Ho Chi Minh City
30.12.2008 - 03.01.2009 26 °C
Despite the official name change in 1975, Ho Chi Minh City is still more commonly known as Saigon.
The city of motorbikes is the heart of Southern Vietnam and the capital of commerce. It's a massive city with an even bigger urban sprawl. We were pre-warned about the fast pace but nothing can really prepare you for the madness. Saigon never sleeps or has a moments rest.
We settled in the popular backpackers district Pham Ngu Lao which is an ideal base to explore the city and an even better place to celebrate NYE. Pham Ngu Lao is filled with thinly stacked guesthouses, cafes & shops selling souvenirs, cheap clothing & dvds.
Typical street in Pham Ngu Lao
On New Years Eve day we toured the city centre on foot and had the important task of finding a nice restaurant to spend the evening. The upmarket side of town near Dong Khoi is very modern and has many high rise office buildings, air conditioned shopping malls & boutiques. The streets are wide, clean and lined with beautiful green trees, a different picture to the narrow dirty streets you usually see in Vietnam.
On New Years Eve we drank & dined our way through the night at the restaurant Jaspers. We treated ourselves to a generous serving of Australian steak and a bottle of delicous red wine, quite the opposite to the noodles and rice we've been recently surviving on. Minutes before midnight we left the restaurant and joined the hundreds of locals in the main street near the Saigon River. At the stroke of midnight thousands of colourful balloons were released into the air and the song Happy New Year by Abba was loudly broadcasted from the speaker system.
Like most people in the world, we had a sleepy New Years Day. We only mustered up the energy to stroll through the nearby Ben Thanh Market in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day in a cafe sipping on strong Vietnamese coffee.
Ben Thanh Market
During a stay in Saigon, a visit to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels is a must. On our last day we joined a small tour group led by a war veteran. The Cu Chi Tunnels is an impressive network of underground tunnels stretching over 200kms designed & used by the Viet Cong during the French & Vietnam War. Only seeing them in real life can you appreciate the survival skills, strength and intelligence these people had.
Range of American missiles found on the site
Booby trap at Cu Chi