Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City

After exploring Da Nang and Hoi An, with not enough beach/pool time as we'd have liked as, turns out, there was far more to see in Da Nang than expected, it was time to hop on a plane for our final stop in Vietnam: Hồ Chí Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City, which used to be known as Saigon, turned out to be my least favourite place in Vietnam - it also turned out to be the most chaotic.

We'd got used to the terrifying way of crossing the road in Hanoi - basically, walk out into the road, keep a steady pace and maintain eye contact with any drivers zooming towards you - but in Ho Chi Minh City if felt more fraught because the traffic was more intense in both volume and sheer disregard of normal traffic laws. In Hanoi, at least, the pavements were safe to walk down - in Ho Chi Minh City, scooters would dart along in either direction, completely ignoring the pedestrians that actual said pavements are for.

When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, located in the south of Vietnam, we noticed a considerable difference in temperature, too. Our first day was 35°c, with a "feel like" temperature of 41°c - it made it pretty unbearable at times and everything was planned out in terms of where's our next air con stop? For comparison, in the rest of Vietnam the temperatures we experienced at the end of September through to mid-October was around 30-32°c and the humidity was nowhere as intense - it was a perfectly pleasant temperature.

After having a mooch around HCMC and looking at the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and Opera House - all listed as must-see sights because of their French influence, but not sights that I'd say you *must* see, in all honesty - we continued our walk past the Independence Palace to the War Remnants Museum. We didn't have time to pop in the Independence Palace, which is where the Vietnam War officially ended after a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its gates.

Back to the War Remnants Museum though, which is definitely something you should visit in Ho Chi Minh City. In the grounds of the museum you'll find battle tanks and aircraft from the War, whilst inside are various exhibitions depicting the horrors. Some of it makes for uncomfortable reading - and some of the tactics were pretty gruesome - but if you've already ticked off all the war sites in Hanoi, you really should complete your Vietnam War education.

Which means you should also visit the Cu Chi tunnels. They aren't located in the city centre, but are around a two-hour drive away because of the horrific Ho Chi Minh City traffic. We explored various options, such as taking Grab over there, but in the end booked on an afternoon tour (£11.50 each). This meant we were on a coach with around forty people, but it was the most cost effective way of doing it, and as long as we were at the front of the pack we could hear our guide's tour.

The Củ Chi tunnels were the Viet Cong's headquarters during the Vietnam War, and part of the reason the war lasted as long as it did: the Americans couldn't easily fight in the tunnels, or scout the Vietnamese underground. We went for a crawl in one of the "tourist tunnels" - a slightly widened and higher version of the real ones. That was claustrophobic enough. Now add in snakes, scorpions, booby traps, and the intensity of fleeing from the enemy via a tiny crawlspace... I have no idea how either side kept fighting for a week, let alone for around ten years.

So, that was the extent of what we got up to in Ho Chi Minh City. Admittedly it was our shortest stop in Vietnam - we were there for roughly 1.5 days, and we ended up sleeping in until lunchtime on our only full day in HCMC - but we didn't feel like we'd missed out on seeing anything. Sure, it would have been nice to visit the nearby Mekong Delta but, you know what, it gives us an excuse to visit Vietnam again - I just don't think we'd return to Saigon itself, if we did. 

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