Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.
This is a city that churns, ferments, bubbles and fumes. The streets, where much of the city’s life takes place, are a jumble of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. It’s impossible not to be infected by its exhilarating vibe.
If Beijing is “the City of Bicycles”, then Ho Chi Minh City is “the Capital of Motorbikes”! Ho Chi Minh city’s road system is in pretty bad shape man. Many of its streets are riddled with potholes. This is especially true of the city’s numerous back streets and alleys, which are sometimes little more than dirt paths.
The richness of Vietnam’s origins is evident throughout its culture. Spiritual life in Vietnam is a grand panoply of belief systems, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Tam Giao (literally ‘triple religion’), which is a blend of Taoism, popular Chinese beliefs, and ancient Vietnamese animism.
On our first night in HCM city, we had the pleasure of eating at Song Ngu ( 70, Suong NguyetAnh, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam +84 8 832 5017). This place was really cool!
Life traditional music coaxed from the skillful fingers of pretty maidens dressed in the traditional “ao dai” .. could make the toughest man, weak at the knees ;P
Man.. tomorrow, we better get some exercise in.. or else… ;P
Welcome to CU CHI tunnels. The rattle and pop of automatic weapons greet a visitor. Young women in the black pajamas of the Vietcong flit through the woods. A man in green fatigues picks his way down a narrow trail, leading a small platoon of foreign tourists.
This is the site of the Cu Chi tunnels, one of the most famous battlegrounds of the Vietnam War. Today it is one of the country’s prime tourist attractions, part of a new industry – war tourism! Sometimes, these spots seem to be memorials to wartime propaganda as much as to the war itself… imagine that?!
Following the man in green fatigues, we arrive at an open-sided hut, where the women in black show us to our seats. There, on a big-screen television set, the Vietnam War plays on – B52’s drop strings of bombs, villagers run for cover, communist guerrillas fight back.
For those who still don’t get the message, a narrator says-
Wow! I wanted to jump up and down and Cheer! …erm, but of course i didn’t. That would be too much of a ‘sore thumb’ right.. harhar:P
But seriously folks, since the war ended in 1975 with a communist victory, Vietnam has rebuilt and moved on. It is almost impossible to find anyone who still talks like the soundtrack of the Cu Chi film! (0f course la.. who can keep up being so DRAMA QUEEN, you tell me). Even the young women in black, who work as guides and ground keepers, dismiss the hard language, repeating instead today’s government line – ” We are all friends”… dum dee dum…
The Cu Chi tunnels, a 75-mile-long underground maze where thousands of fighters and villagers could hide, are just totally amazing!
A trap door on the jungle floor leads down into the Cu Chi tunnels. Closed and camouflaged, it is almost undetectable.
The fighters and villages even cooked in these underground “homes” and the smoke from the cooking would be discreetly let out through these holes you see in the ground. The moss you see are a sign that these are cooking holes and the American soldiers would use the moss as signals for places the fighters lived/cooked.
Be warned… not for those who suffer from ‘claustrophobia’..
This is Lemongrass. One of my fav restuarants in HCM city. Here is the address – 4 Nguyen Thiep St, Ho Chi Minh City, +84 8 822-0496.
Set lunches are an affordable option – soup, spring rolls, and a light curry for USD2. What a steal! The long menu emphasizes seafood and seasonal specials. Particularly outstanding are the deep-fried prawn in coconut batter and the crab sautéed in salt and pepper sauce. The portions are very healthy, Asian family-style.. i.e. on the small side la.. lol. So order more, can?
For us, we are HUGE fans of the PHO (noodle soup… rhymes with DUH), oh yes we are!
Anyway, moving on, this is yet another place we love… PHO 24!
This popular national chain serves good Vietnamese pho as you like it – make your own creation by ticking boxes off a punch list of ingredient choices. The beauty at Pho 24 is that it’s damn clean, ok.. 😛