Steaming Saigion

Trip Start Jan 05, 2010
1
14
17
Trip End Jan 25, 2010


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We were picked up at Saigon Airport and set off for a very hairy ride, through traffic that made Hanoi look like kindergarten. Apart from the passing motorcyclist we hit, everyone (else) made it safely to the Grand Hotel. The hotel was a bit shabby after the luxurious accommodation in Hoi An, but smack in District 1 and has an old world charm from being built in the 1930s.

The torrential rain didn't deter us from heading for the roof of the Rex Hotel to continue our Singapore Sling tour of Vietnam. The Rex was a popular venue for American soldiers and journalists during the Vietnam War, and has a great (albeit wet) ambiance. We dined at Qun An Ngon ( "Delicious Restaurant"), recommended by the freebie Vietnam Air magazine, which was indeed delicious!

The following day (20th Jan) we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels (Mike really wanted to go handbag shopping but Kym talked him out of it). The Vietcong dug literally hundres of kilometres of tunnels during the Vietnam War to hide from the Americans. Part of the tunnel complex near the town of Cu Chi have been turned into a tourist destination. The tunnel entrances were incredibly well disguised, and the Vietnamese soldiers skilled in entering and leaving the tunnel system without being detected. . Definately too small for the typical fat westerners (or American GI) to crawl into!

The Vietcong lived in the tunnels, and equipped them with kitchens, hospitals and meeting rooms. It was very interesting, and we saw first hand the primitive & gruesome weapons they used to capture and kill the Americans. Many were based on farm traps and built from empty shells found on the ground. They were inexpensive to make but very effective! We shared a round of bullets in an AK47 and Mike crawled through a tunnel that had been enlarged for tourists.

We retained our guide Johnny Chung to show us around Saigon (he's a great guide, has fantastic english and a great laugh too. We would highly recommend him to others looking for an english speaking guide. His number is 0906870276; email mooncake79279@yahoo.com). Saigon is much more developed then Hanoi, even though Hanoi is the capital, and has benefited from the French influence on their architecture (but don't mention the war....) We saw the General Post Office and Notre Dame Cathederal then walked up to Reunification Hall.

Reunification Hall, previously called the Presidential Palace, was destroyed in 1962 and rebuilt by President Diem. The architecture is classic 1960s and it is a truley imposing modern building. The 'puppet president' Van Thieu lived there until he fled to America in the early 1970's, just prior to the North Vietnamese taking over Saigon.

We wound up the day with a visit to the Sheraton rooftop bar (yes more Singapore Sling's), dinner at Lemongrass and a stroll through the night markets. All I can say is beware of $15 watches.... we bought one each and one didn't survive 24 hrs!!
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Comments

Michelle Cooper on

Wow - how fantastic!!!

ruairioc
ruairioc on

Hi Guys,

I really enjoyed the visit to the tunnels as well.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your travels and safe home.

Ruairi

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