Sunday, June 22, 2008

First day in Ho Chi Minh City

People who are close to me know that I was stressed last December 2007 that's why I decided to take this trip. Armed with a single backpack that contained a few days of clothings, laptop and camera gear, I went off and flew to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) all with last minute arrangements. Even my family back then didn't know where I was going.

I arrived in Tan Son Nhat International Airport which was at that time started to operate only for about 3 months prior.

I immediately took a cab from the airport upon arrival and went to my hotel in District 1. I had a hard time speaking to the driver but it was a good thing that I took note of the hotel phone number so I let the receptionist talk to the driver instead for the directions.

I stayed for one night in Duc Vuong Hotel. It is a low-cost hotel/hostel targetted for budget travellers and backpackers. Modest but decent, it has all the necessary amenities including hot shower, refrigerator, cable TV and even free wi-fi internet access! Definitely a good value for the money.

A guide was already waiting for me in the lobby when I arrived. Upon check-in, I just left my bag in the reception who promised to bring it to my room and I immediately went out for a trip.

On the way passed by a coffee festival in a park.

We went first to the Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất), also known as Independence Palace. It was officially the house of the country's leader on the southern part of Vietnam.

Inside the palace are beautiful rooms and structures that were once open only for the top government official.

On the way to our next stop (War Museum), it was surprising for me to see a Jollibee outlet, a well-known Filipino fastfood, right in Vietnam! Chicken Joy galore!

Our next destination was the War Remnants Museum, a museum containing the relics of the Americans in relation to the Vietnam War.

The museum comprises of themed rooms and replicas of tiger cages, most of which are eerie and hair-raising.

After the War Remnants Museum, we had a stop at the Central Post Office, a historic building constructed during the time of French invasion with Gothic style architecture.

These are the pictures inside the post office. Right in the middle was a picture of Ho Chi Minh himself.

Right across the Post Office was the Notre-dame Basilica, a cathedral built by the French colonists.

During lunch time, we had a meal in Dong Du/Le Mekong Restaurant.

This is the list of what I had for lunch.

Translated in english, here's the menu.

Vietnamese food was a bit spicy, similar to Thai but milder. It was indeed a feast for me.

After lunch we travel far north to the Củ Chi Tunnels. The place is comprised of a network of underground tunnels that served as hiding spots of the military in resistance to American forces.

We were also shown of some hide-outs and trap doors.

A Bomb Crater

The tunnels was our last destination and we immediately went back to the hotel after because it was an hour and a half away. I entered my room and saw my things were already in place. Here's how my room looked like.

I went out to buy a bus ticket for Siem Reap and explored more of the nearby areas.

Come dinner time, I had my meal in Sau Ma, located in Pham Ngu Lao street where I bought my bus ticket.

What I had was fish with corn peppers, garlic and onion. It was a great food for a cheap price too! Generally food in Vietnam is cheaper than ours in the Philippines.

Across the restaurant was some sort of a kiddie park.

Crossing the other side of the park was a church. I took time to visit the place, pray for the deceased and thank God for my safe trip.

Throught the city, it is fascinating to see that the spirit of Christmas is everywhere. I was told that Vietnam is not really a Christian country in general but the presence of French colonization had earmarked Christianism in Ho Chi Minh City.

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