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June 28, 2007

Viet Nam - Ho Chi Minh City - (Saigon)

IMG_5698_editedWe arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) late in the evening on May 31st and as always were met at the airport by our guide.  Our accommodation was at the historic Caravelle Hotel right in the middle of the city.  During the 60’s the Caravelle was home to the Australian and New Zealand Embassies, the offices for the Associated Press, NBC, CBS, the New York Times and the Washington Post to name a few. 

VN26Viet Nam has a vibrant feel and is a country of young people. We were told that about 70% of the citizens have been born since the “American War”.  To the majority of citizens the war is only history.

The temperature during the day was about 35C (95F) with high humidity, so it is at night that the City really comes alive.  City Hall is impressive the way it is lit up at night.

IMG_5689During the day, most of the ladies are totally covered up to protect themselves from the sun.  Our guide told us that the young women do this to keep their complections as pale as possible.  But when the sun goes down, the cover-ups disappear and they, their families and hundreds of  other citizens emerge into the streets of the city to eat, visit and play.  As we strolled in the evening, we felt totally safe with so many people around. 

This is rush hour in Ho Chi Minh City.

The first morning we drove about 75 km from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi Tunnels – a strategically important war zone.  Originally constructed by the Viet Minh during the war with the French, the tunnels were repaired and expanded in the early 1960s, by the Viet Cong.VN9

There were about 200 kilometres of tunnels, said to be several stories deep and able to hold up to 10,000 soldiers.  There was an underground hospital, kitchen,  dining room and command post.  As you can see by the picture, the soldiers were small and they literally disappeared before our eyes as they sank into the ground.  We also saw some absolutely gruesome booby traps that were used.

 We stopped at a rubber plantation to see how they gathered the secretions from the trees.

In a lot of ways it reminded us of how we gather sap from maple trees to make syrup. 

Viet Nam processes an average of 500,000 tonnes of rubber latex per year – 80% of which is exported.

As we drove back to Ho Chi Minh City from the tunnels, on a wonderful wide double lane road, we noticed brightly coloured tall narrow buildings – stores on the bottom and obviously apartments above.   Our guide explained that the road had relatively recently been widened.  However, to widen it, the thousands of stores and homes that crowded the sides of the original road had to be removed.  The government built new stores and apartments for everyone, but only to the width of the ones that were demolished. The individual owners can build higher if they want to and obviously a few have.


The following day we visited the Re-unification Palace, on the site of the palace of the French governor and later the presidential palace for South Vietnam.  This is the Foreign Dignitaries Reception Hall.  It was from the grounds of this building that the final American evacuation from Saigon took place and is the site of the official handover of power during the fall of Saigon on April 30,1975.

Afterwards, at the War Remnants Museum we were able to get a perspective of the war in Viet Nam from the point of view of the people of Viet Nam.


The afternoon we spent on our own checking out the area around out hotel.  Just down the street was a half scale replica of Notre Dame Cathederal – beautiful – a reminder of the French occupation of the country.

We stopped to listen to a group of musicians who had set up on the steps of the Opera House.  From the quality of their music we expect that they were professionals.  They drew a large audiance.

That evening we had dinner at the other historic hotel – the Rex – and another stroll around the central square enjoying the cooler evening.

The next morning we headed out to the airport for our flight to Hanoi.

Bernie and Ross 


Posted by Bernice at June 28, 2007 04:45 PM


Hi folks, I have been off line for some time and am back. I do not remember if I told you or not but Bob Carr passed away back in May. I have not been online since around June so I couldn't remember if I had let you know about his passing. Seems to me I did but since I am not sure I thought I would let you know now that I am back online. The pictures and your adventures are absolutely fascinating, Keep well.
Your Friend Sharon Smith

Posted by: Sharon Smith at December 20, 2007 09:01 PM

As always your enlightened information on the countries that you travel are so informative and interesting. I always look forward to hearing of your next venture. There is nothing but envy here, but it takes a certain mindset to take off and travel as you two have done. Admiration would come to mind. Keep well the road.

Posted by: Louise Fell at December 21, 2007 11:29 AM

Awesome as usual. This is our first chance to see these pictures, as we just got back from a month in Naples, Florida.

Great stuff, Bernice and Ross - we can't wait to see what's next.

J & A

Posted by: Jill & Alan at January 14, 2008 02:03 PM