We reach Ho-Chi-Minh city (previously know as Saigon) after a few hours sailing from Cambodia on the Mekong river. We stay some days in the Mekong delta and then arrive in the economic big city of South Vietnam.
From Cambodian border until Mekong Delta, we sail on the quiet river, which allows us to see the traditional life of Vietnamese farmers, working on growing wheat and rice in that wet region. Quite a long way to go however, but it is also the opportunity to see floating markets and taste typical food, fruits and vegetables sold by locals directly from their boats. Typical life! Biggest town there is Can-Tho and that’s where we spend the night before continuing our trip the day after.
Buzzing Ho-Chin-Minh city
The town is very lively (and noisy) as it is the paradise for scooters. We forecasted it but we must say we are astonished by the numbers of scooters in each street! So much traffic jams and a disturbing army of motorbikes everywhere bringing pollution and noise that you have to be prepared for!
The previous Saigon has changed dramatically these past few years. Indeed, unlike Hanoi who still has memories from its glorious past (notably the old quarter of the 36 streets, a few temples and museums…), here in Ho-Chi-Minh city, it is like the government wants to erase any thing belonging to the history of the people, a poor and difficult one. Consumerism is now important, shopping malls everywhere and very congested traffic. A challenging mission will be to keep the city liveable in the next few years and we hope Vietnam will be able to do it!
After finding an hotel (at the last minute) in a tourist dynamic quarter (looks like a Airbnb), we can figure out the sleep doesn’t sleep at night time. Some bars are open very late, possible to have dinner whenever you want, very similar to Khao San Road in Bangkok. No doubt, we left the quite waters of the Mekong river for one of the most dynamic cities in the world, economic capital of a country with a speedy economic growth.
The day after, we go to the War Museum. This one is one of the most famous and recognizable in town as it gathers photos, videos and old tanks and planes from the Vietnam war with the USA. The huge museum is obviously a big propaganda against USA and favorable to Vietnam, however we have to underline the educational purpose of the museum highlighting all the horrible events that happened during this dark period, with chemical weapons, bombs and the deadly consequences on the local population. Old planes and tanks are very well conserved and the testimonies you can see at the walls are frightening.
Countryside around Ho-Chi-Minh city
We benefit from some days off before heading off to Hanoi in order to explore the surroundings. Notably a very nice day trip to Cu-Chi tunnels, very informative despite the fact we usually don’t like organized tours as we love to be independent. Similar to the War Museum, Cu-Chi tunnels tell more about the way Vietcongs were living during the war against the USA. They dig hundred of kilometres of tunnels to create a real underground network to better resist to bombs and other US military powers. Nowadays tourists can still visit some of them where you have to do lot of efforts, and bend on your knees to slowly move in these very small tunnels. It is easy to realize how extreme and difficult the conditions and ya of living were for the locals for years and years. This resisting spirit still seem to be present in Vietnamese minds again today and they are very proud of this past and their ability of never give up, whatever the problems are. Today, with the neighbour China becoming bigger and bigger and with claims on territorial waters, this spirit may be useful in a near future…
We continue our trip further North! We didn’t go to central Vietnam, around Hoi-An and Hue due to lack of time, but we chose to go directly to the capital, Hanoi.