hearted. I soon ecountered one such photo when I saw this machine:
however fear not, as I did not take any photos of things like that. Most of the photos I took were of propaganda signs (in German), stunning images and various quotes that I found disturbing and/or unbelievable. I’ll leave these below and you can make your own mind up about them:
So now, after all those truly astonishing quotes and pictures I can add another sight to my list:
– War Remnants Museum
These leaves me on a grand total of 16 out of a list of 24, two thirds of that list, which I don’t think is bad going for a week in Ho Chi Minh City at all. I’m sure Steph will visit the other 8 on my behalf anyway.