After a hectic Xmas break, it was time to pack the bags once more and jet off to Vietnam. Laura was already waiting in Asia after a seemingly endless journey from Colombia and, for a few days, Daniel came over from Bangkok to join us too. Side note, as of the time of writing i am still jet lagged! 😴
Happy New Year from Ho Chi Minh
After catching up ourselves not having met since July in St. Petersburg (Back in St. Petersburg), we met with a Vietnamese business partner of Daniel and went for food and beers in Pham Van Hai – a nice district with trees alongside a canal. The beer drinking culture is pretty strong here and ordering a whole crate of beer is completely normal. Cheers! 🍻🍻🍻
In the evening we visited my friend Jan. In theory his apartment was only 10mins away by car yet the traffic was horrendous. Car not an option! So all three of us got on separate motorbikes (you can hire them with ride sharing app Grab). What a crazy journey! Got to hear that a metro project for HCM is underway – dearly needed!
In the end we arrived in time for new years. Last i had met jan was last year in Bangkok for NYE (Hello Thailand & Koh Phangan: Muay Thai training begins) and by now his wife had given birth to their daughter. Fun evening with a bunch of expats. Happy new year everyone!
The traffic back was much better and we hit the bars and clubs nearby our hotel in the Pham Ngu Lao area. One notable trend were the laughing gas balloons that many people consume here (read here) similar to what i saw in Amsterdam and Suriname. We also tried and it gives you a short rush (like 30sec). Trendy stuff!
War Remnants museum: Cruel history on New years day
We enjoyed a slow start into 2019 after the late night and hit a nearby food market to get something into our bellies. I like these markets with lots of fresh food and tasty juices and smoothies. Daniel joined us too for a coffee.
First up, we decided to get some massages nearby the hotel to relax. They are quite economic here and USD5 gets you 30min foot massage. Happy endings are extra 😉
Next stop was the war Remnants museum, which is probably the no1 place to see in HCM. It shows the Vietnamese side of the US – Vietnamese war that finished with the capture of then capital of South Vietnam, Saigon, by the communists led my Ho Chi Minh who renamed the city after himself.
For sure it is meant to be a form of propaganda yet one wonders after the visit how any american can be regarded a hero for Vietnam war efforts. To me it is just a senseless show down of the cold war and crime against the people in Vietnam. I hope that efforts of the Vietnamese to get war reparations, especially for agent orange, will be successful. At last, they have been for US army personnel.
Exploring Saigon a bit more
There are only so many things you can do in Saigon. Museums are good, but there are a few more highlights of such as the magnificent post office in Colonial style, a few churches (Christianity is 2nd religion here after Buddhism), the waterfront along Saigon river with its many boats, an impressive Hindu pagoda and the night markets. The latter are definitely a tourist thing, but are vibrant with tasty food choices.
Our last evening kicked off with yet another dinner. This time with the boss and the sales department of Daniel’s partner here. They took us to a large Vietnamese restaurant with no tourists in sight. We sampled lots of local dishes (i just don’t get why snails are that popular!?) and, of course, more Saigon beer. Afterwards .. well, an eventful night near the hotel 😈👿.
Cu Chi Tunnels: Entering Viet Cong zone
From HCM you have two main tours outside the city. The Mekong delta (we plan to do on 🛵) and the Viet Cong tunnels located some 60km outside the center. If you are early, you can book a bus half-day trip for as little as EUR8.
On the way to the tunnels we stopped at a factory for kind of mosaic paintings done by disabled people – many of which suffer in the aftermath of agent orange.
The Viet Cong were the guerilla force based in colonial south Vietnam yet part of the communist forces of the north. They digged out 250km of tunnels running from Saigon to Cambodia. This network provided for protection (especially once chemical deterrents like agent orange came into the game) and camouflage – the enemy that can’t be found.
Quite impressive to see though pretty overrun with tourists as one of the key attractions of the historical Vietnam.