Ho Chi Minh City 2010

I spent a short getaway in Ho Chi Minh City to accompany my wife who was stationed there for a while. The city is easily accessed by numerous airlines, I took a budget flight on a Friday and was back by Sunday. Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is now the largest city in Vietnam and also the main commercial and industrial centre. Being my first time in Vietnam for this trip, everything was a new experience to me.

Since my wife was already stationed there for a few months, I had a free ‘tour guide’ to bring me around. Getting around is quite easy and convenient by taking the taxi. As I was there only for a long weekend, there wasn’t that much time to do any extended sight seeing, but then most of the attractions are within the city and you can get around within a short time.

As with any other true Singaporean, the first stop was to fill my stomach. We ate lunch at Quan An Ngon, a similar concept to our foodcourts and serving sanitized local Vietnamese food.
As with any other true Singaporean, the first stop was to fill my stomach. We ate lunch at Quan An Ngon, a similar concept to our foodcourts and serving sanitized local Vietnamese food.
In the centre of the  city is the Notre Dame Cathedral, built by the French.
In the centre of the city is the Notre Dame Cathedral, built by the French.
Beautiful stained glass windows adorn the church.
Beautiful stained glass windows adorn the church.
Visitors praying in the  Notre Dame Cathedral.
Visitors praying in the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Just next to the cathedral is the Central Post Office with its neoclassical architecture.

The entrance to the Central Post Office.
The entrance to the Central Post Office.
Love the interior design, and the picture of Uncle Ho.
Love the interior design, and the picture of Uncle Ho.

 

These telephone boxes are simply retro.
These telephone boxes are simply retro.
The floor tiles really goes with the neoclassical design.
The floor tiles really goes with the neoclassical design.

If you are interested in war history then the War Remnants Museum is the place for you. The Vietnam War is told from the viewpoint of the Vietnamese and the Americans are the bad guys.

Weapons from the Vietnam War are displayed.
Weapons from the Vietnam War are displayed.
Military hardware left behind by the American forces are displayed here.
Military hardware left behind by the American forces are displayed in an open area beside the museum.
I would love to have one of these mounted on my car.
I would love to have one of these mounted on my car.

A short walk away is the Reunification Palace which was the presidential palace of South Vietnam before its fall to the communist forces.

The Reunification Palace. It was closed on the day of our visit, so this photo from the front gate is all there is to it.
The Reunification Palace. It was closed on the day of our visit, so this photo from the front gate is all there is to it.

For some classical French architecture, we headed to see the City Hall. It’s closed to the public but you can take photos in front of it. The night view of it is nicer when it’s lighted up.

The City Hall with a statue of Ho Chi Minh in front.
The City Hall with a statue of Ho Chi Minh in front.

Everyone has a terrifying experience crossing the roads of Vietnam for the first time. But after a while you will get the hang of it, moving in between motorbikes as they roll pass you.

Motorbikes are the kings of the roads here.
Motorbikes are the kings of the roads here.
Ben Thanh Market. This is the largest market in the central district.
Ben Thanh Market. This is the largest market in the central district.
The fruits here are super big and juicy.
The fruits here are super big and juicy.
A lot of Singaporean visitors patronize this fruits shop. The lady will take your order and pack them into boxes to be sent to your hotel.
A lot of Singaporean visitors patronize this fruits shop. The lady will take your order and pack them into boxes to be sent to your hotel.
A stall selling local foodstuffs.
A stall selling local foodstuffs.
Live seafood is also plenty here.
Live seafood is also plenty here.
Some yummy crab pho.
Some yummy crab pho.
Will you dare to drink this? They say it makes you become a superman in bed...
Will you dare to drink this? They say it makes you a superman in bed…
The Opera House. Definitely not as grand as the one in Hanoi.
The Opera House. Definitely not as grand as the one in Hanoi.
A dinner and cruise along the river.
A dinner and cruise along the river.
A lot of seafood restaurants along the riverside.
A lot of seafood restaurants along the riverside.

Of course any visit to Ho Chi Minh City has to include the notorious Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels are an extensive network of interconnected bunkers, hospitals, kitchens and meeting rooms. The tunnels formed a vast communications network and served as hiding spots for the Viet Cong during combat with the American forces. The Cu Chi Tunnels are outside Ho Chi Minh City and we had to follow a local tour to bring us there.

Crossing under the road to get to the Cu Chi tunnels.This is not the actual tunnel yet.
Crossing under the road to get to the Cu Chi tunnels. This is not the actual tunnel yet.
The guide show us a trapdoor which leads to the Cu Chi tunnels.
The guide showing us a trapdoor which leads to the Cu Chi tunnels.
That's a very small hole. There's no way any of us fat tourists could fit in there.
That’s a very small hole. There’s no way any of us fat tourists could fit in there.
An abandoned and partially destroyed American tank on display.
An abandoned and partially destroyed American tank on display.
How many dumb (an painful) ways to die. The many types of booby traps that American soldiers had to endure.
How many dumb (an painful) ways to die. The many types of booby traps that American soldiers had to contend with.
Trying my shooting skills on an  AK-47.
Trying my shooting skills on an AK-47.
There are many more guns for you to try if you have the money.
There are many more guns for you to try if you have the money.
That's a huge bomb crater.
That’s a huge bomb crater.

After the visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we went back to the city. It was time for some relaxation instead of sight seeing.

A quiet moment in a restaurant.
A quiet moment in a restaurant.
Trying one of the famous beef pho in the city.
Trying one of the famous beef pho in the city.
Really delicious beef pho. But the restaurant cleanliness leaves a lot to be desired.
Really delicious beef pho. But the restaurant cleanliness leaves a lot to be desired.
Time for a spa by the riverside.
Time for a spa by the riverside.
Followed by a dinner by the riverside.
Followed by a dinner by the riverside.
Dinner was at Villa Romaine. It's a boutique hotel located on the banks of the Saigon River. Nice ambience but a little out of the way, and definitely pricey.
Dinner was at Villa Romaine. It’s a boutique hotel located on the banks of the Saigon River. Nice ambience but a little out of the way, and definitely pricey.

General Tips

Taking the taxi is the most convenient way to travel and as long as you use a reputable taxi company, your fares should be reasonable. Mai Linh (white with green words) and Vinasun (white with green and red words) are generally honest and reliable although there will be some black sheep among the fleet.

Crossing the street and trying to navigate the sea of motorbikes as you cross the street can be very scary for new comers. Especially if you are from Singapore which is orderly and, prim and proper. Look for a break in the traffic then just cross at your normal walking speed. The motorbikes will know how to weave in between you. Don’t make any sudden dashes or stops otherwise they will misjudge and knock into you. Just continue walking until you reach the other side of the road.

Ho Chi Minh City is pretty cosmopolitan with so many expats and foreign companies setting up shop here. There are not many worries when it comes to hotels and eating, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

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