My last day in Vietnam had begun. After almost a month here it had come down to this. My last day.
But last day or not, I had a tour planned today. A half day city tour and in the afternoon the Cu Chi tunnels. Pickup was at 8am and since I had already woken up Willemeijn she came down to breakfast with me. As usual I had a soup, such a great way to start the day, and I noticed that here different herbs were served with it.
Thus energized the tour could begin which it did at the Reunification Palace. The president of South-Vietnam resided here during the Vietnam (American) War and it all ended when a VC (Viet Cong) pilot managed to drop a bomb on top of it. This bomb hit the central staircase which is therefore kept in a state of ‘holiness’. The stairs have been repaired but we weren’t allowed to walk on them. To get to the first floor one had to use the back stairs. Next to the stairs (on both sides) was also a picture of the successful pilot.
The building itself was not so interesting, more the history behind. It was not only the residence of the president, it was also the military headquarter during the war. Anyway, we toured the building including the bunkers and here are the pictures. Quite the cozy residence!
Please note that the president always had to be higher than his guests.
These are real elephant legs (male, female, baby). The children of the president used them as paper baskets or so we were told.
The entertainment room with games, a piano and a pool table.
From the palace we walked a short way to the Notre-Dame Basilica. On the way there I noticed that there really was a lot more traffic in Saigon. I got myself an ice-coffee and then slowly walked over to the church and the Central Post Office right across the street. The post office was designed amongst others by Gustave Eiffel.
While visiting the church there was a choir singing, if you want to hear it, please click here.
And as always there were brides around.
Our last stop on the city tour was the War Remnants Museum. It started slow with pictures taken by American War correspondents of American soldiers and then the further up you went into the museum (it has 3 floors) the more difficult the pictures became to me. The killings and the atrocities and Agent Orange and the aftermath of it. On both sides, but of course they were and still are a lot worse here in Vietnam. Looking at the pictures and reading the stories made me feel so mad at how we could allow it. Actually how we are still allowing really, really bad things to happen all over the world. Have we not learned anything from history? I was glad that I was on a guided tour and there was a time limit to the visit. So in the end I rushed through and couldn’t read everything. So maybe that makes me a coward but there is only so much I can take. If you ever go to HCMC make sure that you go and see the museum. It is well worth your time!
Even in Austria there was a demonstration against the war. It took me a while to find this picture (for Sylvia: there were a couple of demonstrations in Budapest!)
I didn’t want to take closer pictures of what agent orange left behind. I think it is enough that I have seen it and if you are interested you can google it. Not easy to stomach though.
The morning program was over and we went for lunch. Since with the cheap tour I had booked only a light lunch was included I decided to leave the group and have lunch on my own. The other reason was probably that lunch was at my hotel and I found it a little bit weird. The tour for the day by the way was only 10$ but didn’t include any entrance fee. I had to pay all this extra. Still it was quite the bargain.
So I went for lunch three restaurants down and had a fish in clay pot. Really good but full of bones. Took me the better part of my lunch hour to not kill myself on these bones. Still have not mastered the art of eating the fish with the bones, but am working on it. It tasted better than it looked!!
For the afternoon we had a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels planned. These were all around Saigon that’s how far the VC came without the Americans knowing. The visit on site was really amazing. The facts you learn on how they lived underground including their animals. How they disguised the air vents with anthills, how they stole American clothes and dragged them across the tunnel entrances to make sure that the dogs wouldn’t find them.
We started our tour with an introductory movie about the tunnels and then went right into the woods.
We saw all kinds of secret holes and traps in the ground. No wonder the Americans lost the war!
The disguised ventilation shafts. After that we came to a shooting range where you could pay for a round of ten bullets. The weapons and the bullets were still from the Vietnam/American War and they had enough left to sell for a very long time! Unbelievable what the Americans had to leave behind or let’s put it this way, what they had brought into the country in the first place!
After the shooting range we had one more stop in the woods, the tunnels. Everyone who wanted to could go down and try them out. There were exits after 20, 40 and 60m. I managed exactly 20m. The man in front of me was big and blocked out all light. Plus he stopped every couple of meters which made me nervous if there was something ahead. I couldn’t believe that the VC lived down there, had children, raised animals etc. Unbelievable!
When I returned to the Beautiful Saigon 2 Hotel Willemeijn was already there after a day of leisure. Instead of crawling through tunnels she had gone to the museum as well and spent the afternoon in a spa getting pampered.
For dinner we followed a recommendation she had gotten from someone she had met in Dalat. Since the place was a bit further and we had learned from our mistake the night before we got a taxi and sat down before telling the driver where to take us. As it turned out it wasn’t problem at all. We arrived at the restaurant where only locals ate, always a good sign. I can’t really remember the names of what we ordered, but this is what we got.
There was a bit of work involved with dinner since we had to put the little pancakes and also the big one (broken into pieces) on a salad leaf and then roll it. So delicious!!
Since it was our last evening together and the last one in Vietnam for the both of us, we decided on drinks at the nearby Shri Bar which as I have just found out is the number 1 rooftop bar in Saigon. The view was lovely and drinks were excellent. Yours, Pollybert