Tuesday, September 18, 2012

07 August: Ho Chi Minh City

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at about 6am (an hour later than we were supposed to, again). The Sleeper Train wasn't too bad. I managed some sleep but not a lot. We found a private car who took us to our hotel, the Saigon Zoom Hotel, where we couldn't check-in yet (as we expected).

Travel Tip: Private Cars work for a fixed price not a metered rate like a normal taxi. Knowing when this is a benefit is helpful.

Travel Planning tip: We booked all our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodation thru Agoda and I would definitely use them again when planning my own overseas accommodation.

We got changed quickly in the hotel bathroom. We'd asked our driver to wait and we then headed straight off to the Cu Chi Tunnels at about 7am. It was actually awesome to be there before the crowds although it does cost quite a bit more doing it privately. But we were expecting this and had planned for it because we really only have today in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Cu Chi Tunnels were fascinating and you get a guide on arrival, although it seems quite a few people bring a guide thru with them from the city (which seemed to irk our guide). I won't lie, I knew next to nothing about the Vietnam War before today. Well, I'd looked up a little on Wikipedia before our trip but, it was hard to follow and it's not something we were really exposed to as South Africans born after it had ended. I imagine, even as it was going on, we were all too wrapped up in what was happening in our own country with Apartheid. I didn't do history in High School, but The Trucker says it wasn't covered either.

It was fascinating and horrific. Those Vietnamese were sneaky. They came up with some seriously horrifying hidden traps for the Americans. And for their part, we found out later in the afternoon when we visited the War Remnants Museum just how awful the Americans were too. I guess I'll just never understand the atrocities of war and the awful side of humans it brings out.

We got to walk thru part of the tunnels. This just makes you realise how strong the human will to live is, I doubt I could've stayed down there, hiding, for too long! We also got to see how they hid the smoke from their underground kitchens and try a little of their staple diet: cassava with spices & green tea. While eating, we chatted to our guide, who was born 2 years before the war ended, about it a little. His father & uncle fought in the tunnels. His uncle didn't survive. Blows my mind, it was only 40 years ago!

I would definitely recommend a visit to this highly unique place. And enjoy the war-propaganda video too - haha. Was surreal. Reminded me of those old World War II propaganda videos. Blatantly bad-mouthing the American Devil Pilots etc. which I guess is fair enough since they were at war and all. Propaganda is such a weird thing.

As I said, we visited the War
Remnants Museum and it was a heavy afternoon. Agent Orange was just awful and to realise the very real effect it is still having on people born today. Well, I was emotionally sunk. Shew. It was a rough day of human realisation, that is for sure.

We didn't do much else during the day but wander a bit of our local area. We had Subway for lunch :) And we bought ourselves some Vietnamese Phin Coffee Filters and some of their amazing Trung Nguyen coffee (so cheap compared to home!).

We relaxed in our hotel room's air-conditioning and read about the snow back home in Jozi. It was 31 degrees here today. Haha. Am a little sorry I missed the snow.

We had a delish dinner out and a pretty early night. I am looking forward to our upcoming island days :)

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