We decided to take a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, which is in the south of Vietnam. The bus was meant to take six hours, including the border crossing…but it ended up taking nearly 8. When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh, we were amazed how busy the roads were! No one was paying any attention to the roads signs or traffic lights, motorbikes were screeching past (on the roads and on the bloomin’ pavements!) – it was madness! We decided to walk to our hostel because we had a vague idea where it was…it’s amazing, even when you have a huge rucksack on your back and a rucksack on your front, people will still try and persuade you to pop into their shop for a look around, a massage or dinner!
We made it to our hostel, Luan Vu and slowly made our way up four flights of stairs to our room. After the three flights of stairs in the last place, we were at least a little prepared for them! We then headed out for dinner and I tried my first Pho (pronounced Fur), which was very comforting. It’s basically a broth with slivers of beef, spring onions, flat rice noodles and chopped coriander but it’s really tasty!
The next day we went to explore and were keen to book a water puppet show. However, about ten minutes after we left the hostel, it began to pour with rain. Torrential. We took shelter in a café for a while and then continued our journey to the water puppet theatre. We booked the tickets and then decided to head back to the hotel as the weather was foul.
The following day it was bright glorious sunshine so we went out sightseeing. Our first stop was supposed to be the Revolutionary Museum, but alas it was closed… so we headed in what we thought was the direction of the War Remnants Museum. After a while, we arrived at various luxury designer shops and a huge mall so, seeking an air-conditioned break from the heat, we went inside. There was even a Debenhams in there! We wandered around for a bit before finding a boulangerie, which was incredible! Just what we needed! It was called Tous Les Jours and after finding that one, we started seeing them everywhere.
After the mall, we headed out in search of actual sights… We passed the Cathedral Notre-Dame, which was everything we expected from a cathedral but still nice.
Then, just across from that was a big post office with interesting architecture inside.
We wandered past the opera house before making our way back to the hostel, realising that the museum would now be closed.
The following day, we made our way to the War Remnants Museum and it was a fascinating though harrowing place. Outside there were various planes, tanks and other machinery which were used in the Vietnam War.
Then you can go into the special cells in Con Dao jail.
This was where the French colonials imprisoned and tortured hundreds of Vietnamese who were opposed to the regime. It was pretty horrific reading about what some of the officers did to the inmates.
After that, you make your way inside. Neither of us really had any idea what the reasons were for the Vietnam war before and we were shocked by what we read and saw when we were in there. The worst bit was learning about Agent Orange and the impact it had on people at the time as well as the ongoing issues it is causing for people now. The legacy of this horrendous weapon of chemical warfare is still a huge problem in Vietnam, children are being born today with disabilities, disfigurements and other tragic diseases if their parents or grandparents have been exposed to the chemical. This mainly affects people living or working on farms or in fields because the chemical remains in the soil for years and years. As well as images of the people affected by Agent Orange, there were also little biographies and it was inspiring to read how some of these people are embracing life, some are producing crafts to sell, paintings that they’ve done with their feet because they were born without arms, writing poetry, making glass ornaments etc. I found myself moved to tears in this museum.
In the evening, we had tickets to the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre which was amazing! We’ve never seen anything like it!
The next day we were flying to Hanoi but not flying until late, fortunately we had found a free cinema which was playing Monsters University and Shrek 2 – win! So we waited in there for a few hours before our flight!