Epic Family Journey

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City

TA-DAH! This is our 50th post in English or our 100th post if we combine the posts in French and English. This is a hundred post that we have written, translated and corrected for your (and our) pleasure. We did not expect that it would be so much work when we started writing a bilingual blog, but we like the result despite the hard work.

So we finish that first 100 streak by publishing the last post about our time in Vietnam. We only spent a few days in Saigon, but we enjoyed this vibrant city. It is definitely the economic capital of Vietnam; there are plenty of young adults, shops and an abundance of American franchised restaurants. Saigon is a very lively city, there are lots of people, lots of noise and there’s a lot of cars ans scooters. It was a huge contrast from our previous destination, Nha Trang. We rented a room in the heart of the backpackers area. We were close to a lot of budget-restaurants and most of the main museums of the city.

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City?

It is up to you to decide, because it is indeed the same city. The official name, since the end of the war, is Ho Chi Minh City, but Saigon is still used today, for example, at the airport. When we walk around town, we can see the two names on the signs of restaurants, hotels or shops. The Vietnamese talk about the city according to whether they are from North-Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) or South-Vietnam (Saigon).

Cu Chi Tunnels

We could not talk about Vietnam War without visiting the famous Viet Cong tunnels. We took an organized tour with the agency recommended by our hotel and had a wonderful experience, mostly due to our guide who was very funny. Just like our guide when visiting My Son, this guide took Hugo under his wing and made sure that both boys had a great time there. We had the chance to learn more about the war and to have a version of the war according to a South-Vietnamese. It was the first time we were getting a different perspective on the war and we appreciated this version of the facts that we had not seen in any museums we had visited so far. Since there was about 250km of tunnels at this location, we thought that visiting this site would involve more time in the tunnels, but the 80 meters that Karine did in order to follow the kids were more than enough. It was necessary to be crouched in order to pass trough the tunnel and Karine even had to crawl in order to go through a rather narrow passage. The boys loved their experience and if they could have, they would have crossed the tunnel over and over again.

Reunification Palace

The Presidential Palace dates back from the 60s and nothing has changed since the Communists took control of South-Vietnam. Its first function was to be the palace of the President of South Vietnam. The boys loved to see a few cars, tanks and the helicopter. We enjoyed visiting the bunker with its various operations offices and old strategic maps.

War Remnants Museum

Visiting that museum was troubling, to say the least. We had to take the boys out of a few rooms as the pictures were too shocking, in our opinion, for their young eyes. The museum showed the war with all the horror that goes with it. The pictures on display were the worst, and the most thoughts provoking images that were captured during the Vietnam war . It is possible to see, amongst others things, the bodies of children and adults deformed due to exposure to Agent Orange and the mutilated bodies of prisoners of war. Unfortunately, the only perspective that was exhibited in this museum was the North Vietnamese perspective. According to this museum, all the Vietnamese wanted to become Communists, the North Vietnamese didn’t do any regrettable actions and the American imperialist invaders and their South Vietnamese puppets could have given super villain lessons to Stalin, Hitler and Voldemort. Although it is the winners’ privilege to tell the story from their perspective, it would nevertheless have been more objective to demonstrate that the horrors of war are perpetrated on both sides in a conflict. This museum was the last war museum that we will visit during this trip and we think it’s enough for a whole year. After covering the First and Second World War as well as the Vietnam War we will take a break now and focus on Peace and Love✌️.

Remnant from a former French colony

We took advantage of a beautiful sunny day to go for a walk in the embassy area and to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. The latter is supposed to be a site not to be missed in Saigon. The exterior is very pretty, and you can even feel you’re in Europe when looking at it, but the interior was nothing to write home about. After eating ice cream at McDonald’s (Häagen-Dazs ice cream, too expensive, was selling for $5 a scoop), we continued our tour by visiting the Central Post Office. Like the Cathedral, the Central Post Office dates from the end of the 19th century and it was designed by Gustave Eiffel. It is a magnificent building that is still in function today!

Saigon Museum of Fine Arts

We told you that the word Saigon could be found everywhere, here is the proof ?. This art museum is housed in an ancient mansion built by a wealthy Chinese businessman from the colonial era. Today, it is possible to see a large collection of paintings by Vietnamese artists from Saigon and South Vietnam. We were able to appreciate paintings from the pre and post war periods as well as several drawings made by soldiers during the war. It was also possible to visit two other buildings on site where are exhibited sculptures, potteries and Vietnamese furniture.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda

During the visit of this Pagoda we had a special thought for two very cute Jade from Calgary. We did not see any gems there, but there were a multitude of turtles and Hugo spent a lot of time watching them wading in the pond or “sunbathing” under the sun. The temple has Chinese origins and dates from the beginning of the 20th century. We were able to observe magnificent wooden sculptures there.

We did not get bored in Saigon and were busy walking around the city visiting. We enjoyed our experience in Vietnam, the food, its people and the scenery. We were not lucky about the weather, but we made the best out of our time there and we hope to go back in Vietnam one day. Besides, we saw a lot of hotel construction on the coast on our way South. If you plan to visit this country, you should hurry while the prices are still low.

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