Our first full day in Ho Chi Minh. We did a walking tour (by Ryan) of the city today, (so hot!) we started off visiting the Jade Emperor Pagoda… a Taoist pagoda specially noted as being an impressive sight in Ho Chi Minh. This was quite a long walk away from our hotel in the heat, and located in district 3 where the streets were much more like Hanoi. This was a really interesting place with intricate wood work and pretty amazing papier mâché statues, so many incense sticks burning and lots of local worshippers paying their respects to their chosen gods. Outside there is a pool of many many turtles which are a sacred animal.
After a little rest from the heat, we went on to our next stop the Reunification Palace (or Independence Palace) Built in the 1960s this architecturally interesting building sits within impressive grounds. The Palace is now a museum but was once the presidential palace of Saigon, in 1975 the building was stormed by a North Vietnamese tank which symboled the end of the Vietnam war and ‘freed the city’. The palace is preserved just as it would have been in 1975, as you walk around you can see many rooms as they were, including underground bunkers, meeting rooms, and a rooftop helipad.
To continue the history theme after some lunch we went on to the War Remnants Museum. This was a particularly eye opening experience, the museum’s exhibits, mainly photographs show the devastation and brutality that the American’s inflicted on Vietnamese people during the war. Some photographs were particularly hard to look at, especially those which showed the effects of chemical warfare and injured or dead children. Both of us left the museum quite saddened by what we had seen, hard to imagine how this is ever allowed to happen.
We continued our walk to take a look at the Saigon Central Post Office, an impressive French inspired building from the 1800’s and also Notre Dame Basilica of Saigon a pretty cathedral… not the same as the one in Paris.
After lots of walking in the heat we needed ice cream! We found a strange little cafe which makes fresh flavours frozen with liquid nitrogen, all made to order… a bit of a novelty.
This evening we had dinner at an Indian restaurant, which turned out be nice, but very different flavours to a Balti back home.