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.
Just next to the cathedral is the Central Post Office with its neoclassical architecture.
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.
A short walk away is the Reunification Palace which was the presidential palace of South Vietnam before its fall to the communist forces.
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.
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.
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.
After the visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we went back to the city. It was time for some relaxation instead of sight seeing.
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.