The 5 must see’s of Saigon

AKA Ho Chi Minh city, whatever you prefer to call it.

These are what I believe to be the tourist necessities when visiting the city of Saigon. 

1. Cu Chi Tunnels
To come to Ho Chi Minh and not travel to see the Cu Chi tunnels is almost criminal. 

A system of underground access tunnels and living space at 3, 6 and 10 metres deep, that spans over 250km. The area inhabited 48,000 people over its decades. 

  Equipped with live booby traps, deliberate misdirected pathways to confuse and capture the enemy and hidden termite holes on all levels to allow oxygen to pass through the caves. The place is a well thought out architectural phenomenon.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why this hasn’t been voted as a man made wonder of the world? 
  
There was so much creativity and genius involved in the building and upkeep of the Cu Chi tunnels. It really reflects the intelligence, strong will and pride of the Cu Chi people and the lengths in which they went to to survive and fight for their country. 

A Tour guide takes you around the area to show the different entrances, weapons made and gives you a great history lesson of the war and its affect on Vietnam and Cu Chi. My favourite part was when we had a chance to crouch through the caves. The holes have been expanded by 30% to allow for tourists to pass through and they are still tiny! 
  
The tour only cost around 120,000 VND per person which includes an English speaking tour guide and your transport. Entry fee at the tunnels is 110,000 VND. Well worth the day out for 7 or so pound. 

2. War Remnants Museum

This is not a place for the weak stomached. 

The War Remnants museum documents the decades of war between the Vietnamese and the U.S. from a Vietnamese view point. This is achieved through a series of 8 themed exhibits including ‘aggressive war crimes’ and ‘Historical Truths’.

  
The outside area is filled with various war tanks and fighter planes that were used over the decades. 

Inside, you can expect some facts, figures and showcases of weapons but its mostly filled with graphic war photography. Including my personal favourite ‘Requiem’; a collection of photographs taken by photojournalists who died in Vietnam and Indochina.

  The outside display of the prison conditions are gruesome and barbaric. This was a tough one, even for me. I had so many mixed emotions when visiting here and left in a state of shock. I witnessed a few tears shed by fellow tourists too.

  
It remains open to promote World Peace and saying no to war. Such a lovely message to promote.

To think that the Vietnamese and Americans now have a good relationship is quite remarkable; considering that millions of Vietnamese (10% of the population in fact) are still affected by Agent Orange. It really reflects the loving, forgiving and peaceful nature of the Vietnam people. 

There isn’t really any way you can prepare for this beautiful yet terrifying tourist attraction, but it’s a definite must see. 

3. Notre Dame Cathedral

This 60m high attraction officially known as the ‘Basilica of our Lady of Immaculate Conception’ was built by the French colonists following their conquest of the city.

The attraction was purposefully designed to show the influence that the French civilisation and Christianity had over Saigon and was the most beautiful of its kind when it was built in the 1860s.  

 In front of the Cathedral stands a statue of the Virgin Mary, surrounded be a very well kept and picturesque garden setting (perfect selfie background inserted here).

4. Saigon Post Office

..parked right next to the Cathedral so you can kill two birds with one stone (Not literally. I love birds).

 
5. The Independent Palace

Aww what a beautiful site. The palace is symbolic of the end of the Vietnam War. 

On April 30, 1975, the famous 843 North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through the gates of the palace, which at the time was the residence of the President of the Republic of Vietnam.

There is a lovely fountain out front and lots of perfectly mowed grass which makes it a great picnic spot. Unfortunately I hit the town early doors and the park didn’t open until 1.20pm, so I only see the view from behind the high security bars. Fear not, just go at the right time and you can take a tour around the palace and it’s grounds. 

What we missed/passed on that may be of interest

We missed another puppet show! I completely forgot that they had them in Saigon as well as Hanoi. 

There is also a lovely big theatre if you have time to catch a performance.

A tour across the Mekong Delta – I’ve heard this is great from fellow travellers but we just didn’t have the time. An alternative to a day trip would be 2 days border crossing to Phnom Penh which includes getting a boat across the river if you’re heading this way. 
Feel free to add your own must sees or opinions on these below! 
LwL x

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Hectic Hanoi: Exploring day 1 and 2

Where the weather is shitty but the sights are quite pretty.. 

Ah, the political capital of Vietnam, a peaceful living yet crazy place with a population of 7 million people. 

You could easily lose yourself in this place for 3 days, just don’t forget to look, and look again when you run across the roads. Unfortunately Vietnam is very similar as Thailand in the sense that there are no rules on the road! (You think I’d be used to it by now) 

  
Hanoi as a city boasts lots of attractions that educates on the history of Vietnam. There’s the Hoa Lo Prison, the Museum of Literature, Ho Chi Minh museum and Saint Joseph’s Cathedral, not to mention the beauties of the Botanical Gardens and Ho Hoan Kiem Lake. Most of which we have visited over our time here. 

Here is a low down of our itinerary and the sites/attractions we saw in those days. I hope this helps if your wondering what to see/how much time you may need etc. 

Day 1

We arrived in Hanoi at 9am from Bangkok. As we had slept at the airport the night before; or not slept should I say, we went straight to our hotel and slept until about 3pm. Basically we wasted a whole morning where we could’ve seen more things but we sleep was more important at that time. 

Temple of Literature

We spent the afternoon at the temple of Literature. This was Vietnams first university. It is one of several temples in Vietnam which is dedicated to Confucius, sages and scholars. 

   
 The area has a lovely garden, shrines and rock carvings of doctors and graduates and is only 30,000 VND to enter (just under £1).    

 Location:

  

Day 2

On our second day in Hanoi we went to Hoa Lo prison museum and took a walk around the area of the Botanical Gardens 

Hoa Lo Prison

What a fascinating museum! A prison built by the French that detained up to 2000 political prisoners and US pilots during the Vietnam War. 

Most of the prison was knocked down in 1997 to make way for the Hanoi towers. Don’t be disheartened though, architects preserved some of the old prison to create the museum. What lies in tact is a creepy enough atmosphere for you to experience.  

 There’s a horrifying array of instruments of torture and solitary confinement cells (of which you can enter) also on display is the sewage pipes in which  some prisoners escaped in August 1945. 

  Definitely worth a few hours of your time, and it’s only 30,000 VND to enjoy!  

Bach Thao Park/Hanoi Botanical gardens   This is a big beautiful park with a lake and home of many rare species of plant. It is one of the few green areas left in industrialised Hanoi. 

 
 In the 1890s, the French imported many exotic tropical plants from all over the world to make up a rainforest right at the heart of the city. Cool huh? 
  Lots of people come here to relax, socialise, admire, study and participate in Tai Chi exercise (yes I crept in for a few moves).

  
  

I presume this would be lovely to lunch in on a hot sunny day, unfortunately we didn’t have that luxury, being January and cold.

Entry fee is just 2000 VND (6p). 

  
There’s lots around the area of the garden, including the Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and museum. All of which we passed for a photo op of course. 

   
One Pillar Pagoda

 
   

 

Ho Chi Minh Museum
  
Mausoleum  


The presidential palace is located right next to the gardens, which was completed in 1906 to house the Frend government-general of Indochina. You can do a tour here and see the palace for a 25k entrance fee but we chose not to, we was all info’d out for the day. 

So that’s our first 2 days, keep an eye out for day 3 and a Hanoi nightlife post! 

LwL x 

Hellfire Pass: Kanchanaburi 

After lunch we headed to Hellfire Pass. The museum of the railway built by Thai prisoners of war during World War || to enable Japanese soldiers to travel to Burma to fight their enemies from there.   
  The location holds a contrast of feelings. The backdrop is beautiful but the reality of the pain and suffering that people experienced is overwhelming. There is even a memorial area for Kiwis, Australians, British and American troops that were taken as prisoners.

  
I have to say, as we didn’t know we was spending the afternoon here we did not come prepared at all. The 2.5km walk was painful considering it was all rocks and steps and I was wearing my flip flops! Lesson learnt – always wear walking shoes. 

  
  
Our last evening at Kitti Raft was spent drinking beer, watching the sun go down and lots of drunken beer talk. The scenery was so beautiful, and it was a nice feeling to know that this is my life for the next 4 months. 

   
 3 days ago I hated beer, but the options here are pretty much beer or water. So sober or drunk. Considering that I hadn’t had a great nights sleep since we got here because I’ve been ill, opted for the beer in the hope id pass out in bed drunk. To be fair, the more you drink the better it tastes. I will be a beer drinking pro by the time I get home, my brother will be thrilled ha. 
It worked – slept straight through! Well until 5.30 but it’s an improvement for my 1am interruptions. 

Bed time and early start ready for the Erawan Waterfalls 

LwL x