Friday, August 19, 2016

Rolly and Joyce in Saigon

If I had a list of countries I never would have thought I'd find myself in on my birthday, one would be Vietnam. Nothing against it, really, but I prefer traveling to places with lots of exciting spots to visit and colorful sights to see (e.g. adventure parks, city lights).  Based on the stories I've heard, Vietnam is just so much like the Philippines except that it's very rich in military history, with war relics and artifacts wherever you go.  Well, I am not a history buff but my husband is, big time.  He's been asking me if we could visit this country someday and I always said NO, until I started planning for my 31st birthday.  I relented, because ultimately, what will make my husband happy will make me happy, too. ;)

So off we flew to the largest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named and still also referred to as Saigon. :)
Our home in Saigon: Alagon Central Hotel & Spa at District 1, HCMC.
The location is great, it's very near Ben Thanh market, Reunification Palace,
Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office and Museum.

We arrived in Saigon at 12:20am on July 2 and departed at 01:30am on July 04, which means we were there for two full days. It can't be more than that because we can't have our little baby waiting for us for too long.  

Day 1

War Remnants Museum.  A war museum that contains exhibits about the Vietnam War, but also includes many relics relating to the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists. I'd describe this museum as heart-wrenching, as it gives visitors a view of the 'dirty' warfare of the Americans, and the atrocities they committed against the Vietnamese.  I think the stories told in this museum are pretty one-sided, but it's still a must-see. Not for the faint-hearted though.

Entrance Fee: 15k dong each
Inside the compound where US Army vehicles are displayed as trophies by the victorious Vietnamese army
Helicopters had a lot of uses during the war: to transport wounded soldiers and attack enemies
The saddest part of the museum :(
The awful effects of "Agent Orange" used by the U.S. military as part of its
herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War.

Reunification Palace.  Walking distance from the War Remnants Museum is the Independence Palace designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ. This was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.
Entrance fee: 30k dong each
The facade of the palace. I really gotta be at the foreground, hehe. =P

Lunch at Mon Hue, a Vietnamese fast food restaurant at Ben Than.  We were supposed to check out Ben Than market, but we got hungry after minutes of walking, so we ended up eating instead. The food here is affordable, like everything else in Vietnam.  We ate barbecue pork rolled in steamed rice paper, rice noodles with marinated char-grilled pork, and fried and steamed cakes. (*BURP*)



After lunch was Rolly's most awaited part of the trip, the reason why he wanted to visit Vietnam in the first place... 

Cu Chi Tunnels, an immense network of connecting underground tunnels, used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces.

We booked our Cu Chi Tour in our hotel for 540k VND each. The package was for a group of 9 people max, and it included a coach service, a tour guide, and entrance fees to the tunnels.


The entrance fee itself is only 90k dong per person.


Below, Rolly's squeezing himself in one of the openings of the tunnels. This small entrance (and exit) is unrecognizable especially when it's covered with leaves, making it ideal for ambushing enemy soldiers during the war.



Another entry to the tunnel, this one is enlarged and upgraded
so that it's easier for tourists to pass through.  The real thing is much smaller!
And another entry! :)

Cu Chi also has a shooting range where you can fire a variety of weapons used during the war.  Rolly picked AK47, the weapon of choice among North Vietnamese soldiers because of its durability and reliability.  He was on a high as he was firing!  Ten rounds of ammunition cost 450k VND.



The village of Ben Dinh, the place where the Cu Chi tunnels we visited are, was about an hour and a half away from the city. We arrived back in the city center at around 7pm already.  We only had dinner then it was time for bed. :)


Day 2

It's my birthday already! Woohoo! :) Unlike the previous day when everything was about history, the schedule on July 3 was to visit the must-see spots in the city.

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. Located in the downtown of HCMC, this cathedral was established by French colonists between 1863 and 1880.

The imposing facade of the Cathedral
We were super blessed to arrive in the church right before the English mass schedule at 09:30am. I was so happy because it was my first time to attend mass in another country, and it's so fitting that it happened on my birthday! Hooray! :)

Inside the cathedral :)

Right across the cathedral is Ho Chi Minh's Central Post Office, another French structure designed by Auguste Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux, but is often erroneously credited as being the work of Gustave Eiffel.

The facade of the Post Office
Interior of the Post Office
These phone booths are interesting! :)

As we continued to walk our way through the streets of Saigon, we found a charming French-inspired restaurant - Cafe de la Poste.  It was where I had my "birthday cake." Hehe.

That's my birthday cake sans a candle - matcha mousse! :)

Our next stops were the Saigon Opera House, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, and Ho Chi Min City Museum.  Nothing much to see in these places, really, but since we're already there, might as well take some snaps. :)

Saigon Opera House
Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Ho Chi Minh City Museum

Up next was a very, very heavy lunch at Quan an Ngon 160, a popular Saigon restaurant. We were so full, every single dish was delicious! :)


Everything's healthy and yummy! :)

Our activity in the afternoon was watching a water puppet show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre.  The show depicted the culture and traditions of Vietnamese life through puppets acting on a stage of full of water.  It was accompanied by live music played on authentic Vietnamese instruments.

Before the show started :)

The puppet show was about 45 minutes long, and although it was purely in Vietnamese, it wasn't hard to understand because what the "acting" of the puppets conveyed was pretty obvious.  It was a good show, overall. :)

By nighttime, Rolly and I treated our tired legs to a one-hour massage at the Yuri Spa. :)



And because it's my birthday, we didn't let the trip pass without having a nice dinner! :) It was special because we had dinner on board the La Perle de l’ Orient cruise ship, a beautiful wooden yacht on Saigon river.  The ship was built in 2009 and is 35m length, 8m width and has 3 decks capable of carrying up to 200 guests. 

La Perle de l' Orient
The birthday girl was happy :)
There were even musical performances and dances that you could watch while having your meal,
I just wasn't able to take a photo. :)

And that's it!  A roundup of our Ho Chi Minh trip. The hubby's happy, the wifey's happy, so it's all good! :)


Cheers,


2 comments

  1. Hello Mommy Joyce! :) I really liked this post of yours. and i get really inspired every single time. with this particular post, i noticed that you didn't bring your bubba with you..does this mean you left her at home? if that's the case, how do you do that??? :( my hubby and i really really need some alone time, and every single time we wanna leave the house, i feel so guilty that we end up just being together haha..don't get me wrong, i do enjoy (super) every minute im with my little baby, but of course, the parents need some time together too..

    please advise..thanks so much..:)

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    Replies
    1. Hello Jennilyn! :) You're right, we didn't bring the little one with us. We left her with our angels at home (her yaya + our household help), and we asked her lolo and lola to spend the weekend in our house. I know what you mean, I also feel very guilty whenever we don't tag her along, but "alone time" with the hubby is also important for a healthy and happy married life, so tinitiis talaga namin. :)

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