Ho Chi Minh City (fka Saigon)
Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. The streets, where much of the city’s life takes place, is a myriad of shops, stalls, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. The city churns, ferments, bubbles and fumes. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.
Sights include the Giac Lam Pagoda, the neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Hall, Cholon market and the former US embassy, scene of such havoc during the 1975 evacuations.
If buildings had psyches, this one would be lying on a very large couch be moaning its identity crisis. The original structure was erected by the French in 1868. After 1954, when Frenchmen became rather scarce rather quickly, Ngo Dinh Diem filled the void, renaming it Independence Palace. In 1962, an air raid failed to assassinate Diem but destroyed the Palace. A new mansion was completed by 1966, only to be bombed again by a disloyal South Vietnamese pilot in the early 1970s. The mansion’s latest incarnation occurred on April 30, 1975, when a DRV tank smashed through the gates. Once rebuilt, twice bombed, and thrice christened, today’s Reunification Palace remains frozen in its 1975 state.
Cu Chi Tunnels
We took the obligatory tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels – the infamous network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war. Although its been rebuilt for tourists like a Vietnamese Disneyland, it was definitely worth visiting and a must see in Ho Chi Minh city. Just don’t eat too much before you go otherwise you may not be able to make it through the tunnels!