Friday, November 1, 2019

One Day In Ho Chi Minh City: What To Do?

After my wonderful trip in Danang, I flew back to Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) for two nights because Dexter, my partner, has never seen Saigon before. It was his first time in Vietnam and I thought might as well see a little of the city before heading back home. If you are wondering, picture above is an expensive Vietnamese coffee that we've tried from Legend Coffee. The shop is easily found around Ho Chi Minh city. It was pretty good.

Now although I said I spent two nights there, but really, due to our flight timing, we really only had one day to really tour the city. Thankfully for the team from Rubicon Tours and, they managed to customise our tour according to our flight timing. Even though we only had a day, they ensured that there's a good mix of educational, cultural, historical, and modern visitation. We love the flexibility of our travel agents.
We got to stay at a beautiful hotel located at a super strategic area where Ben Thanh Market is only a few minutes walk away. Gracy R&J Hotel is a recently rebranded hotel, previously known as Lotus Central Hotel. We got one of the best rooms that has a massage chair in it! Trust me, the massage chair helped especially when you are constantly on foot during your trip. My only issue with it is the hot water in the bathroom, unfortunately, I can't seem to get them stay hot for long. After every 5 minutes, it goes chilly. I've tried asking the hotel people twice but they weren't much help as every time they come, the warm water seemed fine to them. I just gave up and have quick showers only. Other than that, I really do like the place. It was pretty, luxurious feeling, clean, and comfortable. The staffs were overall friendly and the breakfast spread had quite a variety. Check out the detailed review here.

We left for our tour pretty early in the morning as our guide want to make sure we'll get to experience Cuchi Tunnels before all the other tourist flock the place. Plus, with the early ride, we got to experience the extreme traffic of Saigon when everyone was trying to get to work.
I've been to Cuchi Tunnels once, when I was really young, this was a good refresher to what it's all about. Being able to explore the vast network of underground tunnels from the 1940s, made for the guerrilla Viet Cong Forces during the American War, it was interesting to learn about the hiding and living places as well as seeing all the gruesome battle items used to trap its enemies.
Speaking of war, enhance your experience by taking a trip to the War Remnants Museum. This place was established in 1975 and it's definitely not for the fainthearted as the images and displays from the American War are extremely graphic. However, a place I would definitely recommend spending more time to read and walk through the whole place if you are interested in such history.
If you are up for it, you can continue learning about the American War journey by visiting the Re-Unification Palace as the place was designed by Ngo Viet Thu for South Vietnam's former President Ngo Dinh Diem during the American War. We got to see the unique underground bunker where it holds the war room, telecommunication centre, and equipments used back then.
We drove by the Notre Dame Cathedral, it was under renovation, and Saigon Central Post Office. Stopped somewhere nearby for a walking tour to Nguyen Hue Street in the middle of District one, where all the fancy people lives with their luxury hotels and malls. Here, we stopped by outside Cafe Apartment for a picture. This landmark offers over 30 businesses that fills all you tea and coffee addicts' palate.
Finally, no tour doesn't end with a little shopping. At least this time, we actually have items we'd like to buy. Saigon Square Market and Ben Thanh Market are some of the best shopping spots in Saigon. They sell everything from ceramics, clothes, coffee, nuts, and more! Our guide were extremely kind to assist us when we told him our list and brought us to a stall that had a friendly seller with reasonable pricing.

Overall, we had a great time understanding a little bit about the American-Vietnam War. It was very real and it makes you feel something as well as provides some rationalisation in your that war is really not the answer to everything. Plus, our guide had a way of explaining to us about Vietnam, past and present, in the most funny yet relatable way.

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