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What to do in Ho Chi Minh

HO CHI MINH

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Formerly known as Saigon, but named Ho Chi Minh after the war to honour the then President. A bustling city invaded by swarms of 2 wheelers zooming left, right and center.

We chose to stay at the Luan Vu hotel, which is bang on Walking Street. Despite being on the noisiest street, once you close the double glazed door, the noise just fades into blissfull silence. The rooms were small and there is no elevator, but it’s cleanliness, the proximity to Bui Vien, Ben Thanh Market and all the other tourist attractions made up for it. Its major plus was the staff. Mr. Binh and Ms. Ni the receptionist were extremely helpful and even got us a SIM card, taxis and tours at decent rates.

What to do in Ho Chi Minh

Bui Vien (Walking Street) is the most happening place in HCM and an amazing place to be on the weekends. It’s packed with bars and restaurants with music blasting from every one of them. Food and beer are quite reasonable, and it's a great place to sit on the kindergarten-sized chairs provided and watch the locals and foreigners go by. The street becomes a discotheque on the weekends with a number of bands setting stage along the street. The three floors of the building on one end of the street are clad with LED screens and a DJ console is hung off the second floor. Huge banks of speakers are hung on the sides. The screens come alive with splashes of psychedelic patterns synchronized with the beat and occasionally fireworks burst out from the sides of the screens. There are street performers too. An experience not to be missed.

Ben Thanh Market - This is the city's biggest, most authentic market. You can find almost anything you need here, from basic supplies to fresh or dry fruits to clothes, handbags, shoes and souvenirs. When you are fed-up of haggling you can cool off with a drink and have a bite at one of the hawker-type food stalls inside the market.

Mekong Delta Tour.

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An interesting tour of the Mekong Delta with a sampan ride through the water-coconut-palm lined winding canals. Be prepared to be harassed for tips by the rowers. The tour was a bit commercial though, with stops at tourist-traps coaxing you to buy their wares.

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It included a visit to a coconut candy factory, snake wine bottling, and a honey farm. A simple but tasty lunch and tea and snacks. The motorised sampan ride on the return was the highlight of the tour. Tip: Don’t forget to try the Water Coconuts.

Cu Chi tunnels, half day tour.

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The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers to shoot and scoot during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous VC fighters. The tunnel systems helped to counter the growing American military effort.

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As we entered the jungle, we could hear loud bursts of fireworks in the distance ...only they weren't fireworks, but actual gunshots coming from the firing range. It gave the tour another grim dimension - a feeling of reality.

There were hidden shafts invisible on the surface from which a soldier could pop-out or disappear into. Vents from the tunnel too were brilliantly camouflaged. The section detailing the horrendous booby traps set for the enemy was gruesome and to see them demonstrated added to the disturbing atmosphere.

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You are given the intense experience of crawling through a 10 minute stretch of tunnel. It was hot, dark and claustrophobic, yet the feeling was exhilarating. A beefy American (nicknamed 'Rambo' by our tour-guide) huffed and puffed behind me as he negotiated the narrow spaces, sharp turns and dips in the tunnel. While some of the faint-hearted tourists quit from the exits provided along the way, he was determined to complete the crawl and asked me to yank him through in case he got stuck. The next set of tunnels was a 15-minute crawl, which despite being even narrower, Rambo squeezed through with flying colours.

Tip: Remember to carry knee-pads

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Water Puppet Theater - A unique puppet show that is performed in muddy coloured water which keeps you wondering where the puppeteers actually are. An enchanting and fun experience. Consisted of short acts, ensuring you don't doze off, based on folklore and local mythology. A short commentary in English would have helped, considering most of the audience were tourist. A pleasant way to end a tiring day. Tip: Go early and get front seats.

War Remnants Museum -

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The pic of 'Napalm girl' fleeing during a bombing raid

There is a display of aircrafts, helicopters, intimidating war tanks and menacing flame-throwers outside the building. Besides an exhibition of weaponry used during the war, the museum covers the historical and ongoing human devastation which really gets to you. The photographs, mostly grainy and B&W are graphic in content, mainly of civilian suffering caused by barbaric soldiering, bombing, land mines, and worst of all the notorious Agent Orange making this unmissable for anyone with half a conscience. The museum experience is quite sobering, if not disturbing. Requires easily 2-3 hours, unless you wish to 'speedwalk' and take selfies in front of the B52 bombers and war tanks. It closes at 5 pm

Sit in the Sense Park - and watch the 'kick shuttlers' play with the grace of ballerinas making the game look easier than it is. Or take part in a Taichi routine, or watch the food hawker make a Bánh Tráng Nuong (Vietnamese pancake) while you sit on a low slung chair. Or hire a 'hoverboard' and try riding it. When you've had your fill of all that, you can pop into the Sense underground market for a meal or shopping.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral was closed for renovations but the airconditioned Post Office next door provided a respite from the heat. The Reunification Palace is a short walk away.

Posted by melroy p 10:54 Archived in Vietnam Tagged walking street travel indian vietnam visa saigon hanoi halong mekong ben tips cu chi ho minh hue hoi an pho thanh delta da bia chá nang hcm bun vien bui

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