Friday, January 18, 2013

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Stay, Stray, Play and Feast

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
A Booming Tourist City
 Stay, Stray, Play and Feast

Day 1.

We arrived in Vietnam thru a Philippine Airlines flight
and we were pleasantly surprised to see
 how modern and spacious their airport was.


It looks a lot like our own NAIA 3 terminal
but more livelier and more vibrant
compared to its dreary Manila counterpart.

We also learned that this charming facility
would become a domestic airport in few years
as they are building a bigger international airport.


It is extraordinary for a country that had just been ravaged
by war only two to three decades ago to progress this fast.

...Ho Minh City looks like 
a cleaner  version of Manila,

...sans the multitude of motorcycles
plying the city’s main roads and highways.

I have not a seen a single 
striking skyscraper in the city,

....although some high rise buildings
are beginning to sprout,
but that is the charm of Saigon- 

…it brings me back to Manila of 80’s
but with a touch of this century’s modernity.

We stayed at beautiful Hotel Movenpic Saigon
and we are pretty satisfied of the hotel’s amenities


…and with a beautiful airport and a comfortable hotel
welcoming us in our first visit to the country
we knew that we are going 
to have a great time in Vietnam.

We decided to relax at the hotel on our first day,
and the kids had a great time at the pool until it was dark.

We ordered for a room service –
…had delicious Vietnamese dinner,

… and we we’re off to a good night sleep
on the hotel’s comfy bed.

Day 2
Dai Nam

First in our list was to take the kids 
to an Amusement Park
and Dai Nam was on our top most priority.

We took a taxi from the hotel that treated us 
for a two hour ride to a slowly developing 
Vietnamese countryside.

 There were four attractions in Dai Nam,

…and the man made beach, which was not on our list
as swimming would take a lot our time
and we only allotted one day for our Dai Nam visit.

We did not stay long in the Theme Park,
on the world’s gloomiest theme park
as there were very few people around.

 We took one water ride but the kids were not
excited of the other attractions ,

…so off we went to the zoo after a hearty lunch-
and that is where the fun began.

Dai Nam Zoo has a vast collection
of animals from around the world
where kids could safely interact with them.

Our last stop was the breathtaking Dian Nam Temple.
This sole attraction alone made our
visit to Vietnam exceptional and satisfying.

had dinner at the hotel’s Café Saigon,

And the kids had more fun in the pool
before going to bed.

 Indeed, it's day two in Vietnam,
and everyone was having fun.

Day 3
Vietnam War Museum

We reserved our third day in Vietnam
for  a historical tour of Ho Chi Minh City

We booked on a private tour  
and we were provided
with a driver and a guide just for my family.

Our first stop was the War museum
which gave us a glimpse 
of the horrors Vietnam war.

While we were exposed
to the numerous news items,
documentaries and even movies
 about the war in the 80’s –



…but most of these were done 
on the American viewpoint
and we never get to hear, read or see
 the Vietnamese side.

The War Museum gave us
the Vietnamese point of view 
of the dreaded  war.

A lot of emphasis about the 
local guerillas winning the war
 despite all the odds,

....but winning a war goes beyond the victory-
the misery, death and destruction that goes with it- something that the victor 
could not deny, hide and covered
even by the numerous medals and accolades 
for what I perceive as senseless heroism.

Ironically- the war museum was filled
with hundreds of Caucasians tourists.

Some of them are Americans on a sentimental journey
of having fought on a futile  war in their youths.

Some of them are even crying
- as the war exhibits serve as a poignant reminder
of the misery of a war they fought for naught.

The message of the War Museum is loud and clear-
no one wins in any war-

  it leaves everyone devastated and scarred
both physically and emotionally.

We left the museum teary eyed... we headed to our next destination
at the Cu Chi Rebel Tunnels.

Our next stop was 
 the famous Cu Chi Tunnels,

...and found the place
 teeming with foreign tourists.

It gave us a first hand exposure
on how the Vietcong  Forces,

...fought the Americans 
during the war…

… using indigenous traps and weapons
against  the West’s modern armory.

 ...and lived like termites underground, invade American Military bases
assaulting from secret underground tunnels.

Dong Hiep Rubber Plantation

On our way back to the hotel, we passed by
  acres and acres of rubber plantations.

We requested our driver to stop
as the kids wanted a close up view
of  the rubber trees,

…and curious to learn how rubber
is extracted from the tree.

It was scenic rubber plantation
and we took several photos
before heading back to our hotel.

Day 4
City and Cultural tour.

We again booked for a private tour
and just like the day before
We were provided with a van,
driver and our very own tourist guide.

Having a private tour is not very expensive in Vietnam.
This is very convenient way to explore the city
 for a family with two kids-  
as you could customize  where to go and when to go 

We were treated by the sights and sound of the city
right in the comfort of our own Panoramic Van.

From the beautiful 
Notre Dame Church…


...historic buildings, 

...well manicured 
and verdant parks,


...the reunification Palace which used to be
the Presidential Palace of South Vietnam
before the fall of Saigon,


...Souvenir shops,


…and of course the iconic 
Benh Trahn Market.

Every nook and cranny of the city are filled with tourists
and I reckon with this kind of tourism boom-
Ho Chi Minh City ten years from now
would look a lot different and more modern 
from its present idyllic nature.

I hope it won’t happen- as it would finally lose
Its docile and unflustered charm

Day 5.
Lazing and Relaxing
at the Hotel Moevenpick Saigon

We decided to relax at the hotel, on our fifth
The kids went on swimming at the hotel pool. 

...and later still foud some time
to finalize packing up,

We had a light snacks at the 
Cayda Café near the lobby...

...before heading to the spacious 
Ho Chi Minh Airport,


...shopped for some more souvenirs,

...and finally leading to the departure area
for our flight back to Manila.

Ho Chi Minh is a beautiful laid back
city and a booming tourist destination,


...and managed to keep its culture intact.
and I hope it would remain that way in the future.

Read my other posts on  Ho Chi Minh Blog Series

Ho Chi Minh City
Dai Nam

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