When you bump into a whole bunch of crocodile meat on the table while strolling the Food Market or having a Vietnamese coffee from the top of Bitexco Financial Tower, it’s no ordinary short vacation. Because the extraordinary is what visiting the Ho Chi Min is all about. I mean, I only stayed two nights in this place, so as much as possible I want to have a transformative travel rather than exiting from the place without a purpose. So, I figured to focus on the things I just wanted to see and experience on hand.
So, I highly recommend to act like a local not merely a tourist when you are in a travel market when spotting unique places in Ho Chi Min City.
1. Remembrance Day at Chu Chi Tunnels
The highlights of the entire tour in Chu Chi tunnels was not only crawling through tunnels, eating boiled cassava that soldiers living in the tunnels would have eaten and firing an Ak-47 on a firing range, which I totally don’t understand why I need to buy at least 10 bullets that would cost me 22$ wherein, I could have just shoot one or two. So, I reevaluated myself if getting what I want means I left empty-handed. No way! This is not the only firing range on this planet! Back off Tina baby! Lol.
Soon, I looked out the blurry bus window while heading back to the city packed with fascinating facts how brave the old soldiers are, to face such a battle where death was certain just to keep the Vietnamese free from American domination during Vietnamese war.I mean this in the most humble way possible that we have to respect those who fight for our country and for our freedom.
2. Pictures of Truth of the War Remnants Museum
A one and a half hour trip from the Chu Chi tunnel to the city, while it might take me forever for a non-stop talk with my New Yorker busmate who happened to be a pre-school teacher like me, not until when the tour guide snapped and asked me if I was going to War Remnants Museum so that he can ask the driver to drop me off. Such a kind gesture, though.
Soon, I arrived at the museum where the helicopters and tanks displayed outside the place. As you went up to each floor of the building, you can find a huge room filled with photos that shows terrible effects that come as a result of the war along the big guns and massive bombs were used by the soldiers during the battle and all about various events of the Vietnam War. And I couldn’t imagine how the photo journalist keep their elbows tucked and their hands steady from ruining the pictures just to send the message all over the world especially when you’re in the warzone. Would you rather take a photo or witness a child’ death?
3. The One Mind comes from the Independence Palace
If I were given a chance to know one’s own mind, it would be the leader of the country. This kind of thought resonates with me when I went up to the helicopter pad on the roof top and when I overheard one of the tourist guide said “This is the most important room in the palace because this is the place where all the decisions of the President come from” while pointing the meditation room.Oh, pooofff! That’s right man! When he feels upset he can move the country into war or when he feels passionate he can attain the needs of the country. So, I wonder how he handles his 24 hours a day.
In addition, I think the highlight for me as well was getting lost through the dark and creepy basement and stunned by the huge maps on the walls emblazoned with the color-coding war zones. And also, the palace kitchen, still equipped with old school machines not to mention that it was my first time to visit a palace. The whole experience was pretty epic!
4. The Statue of the Hero on Ho Chi Min Square
The Ho Chi Min Square was my last entry of the night where my Japanese friend dragged me down excitedly to witness how locals partied in a full swing from getting picture from a Mascot to setting up a small blanket layered with a lot of foods and drinks to taking a selfie in the background of Ho Chi Min Statue. In short, they do enjoy such so called freedom.
But I always wonder why locals still prefer to call the city Saigon instead of Ho Chi Min, it was like he is unknown to others. Perhaps there are some stories were remain untold or propaganda. I can’t fully grasped my own opinion right now because I only knew a small portion of this significant person who sheltered in Pac Bo Cave in Cao Baong province and was a writer and poet which I admired him for being sarcastic like Karl Marx not to mention that I stumbled a powerful message on a display and it says ” Every weak person will make the entire nation weak, every strong person will make the entire nation strong” when I visited Ha Long City and lastly, I have found out that he is a Catholic when I was strolling around the city aside from the Wikepedia. Well, this man has my utmost respect because I know he has a great contribution to Vietnamese Independence.
5. Eat. Pray. Write.
I planned ahead and stayed in District 1 because my research says that, this place is way safer compare to other districts since a bunch of security guards are visible in this area. Plus, you caught two fishes with one worm because you can hunt the top spots in Cong Xa Paris Street in District 1. (Double thumbs up!)
First, I visited Notre Dame Cathedral, which I found myself fortunate because the lady on the guard let me go inside since I never look like a tourist not to mention that it was Good Friday where you might notice purple cloths draped over crucifixes and altars. Stunned by the very fact that a number of Catholics celebrated the Lenten Season in a manner of solemn prayers.
After feeling at peace, I went outside from the church and headed down to the Central Post Office, which is right across the way from Notre Dame Church. Once, you walk into the post office, buy a postcard and scribble some messages, stamp it and send it home to your family and friends right then and there aside from admiring Gustave Eiffel for the design of this amazing work of architecture, the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
And lastly, no authentic travel experience without local foods to touch, smell and eaaaattttt. Fortunately, my friend and I have another good food spot walking distance from the Central Post Office where we ordered a bowl of pho and a plate of chicken wings. Soooooo gooood! The taste of the chicken wings is making a statement, for sure. Yummers
Perhaps, some of you might have asked me that I should stay a bit longer so that I could visit some interesting places like Opera House, Water Puppet Show, Starlight Bridge and so on. However, my goal was not only to spot iconic places in person but also hitting an authentic experience, local connections and cultural insights are my complete pie of recipe. For me, that’s what matters most. I mean, travelling abroad is not a joke, it’s EXPENSIVE. And you don’t want to bring your luggage back home with only a camera filled with your snapshots without a meaning. I tell you sweetie, you may have been to Disneyland, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.