Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh: memories of a war not only told but also seen, in the ex capital of the South Vietnam.

World Tour: 13th Stop – Ho Chi Minh

From Apocalypse Now to Tiziano Terzani, Saigon/Ho Chi Minh will turn out to have as much growth potential as the number of bikes that invades the city every day.

Mappa Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh: our stops

Good Morning Vietnam! New country, new stamp on our passport!

To tell the truth there have been a few moments of confusion when we tried to obtain the stamp to enter the country. They didn’t have the stamp necessary to attest that we would have left Vietnam in less than 15 days.  But retrieving the info on our booked bus trip from Hanoi to Laos on the phone and passing from a few border officers, they finally let us in.

After the usual routine to get a SIM and withdraw from the ATM, we get on the shuttle bus 49 that will take us directly to the hotel. The room is quite big and the bathroom is not too bad…  it’s a little bit funny though when we ask the receptionist if there is any hot water and she looks quite surprised and answers us with another question “Why? Do you need hot water?”. And we that we always took for granted to have it as an option…

Timbro Vietnam

Vietnam stamp on the passport!

It’s late and the night falls quickly. We go look for a restaurant and we end up doing the thing a true Italian should never do whilst abroad: eating pizza. It wasn’t too bad, to be fair. The only sore point was that we ordered the “huge” portion meant for 5 people and we ate it with no problem whatsoever just the two of us, and the crust was even filled with cheese.

It is still early so we go and take a walk along the river. It turns out to be a hot spot for couples and for picnics, there are a lot of people around. Humans are not the only living beings around though, there are dozens of rats running around from the bushes to the river, and viceversa. Nice, wait, scratch that, Mice!

 

Ho Chi Minh by Night

Bikes rush along the streets of Ho Chi Minh

Breakfast with eggs, tomatoes and some slices of bread and then we plan what to see, since some friends of ours will arrive in no time and they will want to visit the main attractions of the city. We so decide to go and find a travel agency to offer us a tour to go and se the Mekong delta. We have no problems doing that, there are agencies almost at every corner, especially in the backpackers area.

We enter one agency and we ask for some prices. All the tours are very convenient, they go from 5 dollars for a one day excursion to 30 for the 2 days long ones. You can also negotiate on the price the more people there are.

We sign up for a tour on the next day and after a few steps it start sto rain. Not knowing what to do, we enter a massage centre to receive a feet, back and shoulders massage. So relaxing! When we  are done it is stil raining but not as hard as earlier, so we manage to reach the market.

Mercato ad Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh: the market

At night we go back to the same place we had lunch in, they have offer a wide range of disse, many of them Western. We still opt, though, to eat rice, meat and some vegetables. When we are about to get up a beardy young man sits next to us asking if we are Italians, Carlo is an engineer from Pordenone, but he moved to Australia a few months ago. Right now he is working in a restaurant in Melbourne, where he washes dishes whilst waiting for a better opportunity. We head back not too late as we will have the tour on the next day.

In the morning we show up perfectly on time at the agency and they put us on a terribly unconfortable minibus. We can’t even fit our legs so I soon decide to go and sit next to the driver. We head North West.

Motorini sfrecciano in periferia ad Ho Chi Minh

Bikes rushing in the Ho Chi Minh suburbs

Our first stop is the main temple of the Cao Dai religion. It is a new belief that developed since the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th, taking inspiration from different already existing religions: Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and so on. The structure is colored with only 4 colors and there are some rules to follow that the guide tells us about.

We see the 12 O’clock ceremony but, it is so hot and damp that, after a few minutes, we decide to go back to the AC of the bus. The lunch is with the other partecipants so we socialize and make friends wih a Canadian couple from Toronto and two girls, one Belgian and one German, who have been travelling in the South-East Asia for 3 months. After lunch we all jump back on on the bus and we head to Cu Chi Tunnels.

Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai Temple

We quickly get off from the mini-bus and the guide gives us the tickets trying to be as fast as possible because there are some nasty dark clouds looming not too far from where we are. We go with him to the forest that covers the 220 chilometers (yes, CHILOMETERS) of underground tunnels. He shows us some traps and then we arrive next to a tree.

The guide asks us if we see something and we, as does the rest of the group, say “No”. He moves with his foot some leaves and you can see 2 little strings coming out from the ground, he pulls them and a trapdoor appears. He tells us that in the past there used to be a grenade on every trapdoor so you needed to use  extreme care when opening them to prevent its explosion.

He asks for volunteers to go down in the tunnel and I head down in third position. He closes the trapdoor behind me, leaving me in the dark, crawling in a 80cm tall and 50cm wide tunnel. The air gets heavy and the high temperature almost insufferable right away. Feeling quite claustrophobic I turn on the phone light to light up the way also to the girls in front of me. As all that weren’t enough we also hear some bats moving above us. Creepy.

Cu Chi Tunnels

The entrance to one of the Cu Chi Tunnels

The visit goes on with the explanation of more traps that have been uded by the Vietcong against the American invasion. The latters were much more well equipped, technologically wise, but knowing the the lans, the climatic conditions and the stubborness helped the Vietnamese in many occasions. The Americans ended up losing 58.000 men.

Not to miss anything about the visit, we also go to the firing range to shoot 5 bullets each with a M16 submachine gun. But the bullets went so fast that we couldn’t even get how close or far to the target. We then go back to our visit and we walk through a tunnel with the entire group, but this time is much bigger and much longer than the previous one. Some people decide to walk back and wait for us outside. It also starts to rain, recreating the perfect Vietnamese atmosphere.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels Diorama

Dinner, quick shower and we arrange to meet up with an Italian guy who is travelling around the world without using planes, Simone Piccini (www.wanderhung.it). Lately we kept writing each other on Facebook, so it almost felt like meeting an old friend. Simone asked a local to drive him to our hotel, and he did, by bike. The same bike he slept on until we came back at the end of the night.

Together with Simone we went to the backpackers area, to have a beer in one of the many bars along the way. As many travelers, he also has an interesting story to tell. He used to have a good position in an insurance company during the week, worked as a barman in the weekends and with a great passion for travelling. After visiting Peru for 3 weeks the final decision: drop everything and go explore the world.

Ho Chi Minh: Birra con Simone Piccini

Ho Chi Minh: Beer with Simone Piccini

02/12/16: the day of our first guests has finally come! My brother Claudio, an ex colleague of mine, Mattia, and our friend Ilaria arrive from Italy, with a layover in Bangkok. We will spend the rest of our days in Vietnam with them. It is nice to give other people the “excuse” to drop everything and come to visit us somewhere in the world.

The come to our hotel and after leaving their luggages behind we go and see the main attractions of Ho Chi Minh, but first we book a tour on the Mekong for the next day. The Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post and the independence palace are the first historical buildings we visit. Aside from their historical importance, during the Vietnamese war, they are nothing exceptional to see. Probably a guide could have made us appreciate them more what we saw, but the 5 of us, as it is, weren’t particularly impressed by them.

Palazzo dell\'indipendenza ad Ho Chi Minh

Independence  palace in Ho Chi Minh

On the way back we stop to have dinner and then we go back to the hotel to have a shower. Afterwards we head back to the backpackers area, and after the 50th offer to give us a massage we bend to the temptation and get a Vietnamese massage each… it was supposed to be the same to everyone but some of us came out destroyed while others without any benefits whatsoever.

Quick beer and then home, as the visit of the Mekong Delta awaits us on the next day.  It is a river that is born in China and crosses the South- East Asia. This river is mentioned in many movies about the Vietnam war and it is one of the main points of interest of the city.

Gruppo di Vietnamiti ad Ho Chi Minh

Group of Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh

This time, the organization offers a 50 sits bus, almost full. In about 3 hours we reach the pier, where we get on a boat that will take us to see a small area covered in little boats where some Vietnameses live, and they rarely go on the land. Withing them there are also some merchants, who offers us their merchandise directly from their boat.

As in every other tour we took they make us have a break in a sort of market where honey is produced and sold. The guide shows us the hive and tells us about the life of the bees. We then walk through another little alley that will take us to another shop where other kinds of food are made, such as rice that pops in a big caldron. We get on the boat again and we sail to another island.

Villaggi galleggianti lungo il delta del Mekong

Floating villages along the Mekong Delta

Right after lunch the restaurant offered us some broken down bicycles, but to go and see trails, plantations and field the brakes are not needed, right? We get lost in the nature, looking for the best spot to truly enjoy the cappuccino color of the Mekong! Cecco and I stop to admire a farmer who, with the aid of a 5 meters stick, has climbed a tree and is shaking it to make all the coconuts fall. In the end we are the last ones to head back tot he boat.

A short way from there we find another small village, where some women come to welcome us paddling away on some kind of “banana boat”. The divide us in little groups of 4, out us on the small boats and with them we sail along the river for a few hundred meters. The river is dirty, but the slow moving of the boat and the nature around us are really suggestive.

Tra le coltivazioni del Delta del Mekong

Tra le coltivazioni del Mekong Delta

 

Delta del Mekong: Banana Boat

Banana Boat on the  Mekong Delta

We go back to thecity and freshen up in a hotel before going for dinner in restaurant mentioned on the Lonely Planet. We eat quite well and it’s not even too expensive. We then end up in one of the main squares, where we find many Vietnamese taking a stroll or meeting up with friends, we walk along the entire square and then we arrive at the riverside.

Our aim is to go as high as possible, so we first try to enter into a skybar… which bounces us back because not dressed properly, and then to another one that lets us in, even though in the parking lot you can see many Ferraris and Lamborghinis. We stay there for a hour enjoying the view and then we go back to the hotel to get some sleep before the next stop: Da Nang e dintorni.

 

Cena ad Ho Chi Minh

Dinner in Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh view from a Sky Bar

Previous stop: Hong Kong

Next stop: Hoi An, Marble Mountain, Huè

Page about: Clicca qui

Our itinerary summed up:

World Tour day

 

Date Activity Mark Accommodation
55 29/11/16 Hong Kong => Ho Chi Minh (plane, Air Asia 2.15pm, Arrival 3:50pm) Ho Chi Minh
56 30/11/16 It rained…so we got a feet massage… Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh market
Italian/German ice-cream place and dinner with Carlo (a guy from Melbourne sitting next to us)
57 01/12/16 Cao Dai Temple 6,5 Ho Chi Minh
Cu Chi Tunnels 8
Evening with Simone Piccini
58 02/12/16 Notre Dame and Poste 6 Ho Chi Minh
Indipendence palace 6,5
Jade Emperor Pagoda 6,5
59 03/12/16 Tour Delta Mekong 7,5 Ho Chi Minh
60 04/12/16 Ho Chi Minh => Hoi An (plane, Jet Star 8.30am, Arrival 10:00am) Hoi An

Complete Photo Gallery

Author: Ste

 

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