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Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 7 October 2008 | Views [680]

We arrived in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City at around 6am, it appears people aren't quite as early to start in this city as a few hotels we had researched were still closed! We decided to check out a small guesthouse which a guy in Nha Trang had recommended (this guy was actually a guy which stevie knew from home who we happened to bump into - amazing to meet someone you know when so far from home!)so after snaking down some small alleyways, dodging cats, kids and noodle bowls, we were finally directed to the 'hen guesthouse', which was actually just a family with a room available! Upon our arrivel the whole family was still asleep and opened the door in their jammies (they slept on the stone floor in the front room)and (a little confused as to why we were there) told us to leave our bags and come back at 8am.

The guesthouse was such a lovely little place, the people were really friendly and it was an adventure to stay in such close proximity to Vietnamese family life.  The family had a 2 little chihauas (hard one to spell!) whom we became very friendly with and every time we left the house or returned we spent about 10 minutes greeting and stroking the dogs!

On our first day we took a walk around the city, watched the old people do martial arts in the park, visited the 'War Remnants museum'(a poignant reminder of the war accompanied by an excellent series of photographs) and arranged to meet Dan and Michelle for some dinner.  Getting back home from our walk was pretty harrowing, the city is famous for its amazing rush-hours full of mostly motorbikes, but also every other vehicle you could imagine and trying to cross the roads was sometimes quite scary! The thing about the Vietnam traffic system is that there is none,(which we discovered when we first got to Hanoi when a girl looked at us standing at the side of the road and advised us to 'just walk'!)The best way to cross the road is slowly and without hesitation, it appears the motorbikes and cars just swerve around you until you reach the other end of the road, they don't stop for red lights or any other things which you might think would regulate the traffic!

The following day we took a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Cai Dai temple which were both in the area.  Our tour was an interesting guy who had spent much of his life teaching english (it always helps when the guide speaks english!)and he had also spent a year fighting for the South Vietnamese. 

The Cau Dai temple which we went to was an amazing experience, the religion is a mixture of several religions and the people attending the service were dressed in white, blue, yellow and red robes to represent each religion.  The temple has 4 services every day, and we were lucky enough to be there for the 'noon service'. The temple was an amazing mixture of colours and symbols, with huge dragons swirling around the pillars, and golden figures on the walls - the ceiling was decorated in an amazing array of stars upon the navy background...it was certainly a very special place. 

After the temple we went on to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a series of tunnels which were used by the north Vietnamese during the war to get to places unseen.  We were lead around the complex where several bomb craters still were visible, and although we didn't go through the real tunnels, (as none of us non vietnamese would fit!) we went through a different set which had been built as a replica (and a bit more our size!) Despite these tunnels being bigger they were still pretty tough to get through and it is unbelievable to think that the Vietcong crawled through kilometers of these tunnels to get to their destination!

This tour marked the end of our short stay in Ho Chi Minh City, we had found a tour up the Mekong Delta river which would take us to Cambodia - and it left the following morning at 8AM!

Tags: cau dai temple, cu chi tunnels, ho chi minh city, saigon, war remnants museum

 

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