We made a whistle-stop tour of Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. HCMC or Saigon) – a one day trip on foot around as many sights as we could squeeze in. We saw a couple of museums, a palace, a few markets and various other significant landmarks – all thanks to the Lonely Planet’s walking tour that we followed.
However, before all that, the night we arrived 2 interesting things happened. Firstly, Vietnam had won a football match that night against Malaysia in the SEA (South East Asia) Games in Vientiane. This meant that pretty much the whole city was on the streets riding their motorbikes and waving Vietnamese flags – mad & noisy! They’re obviously big football fans here! Secondly, I almost got into a fight with our taxi driver, who, after getting lost, wanted extra money. The exchange ended with him throwing some stuff on the ground and storming off. Not a great start.
However the rest of HCMC was actually really nice – less manic than Hanoi and with more friendly people (from what we experienced anyway). The place we spent most time was Reunification Palace, where we took advantage of one of the free tours, which very much helped in having an appreciation of the history of the palace and also the country. The two are rather intertwined – the North Vietnamese army stormed the palace to relieve the American-supported South Vietnamese president from power (“The American puppet regime” as they like to call it). My favourite quote from that day goes something like this: Southern President “I have been waiting to hand over power since morning”, Northern Commander “You can’t hand over, what you don’t have, but we’ll accept your unconditional surrender.” – CRUNCH! 🙂
After a few other stops, we headed, along with a hoard of other backpackers (there must have been at least 20 other people doing the same – just on one day) to the bar at the top of the Sheraton hotel, floor 23. The view was lovely as we watched the sun descend over the city, sipping expensive-but-worth-it cocktails, nibbling the free snacks and giving our tired feet a rest.