Gooood morning Vietnam!!!!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Vy Khanh Guesthouse

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hello again everybody!

We're in Can Tho now at the heart of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

Our blog has once again fallen behind our activities mostly due to having 4-5 days wiped out by Anna's mystery illness! (I suspect that it was Dengue fever but it's difficult to be certain).

Anyway, it meant that we had to cram all that we had planned to do in Ho Chi Minh City in a couple of days, which actually turned out to be ample time (moral of our travel – a week is usually too long in any of these cities!).

So here are our adventures from Ho Chi Minh City and we will update with tales of Can Tho soon.

First things first, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is not for the faint hearted! It made Phnom Penh look positively laid back! The traffic was unbelievable, there seemed to be more scooters than people and each road crossing was a death defying experience! The place was huge as well with far more visible wealth than any other place we’ve seen here. We felt completely overwhelmed by this city, although this may have been because we spent the first half of the week confined to our room in the guesthouse and when we did finally venture out it felt like complete sensory overload!

Our first destination was The War Remnants Museum (I much prefer the former name of "The musuem of Chinese and American war crimes" but improved international relations put pay to that!). The grounds of the museum were filled with war time relics – helicopters, including the famous Huey, tanks, fighter jets and many guns and bomb shells. There was a rather grizzly section that showed how Viet Cong POWs were treated during the war. Inside, on the ground floor, there was a large exhibition about international opposition to the war with many anti war and propaganda posters. It was really interesting for us to see this as we don’t often get to hear all that much about this side of the war. The second and third floors focused on the actual events of the war itself and contained many distressing images of the wars victims.

The musuem was incredibly one sided but it did give us both a no holes barred insight into some of the things that took place during the war.

The next day we had arranged a day tour to two of the main sights just outside HCMC – the Cao Dai temple and Cu Chi tunnels. The first stop was at the temple. We arrived just in time for afternoon prayer which was quite a sight. Lots of people in brightly coloured robes, chanting and bowing towards the "All Seeing Eye". The religion has 2 million followers around the world – mostly in southern Vietnam. It was interesting to watch but as agnostics we found ourselves observing from the sidelines rather than understanding and fully appreciating what was going on! (Pretty building though!)

Next up were the Cu Chi tunnels. The Viet Cong built an extensive network of tunnels all over the country. This particular preserved site stretched over 75 miles and even crossed the border into Cambodia in certain areas. Major military operations were planned in these tunnels, which descended ten metres and four layers underground at some points. The fighters (our guide fought during the war) could live in this network for anything up to six months at a time. Some lucky people got to have their honeymoon down there! The guide showed us an example of a camouflaged entrance to the tunnels and demonstrated some of the booby traps (they all seemed to involve being impaled by a bamboo spike).

Towards the end of the tour we were given the opportunity to go into a reconstructed section of the tunnels. Anna contemplated giving it a go but after taking one look at the size, depth and darkness of the tunnels (which had been made larger for fatty tourists – lord knows how small they were originally) changed her mind. I decided to persevere! It’s difficult to describe how cramped, hot and claustophobic it was down there. There were several exits along the 100m stretch so people could get out if they panicked. Anna poked her head down each one in an effort to see me as she thought I’d somehow got stuck/passed out/got lost/had a heart attack and she would have to come down to save me. None of these happened! I stuck it out for the 100m but it was a truly horrid experience that I have no intention of repeating!

Reunification Palace

Our final sight seeing venture was to the Reunification Palace. This was the head quarters of the Government of South Vietnam before national reunification in 1975. This was one of the best historical sights we’ve visited. The building itself was very impressive and had been left almost exactly as it had been in 1975. Everything about the place screamed 'a head of state lives here!’ and every room was so of its time it took almost no imagination to picture Nixon/Kennedy sitting in the grand rooms talking business! We got to have a good nose at everything from the Presidential living quarters to the telecommunications centre in the bomb shelter. It was definitely a highlight of our trip to HCMC.

That brought about the end of our time in the city, and we got ready for yet another bus journey. Next stop Can Tho!

P.s we've just found out how to post more than 5 pics and videos per blog so now you can see more of our snaps!

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