Last known location: London, England

So Long Saigon

After returning from the Mekong Delta we spent our last couple of days in Vietnam exploring Ho Chi Minh City and visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels.  First stop was Ben Thanh market, which was a 10 minute walk from our hostel and is an indoor shopping heaven; there are stalls selling shoes, bags, clothes, jewellery, souvenirs and food.  It was VERY busy inside, and extremely hot so we stopped for a fruit shake half way through to recover!

Unfortunately, like so many cities, Saigon has a rather sad history.  We visited the Reunification Palace where tanks of the North Vietnamese forces stormed the gates in 1975.  It was a bit like stepping back in time – everything had been left pretty much exactly as it was on that day.  We saw the communication room, formal reception room and even the ballroom on the roof terrace.  Again, the heat was taking it’s toll, and the lack of air con meant
we probably rushed through a bit, just to escape
somewhere a bit cooler!

After the Palace we walked over to the War Remnants Museum.  Very harrowing stuff, and I won’t go into too much detail because it’s pretty depressing.  It’s true what they say – a picture can tell a thousand words.  There was an exhibit at the museum of photos taken by a British photographer portraying the after effects of Agent Orange.  I consider myself to be pretty hardy but I couldn’t manage to do the whole exhibit and had to walk out after a few minutes.  The museum did give a fairly one-sided telling of the war but I think that’s understandable, given the circumstances!  At the museum we bumped into Ruth, who we’d met in Hanoi and Hue, so we had dinner with her that evening to cheer us all up after a bit of a miserable afternoon!

Our penultimate day in Vietnam was spent at the Cu Chi tunnels – the a base for the Viet Cong during the war.  The area we visited was about 70km from Saigon but the tunnels stretch over 200km in total.  It’s basically an underground maze which the Vietcong operated in – they more or less lived in the very narrow tunnels for around 10 years!  We were with a small tour group and got the chance to crawl through a 20m stretch of the tunnel – however, it had been made 30% larger to fit in Western tourists and even then it was a bit of a squeeze!

We also saw various types of traps and weapons the Vietcong used to deter the enemy – some were pretty vicious and tended to involve very sharp bamboo!  Gruesome stuff – but it worked in the end.  Before being allowed to leave the site we were shown a very biased video which spoke often of the “heroes who killed American soldiers”.

On our final day in Vietnam we treated ourselves to a massage and did some souvenir shopping – next stop England and a winter wonderland wedding!

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