The final stop on our trip through Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is situated in the south of Vietnam and features many relics from the Vietnam War (or as some Vietnamese call it, the US War of Aggression/American War). This city is the biggest city in Vietnam with a lot of western influence. During our time in Saigon, we got to see different war remnants, cruise the Mekong Delta, and enjoy the nightlife of the city (I was with my mom, so nothing too crazy happened while we were out 😉 ).
Upon our arrival, our tour guide took us to see some of the historic landmarks around the downtown area, including the Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the former Presidential Palace. Now I bet you’re thinking what is so special about a post office? Well for starters, take a look at the post office below—clearly it is no average post office. This post office was built in the late 19th century when Vietnam was part of French Indochina. It is one of the main sites to see in the city center but you can also still send postcards/mail from it.
Next, we went to the War Remnants Museum, which was a little grim. Apparently it used to be called the Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes in 1975 and then changed to the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression in 1990. But by 1995, following the end of the US embargo, it became the War Remnants Museum. Even though the name of the museum was changed, you can still sense some of the animosity towards the US for the events of the war. Inside the museum, you can find all kinds of different propaganda posters, weapons, and photos of war victims. My mom and I went through this pretty quickly as it was rather depressing.
After the War Remnants Museum, we needed a little pick me up, so our tour guide took us to one of his favorite coffee shops. In case you didn’t know, Vietnam is famous for its coffee. The highest quality coffee they offer is called Weasel Coffee and sells for $100-$600 per pound—one of the most expensive coffees in the world. We decided to opt for a cheaper cup of coffee. I got an iced coffee since it was such a hot day out and even though I’m not the biggest coffee fan, I have to say if was pretty dang good. If you are a coffee aficionado, make sure to try some coffee while you’re in Vietnam.
That night my mom and I went out on the town. The first place we went to was the Rex Rooftop Bar. This famous rooftop bar offers great cocktails, food, and a great view of the city. During the Vietnam War, war correspondents and military officials would gather at the Rex Rooftop Bar for The Five O’Clock Follies—a daily press conference during the war. It was neat to be able to have a drink on this historic rooftop.
The next morning, we set off for the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is one of the richest agricultural areas in Vietnam. Locals refer to it as Vietnam’s “rice bowl” as it is filled with coconuts, sugar cane, fruit, seafood, and rice. During part of the journey down the Mekong Delta, we were on a large, private, motorized boat, but for part of the journey, we hopped on a sampan (a small boat rowed by a local) to go down some of the narrower canals. While we cruised the Mekong, we got to stop at a variety of workplaces. We stopped at a brick workshop (where bricks are made by hand), a coconut processing workshop, and a rice paper workshop. At the end of the trip, we stopped at a resort along the Mekong for a scrumptious seafood lunch.
Our last day in Saigon, we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a complex network of underground tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. While we were there, we got to climb into some of the tunnels, which are incredibly small! As an American, I am built a lot bigger than the Viet Cong were, so I felt extra cramped in the tunnels. Our tour guide also showed us a variety of the booby-traps used during the war, which looked extremely unforgiving. One of the craziest parts of the day was shooting an M60 machine gun with my mom…it was bizarre. It was interesting to see how the tunnels were set up and learn how the Viet Cong used the tunnels during the war.
After our visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we headed to the airport to board our flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. Stay tuned for my post about the impressive temples of Cambodia 🙂