HCMC, Vietnam

I’ve been slacking lately with my posts, I’d love to blame it on my busy timetable as an English teacher but I teach less than 10 hours a week so I’ll keep thinking of a decent excuse…

At the end of last year we spent 2 months backpacking in wonderful southeast Asia, I posted photos as we traveled but I never wrote any proper posts about the places… well that ends today! I’m going to write about each place in the order we visited, starting then with Saigon, Vietnam.

This was our first time in Asia and the place where it all began was Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh was quite an overwhelming start to Asian life, the humidity hit us instantly. While looking for our hotel we were caught in a downpour. The traffic/scooters were like nothing I’d ever seen before, thousands constantly buzzing around you. It didn’t take long to figure out the comfort blanket that is Europe was nowhere to be seen!

In my opinion the highlights of Ho Chi Minh were things related to the war with America, the history student in me was always going to love learning about this gruesome topic. The Museum of American War Crimes (it’s name has been changed but I can’t remember what it is now and anyway I prefer this name) was fascinating. Outside in the courtyard they had tanks and helicopters used in the war and we saw the original photograph of the little girl running from the napalm attack.

One evening we were walking near the main backpacker street and were approached by a couple of young locals, after a day of being pestered by people offering tours we were a bit suspicious of what they had to say. It turned out they were students who try to practice their English with foreigners when they get the chance, we had ten minutes to spare so we started talking… this chat lasted a few hours as more and more gathered around us, it was great to chat to some local people of a similar age to us. A couple of them joined us for a beer and Peter Parker(great English name) mentioned that he takes foreign friends on tours. He wasn’t saying this as a hint but I still asked if he’d have time to take us to Cu Chi tunnels. These tunnels were using by the Vietnamese soldiers during the war, they lived lives underground to protect themselves from US bombs, it was always my intention to visit them but I would’ve gone on a tour instead. Having a local student (who spoke amazing English) give us a private tour, going by local buses etc., was one of the highlights of the whole 2 months for me. I wish I was still in contact with Peter. At the tunnels you’re allowed to go underground in the secret openings the soldiers used, the tunnels have been widened for bigger westerners to fit through (Vietnamese are very small, even I towered over some of them). The system they had was seriously impressive, people say the Vietnamese War is the only one the Americans have lost and you can see how – their enemy were clever and resilient, they used their country’s land wisely.

To finish this post I want to share a couple more pictures that represent Vietnam’s past. The French were the main imperial power in this region and the design of some of the buildings reflect this history, the French left their mark through architecture – the Notre-Dame cathedral and the post office designed by Gustav Eiffel being the best examples.

After Ho Chi Minh we took the bus and crossed the border into Cambodia, Phnom Penh will be the next post. Thanks for reading!

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