It had taken me about 7 weeks to reach Saigon since landing in Hanoi, Saigon was to be my last main place on my trip to Vietnam. Originally called Saigon it had its name officially changed to Ho Chi Minh city after the great man but the locals still refer to it affectionally as Saigon.
Its a lot more modern than Hanoi with quite a lot of development going on, modern office buildings, international hotels and restaurants, none of the chaotic charming narrow streets of Hanoi.
I visited the War Remnants museum which depicted the ‘American War’ or the ‘Vietnam War’ or the ‘Russian War’ depending on who you talked to. Graphic displays of the atrocities caused by chemical weapons, poisonous gases, ferocious bombing raids donned the walls. They didn’t try to hide anything about what happened, just hoping that some people had learnt. I also visited the Reunification Palace also known as the Independence Palace, the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the fall of Saigon on the 30 April 1975 when a tank from the north Vietnamese army crashed through its gates.
Cu Chi Tunnels.
A must see when in Saigon is the Cu Chi tunnels, these are the tunnels were the Viet Cong lived for weeks/months at a time. An intricate network of tunnels that went for more than 250 kilometers baffled the Americans for some time. The tunnels sometimes only 40 cms wide and 120 cms tall went down for 3 levels up to 30ft deep. The Americans tried to flush the Vietnamese out using many methods, when they found a new opening they would pour petrol down the tunnel and set fire to it hoping to kill or at least wait for the Viet Cong to emerge, they never did. They were always one step ahead and would simply move around the tunnels or to the exits by the river. They actually didn’t mind the petrol as the tunnels were dug in clay, when the petrol burnt it heated the clay making it harder. Another way to try and flush them out was to try and fill the tunnels with water but it simply poured out through the network of tunnels into the river exits. Poisonous gases and chemicals were also used and trained sniffer dogs were sent in but as the Vietnamese eat dogs they welcomed having some meat in their diet. Some of the tunnels have actually been widened to accomodate tourists and i barely squeezed through the tunnels due to the height, strange to think that the Viet Cong could run through here at speed popping up through different openings firing some shots and then moving back through the tunnels to a different opening before firing off some more rounds to the confused enemy.
They also have a firing range nearby where you can shoot a variety of weapons including an AK47, M16 and M30 machine gun. I chose to shoot off 10 rounds with an AK47, the ‘crack’ it made when firing was unbelievable even with ear protectors on, god knows what it must have been like when continously firing during combat.
Impressive temple on the way to the Cu Chi tunnels, can’t remember what religeon it was, must pay more attention.