Showing posts with the label HCMC

The Cu Chi tunnels, the Bitexco tower

When I opened the curtains this morning, I found the sun was staring me in the face.

I was picked up at the hotel at 07:15 for my tour of the Cu Chi tunnels, around 50 km out of HCMC. We were driven to a pier nearby and boarded a speedboat on the Saigon river. It was a pleasant ride -the weather was nice, we were shielded from the sun, and the wind on our faces was a nice way to wake up! I was surprised to find that only another tourist boat and we were in the river at the time, I expected more traffic. Every once in a while we'd cross a barge with locals who were having breakfast or working and would wave at us as we passed by.

It took a good hour's time to cover the distance between the pier at HCMC and our arrival in Cu Chi. The river has entire sections completely covered by floating plants, fairly big, green plants that look like bushes on solid ground but are really just floating on the water's surface. Our boat seemed to part them with ease, and only when we got off…

The War Remnants Museum, the History Museum

Today it's sunny and a sweltering 30°C again! Now I finally understand why so many people are out the door by 6AM, get stuff done before the sun's high in the sky, then take a break until it goes down again. I didn't do it, mind you, but I get it.

I had the hotel call me a cab and I went to the Jade Emperor's Pagoda, as recommended by my LP guide. It's 3 km away from the city centre, which came down to 51,000 VND (€2,15). It was... not what I expected. For one thing, I didn't see any pagodas. It's a shrine, built in the early 20th century in honour of the highest Taoist god (the Jade Emperor). It was dark and filled with statues and incense urns. It's very much a place of worship and not geared for tourism, as evidenced by there being only one word in English in the entire place -"Exit". I know how to catch a message. On the outside, there's a tiny pond with dozens of turtles sunbathing lazily over each other.

Since I'd got all the way…

Journey to HCMC, the Reunification Palace

So today I said goodbye to Hoi An and took a cab to Da Nang airport to catch a plane to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. I was surprised to note that the Da Nang terminal was a lot nicer than the one in Hanoi, at least it didn't look positively sovietic! Also, I was warned about this so I'll pass it on: when you leave a Vietnamese airport, you have to show your luggage ticket to staff to prove that you're leaving with your own bag! So don't throw it away until you're out!

After a one-hour flight, the first thing that greeted me in HCMC was the heat, as the city is at a smoldering 32°C these days. There's a taxi terminal right outside the exit gate, so I boarded one for a trip to the city centre that took about 30 min and cost around 180,000 VND (€7,5). 
On the way there I was shocked to see how different HCMC is from the rest of my Vietnam stops. It has sidewalks! Streetlights! Skyscrapers! Actual stores! It felt closer to a Western city than the chaotic Hano…