Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City

After the sleepy peacefulness of Hoi An, it was a jolt to be in Saigon.

I call it Saigon, because most of the locals call it that too. There seems to be a split between calling it HCMC and Saigon and I couldn’t figure out the reasons for either.

Our first night in town we took a cyclo tour around the city.

We had a local guide and we stopped in a number of sites like the Reunification Palace, the Rex Hotel, where all the press briefing took place during the war, the Opera House designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Saigon-Notre Dame Basilica, the Saigon Central Post Office and a few others.

The French obviously have had an impact on the local culture and architecture. It was a wonderful way to get my bearings in the city and doing it a night was a nice touch. I love riding on cyclos, rickshaws and tuk-tuks. They’re lots of fun and are a really cheap way to get around. Never costing more than a dollar or two.

The next morning, we headed out of town to see the Cu Chi tunnel system just North of the city.

It was really interesting to see and learn about the guerrillas, but at times was tough to listen to the propaganda. You can only hear American killer hero so many times before it gets to you. That being said, the guerrillas were incredibly courageous, dogged, and unbelievably creative and resourceful.

After the Cu Chi tunnels, we headed back to town to relax and walk around some more. Most of us headed to the Rex Hotel to check it out and sit on the roof and have a few drinks and look out over the city. Afterwards we headed down to De Tham street to mix with the backpackers and do a little shopping. While I’ve mostly been able to restrain myself, everyone on this trip has done an impressive amount of shopping. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.

Tomorrow we head to Phnom Penh. While I’ve enjoyed Vietnam and certainly found it interesting, it has been exhausting and I’m ready to see Cambodia and slow down a bit.