Ho Chi Minh|Tri-City Tour

We made our way to Ho Chi Minh City, the last stop of the tour. Some still refer to this place as Saigon which is the old name of Ho Chi Minh. The last 3 days of the tour were spent in this beautiful Vietnamese city.

If you’re joining me just now, I’ve been writing about a Tri-City tour I booked through Eon Travel and Tours for only Php 28,800. The tour package I got gave me the opportunity to travel to three countries. Namely Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. 3 stamps on my passport in 7 days! How awesome is that?! You can read about Bangkok here: Bangkok|Tri-City Tour and Siem Reap here: Siem Reap|Tri-City Tour

We left Siem Reap at 7am via private bus to bring us to Phnom Penh. The time it took was 5 hours to reach the Cambodian capital. From there we took the Mekong Express, a bus liner that takes us straight to Ho Chi Minh City. The bus left Phnom Penh at 2pm, we passed through the border and immigration of Cambodia and entered vietnam around 7pm and we arrived in Ho Chi Minh almost quarter to 9 in the evening. The Tri-City tour is a journey. It’s filled with transitions and long bus rides. Make sure you find a way to make the most out of those long down times. Bring a book, blog, journal or make a friend on the bus! Whatever you choose to do will make the time pass for you much faster. I recommend making a friend on the tour or on the bus. So mentally you must prepare yourself to be sitting for long periods of time. The rewards at the end of those long trips are well worth it though especially the memories, sights and experiences that can enrich one’s soul. Upon arriving late in Ho Chi Minh, my mind was set to not let a day of exploration go to waste. However late it was, I made my way around Saigon to take in some sights and local wonders.

Saigon

As a Filipino what comes to mind when you hear the word Saigon is Lea Salonga with her world class performance in the broadway hit Miss Saigon. A story of a doomed love between an American GI and a Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam war. Of course that story was about finding love in one of the most brutal times in history. And the Vietnam experience reminds us exactly about that.

On the day tour we set out for the well known Cu Chi Tunnels to give us a glimpse of how the locals fought during the Vietnam war. But before we got there we stopped by an art workshop. They specialized in making Laquer art combined with duck egg shells as well as mother of pearl shell art. However, what made these artworks more special was the fact that these are the source of livelihood for various persons with disabilities. It’s amazing how they can create beautiful works of art on a daily basis.

A worker creates stencils for the next step of the process.
Worker scrapes off the black coating to reveal the mother of pearl in beautiful art.
Purchased my own piece of art to help the disabled folk. I like to call it “Sunset and Solitude”

CUCHI TUNNELS

After the workshop we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels was an intricate system of tunnels the local Vietnamese fighters used to traverse between towns and houses. The local fighters built elaborate pathways, traps weapons to fight back.

A decommissioned tank.
Mannequins simulate how to locals would re-use scavenged materials from the battle field.
A field actor simulates how the local fighters could hide in tunnels quickly.
Remaining artillery from the Vietnam war.

WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM

After seeing the Cu Chi Tunnels we head back to the city to visit the War Remnants Museum. This place was a 4 story structure dedicated to the memory of the Vietnam war, the history, the atrocities. Honestly, my heart broke when I visited the exhibit. I could not take pictures to share what was the very essence of the museum. I would recommend for one to study a bit of history, prepare your mind for some heart and gut wrenching photos and stories from the war. I’m posting pictures here from some of the lighter things I saw. I would however invite you to dive on your own here to learn more about this dark period in modern times.

I left the War Remnants Museum a bit depressed. The thought that mankind even in the most modern times has had to hurt one another in order to achieve some outrageous goal. At what cost? Thousands of lives?

On a lighter note we went around Saigon to see some of the old structures.

Saigon Post Office.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon. This is here because there was a period in time that the French occupied Vietnam.

However historically eye opening that day went, we ended the trip on a lighter note by being treated to a dinner on a cruise along the Saigon River. Where we were entertained with musical and dance numbers.

All aboard!
The locals in traditional costumes entertain guests with dance numbers.

THE LOCAL BREW and SPECIALTY DISH

Of course if you’ve been following me, I’ve also been exploring the local brews and food in the past 2 countries so when in Vietnam, you have to try:

Street side Pho. Only Cost 70,000 Vietnamese Dong.

LOCAL NIGHT SCENE

If you’re done with all the history and sightseeing make sure to head on down Saigon’s walking street called the Bui Ven. This place is popular with locals and tourists for all the bars and entertainment.

Bui Ven packed during the Halloween Night celebrations.

I enjoyed Saigon because of its friendly locals, it’s a walkable city and of the great food and the Vietnamese coffee.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE TOUR

So the 7 days happened in what I believe was a bit of a blur. Here I am writing, realising that tomorrow I’ll be heading back to work. But the past 7 days have been nothing short of a perfect adventure. The whole tour package took care of all the transportation and hotel concerns in each of the countries, not to mention easy access to all the important sights. I’d describe the whole tour as an enriching experience. I’m going back home to the Philippines with memories of awesome side-trips, luggage filled with paper weights and ref magnets from each countries, coffee and art from Vietnam, and a camera roll filled with pictures and videos.

So if you do get the chance to go on this tour don’t even think twice! Go book it! Go out there. See the world, find some amazing sights, meet new people, learn a language, eat some strange food. I assure you, you will see the world differently.

“Lost Stars” by the Saigon River.

All photos took were taken using a Samsung Note 8.

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