05 July, 2008

One day tour in Ho Chi Minh City

. 05 July, 2008

It was the morning of 15th April. Tour de Vietnam. We left the house at 8. The trip to Mekhong river bridge took about an hour. We had to cross the Mekong river by ferry.The gate to the ferry was still closed. The ferry hadn’t arrived yet. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait for too long because it came 20 minutes afterwards. On the deck of the ferry, a few women were selling either green grass jelly, fried crickets, or stewed lotus seeds. Fried crickets are placed on the wide plate made from bamboo skin.

Stewed lotus seeds. It tasted like stewed peanuts
About an hour and a half later, we reached the borders of Vietnam. We stopped at the nearest restaurant to have lunch first. While we were eating, the driver and staff of the travel agent helped fill in the forms needed to exit Cambodia and enter Vietnam. To enter Vietnam, nothing was charged on us, Vietnam and Indonesia are both members of ASEAN. On the other hand, though Cambodia is also member of ASEAN, we had to pay Visa on Arrival to enter it. This is because one of the main incomes of Cambodia comes from tourism.

Since the first time we entered Vietnam until approaching Ho Chi Minh City which was known as Saigon, the streets environment were neat and clean. Unlike in Cambodia, where all letter written in Sanskrit inscriptions, in Vietnam all is written in Latin inscriptions with diacritic marks over some vowels .

A monument in the city hall of HCMC
There were a lot of parks in the city and the pedestrians were quite large. It reminded me of Singapore’s Orchard Road.

We stayed at Thanh Long T@n Hotel. 19-21-23 Truong Dnh St. It was strategically located near the shopping center Bien Tanh, touristic spots and food market. After taking a rest for a while in the hotel, we went down to eat.We ate at Pong restaurant, where Bill Clinton had had his lunch a few years ago on his visit to HCMC. In the afternoon, we bought souvenirs at Bien Tanh. Here you can shop using USD. Local currency is called Dong. 1 USD = 16000 Dong.

On the next day, 16 April 2008, everyone got on the city tour. It costed $10 per person. Our first destination was the War Remnant museum, where there is a historical collection from the Vietnam war. On a half way to the museum we stopped by to take picture at the city hall. The city hall was surrounded by St. Mary Catholic church, the oldest church in HCMC, the Central Post Office and the Jamiul Muslimin mosque. At the main office we saw the collection of telecommunication devices from the first world war era. Here we could buy souvenirs which is much cheaper than the price on souvenir shops we visited last night. This had caused everyone madly spent more time to choose and buy some more souvenirs until being screamed by the tour guide to get back on the bus.

St. Mary Catedral

The central post office

Jamiul Muslimin mosque
It took about 20 minutes from the city hall to reach the War Remnant Museum.

Naya and Ben (my nephews)
In the main room of the museum there are collection of pictures of war victims and disabled persons as an impact of dioxin war spreaded by Agent Orange on the Vietnam War. Besides pictures, there are also collection of rifles, revolvers, mortars and handguns used during Vietnam War.

At the right side of the museum were prisons. They were dark rooms no more than 1 x 1.5 m2 with steel doors and a small divan made of cement.
Marida (my youngest sister) in front of the prison
One of the rooms that made me shiver was where the guillotine was kept. The guillotine was used to cut the heads of the prisoners. I’d always imagined the sharp side of the guillotine was horizontal. In fact, it was diagonal, 45 degrees. Under the place where the head to be cut is placed, was a container. My mood was mixed up with anger, fear and sadness imagining what the container was put for.
The guillotine
Most of the war victims who suffer from disability work in craft houses making crafts / unique souvenirs of Vietnam out of egg shell and sea shell.
War victims (mostly disabled) are making carved crafts
Some of the craft works
Afterwards, we headed for the palace of the President of Vietnam. The building is quite old, but has a contemporary style. Entrance fee is USD6 per person. Children under 5 are free of charge.

The President's palace
One of the palace's guest rooms
Last the tour guide took us to the basement. There were a lot of old communication devices there. Some of the rooms were divided by long and narrow corridors. It was said that they were used for hiding from enemies.

Then we went to visit the oldest pagoda in the HCMC.

The main entrance gate of the pagoda

L-R : Erna, Naya, Marida, Elly
The last place we visited was the central market. At the first level of the market most vendor sells Vietnamese traditional woven and imitation branded goods such as leather bags, belts and purses. I did not go to the second level to see what people was selling there but I guessed they were selling the same kind of goods.
Erna and Pricilla in front of the main door of the central market

The central market
In the evening we went to Saigon Square, a shopping center in HCMC. It was only 2 km away from the hotel where we stayed. But because we weren’t aware of it, we took a taxi there and had to pay 25000 Dong.

We went back to Phnom Penh on the 17th April 2008.


Anonymous said...

Hey there, I was looking for information on ho chi minh and came across your blog. Thanks for the details, it was very helpful in my trip planning :)

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