After weeks of travel and lots of movement between cities, we were feeling pretty exhausted. Carrying everything you own on your back every few days is tiring. Keeping an eye on your stuff is tiring. Sleeping on trains, planes, and buses is hard work…you get the idea. We were excited to see a new city, but we were also excited for a nap.
We visited Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) on the advice of a former resident. While she warned us it was a big city, we were surprised by just how integrated it was. The old alley ways, dotted with temples somehow still fit with the new malls filled with designer clothes, bags, and shoes.
We only had a weekend to enjoy Ho Chi Minh, but we were also feeling a little homesick, quite fatigued and to be honest, a bit grumpy. We made a deal, we would sightsee on Saturday and relax on Sunday.
Taking it all in
Ho Chi Minh has plenty to offer to tourists, but to ensure we had enough time to soak it up, we picked our top four places to visit and started walking. Here’s what you’ll find if you do the same:
Notre Dame Cathedral
A Colonial red-brick church with square towers, the Catholic cathedral is named after the Virgin Mary. There is only a small foyer space for visitors to walk through, that ensures the rest of the church is used by parishioners. From the visitor’s section, you can still see some of the old stained glass windows. You’ll also find tablets on all the walls, many of which say ‘Merci’, or “thank you” in French.
Central Post Office
Built between 1886 and 1891, the gorgeous Central Post office is right across the road from Notre Dame. Here you will find fascinating historic maps of South Vietnam painted on the walls and a mosaic of Ho Chi Minh at the end of the long hall. If that’s not enough to look at check out the beautiful tiled floor and the beautiful buttercup yellow and green colour combo that pops up often around the city.
War Remnants Museum
Here you’ll find a harsh and confronting look at the decades of conflict that impacted Vietnam in the 20th century. Some of it is hard to look at it and read but getting a non-western view on what happened during the war is deeply interesting. We needed some time to reflect afterwards and you might too.
An outstanding example of 1960s architecture, the site of the Reunification Palace has quite a history. First built on in the late 1860s, the site has held residences for a host of important people. When tanks rolled through the gates in 1975, even as government staff met inside, it signalled the end of combat in the Vietnam war. Still styled as it was then, the palace is where you’ll find what life was like for the wealthy back then. You’ll find beautiful art, elaborate meeting rooms, and a basement full of technology when you pass through.
We promised ourselves a day of relaxation, so headed straight to the local mall for some Vietnamese food, fast food styles! We enjoyed the air conditioning, read some books, window shopped and wiled the day away, just like a real weekend.
Avoiding the rain
Whereever possible we have tried to reduce the amount of stuff we carry. Partially because lugging stuff around isnt fun, espeically in the heat, but mostly becuase its a safety risk. For example, no-one can pick pocket you if there is nothing in your pockets!
We sometimes get it wrong though and Ho Chi Minh was a good example of this. Not once, but twice, we ventured out of our hostel and into the city without umbrellas only to get caught in monsoon-like rain. We learnt our lesson and now we’re getting better at carrying our umbrells with us.
Where to next?
Well, its time to visit our very last country in South East Asia, Camobida!