View of HCMC from our balcony at dusk.
Even during the lead up to Tet – a holiday wherein cities emptied out – Ho Chi Minh’s [aka Saigon's] streets flowed with scooter traffic. We were parked in a part of town that allowed easy access to both historical monuments and cramped alleyways stuffed with restaurants, bars, guesthouses, barbers, card players, pho eaters, hawkers, and tourists.
Street view of HCMC during Tet.
And it was hot. Over the space of 3 weeks, we had travelled almost 1,000 miles North to South. Nearly freezing temperatures in Sa Pa had become steaming hot in Saigon. And we had the 6th floor room in a 7 story walk up. We were happy for the small balcony which we spent quality time on in the evening.
The recent history between Vietnam and the US seemed to hover around many of our interactions and experiences. In Ho Chi Minh City, we would spend time exploring this, visiting some of Saigon’s historical buildings and heading outside the metropolitain area to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, an area in Southern Vietnam where anti-American VietCong attacked Saigon, the capital in the South, from a network of small tunnels that finally ended up stretching 400km.
View of HCMC skyline
Common to see a whole family on a motorbike.
One of the many flower and snake displays for Tet (2013 is the year of the snake).
One of the restaurants we visited had an open kitchen across the alley from the front door.
At the Vietnamese Reunification Palace.
A guide at Cu Chi tunnels showing the size of the actual tunnels used during the Vietnam War. The entire Cu Chi tourist area was thick with jungle vegetation and a shooting range on site gave tourists the opportunity to fire machine guns (for ~$1.75/bullet); the noise from the firing range combined with the intense heat and jungle setting offered an additional sensory experience to the history lesson.
And the tunnels they widened for tourists to visit. You could walk up to 100 meters in the tunnels but there were exits every 20 meters, and we found 20 meters was enough to give us the idea.