Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) May 13 - 14 and May 16 &17
Our flight from Orlando to Ho Chi Minh City via New York and Dubai was uneventful which is always a good thing. The Emirates flight from New York to Dubai was on an A380. Unfortunately Paul and I could only stand at the bottom of the stairs leading up to Business and First Class (which we called The Stairway to Heaven) and imagine the comfort and luxurious amenities available to the very rich. Still even cattle class on an A380 is a step up from any other commercial aircraft.
By the time we purchased our visa, cleared immigration and customs it was around 9 pm and we were thankful that our driver were at the airport to meet us. Our hotel, The Signature which was centrally located was exactly what we were expecting - a good but not fancy tourist hotel.
We had a free day the next day which we spent exploring the city center. The first thing that struck us was the number of mopeds and motor bikes which made crossing the street extremely dangerous. The second thing was that everyone looked so young. Most of the city was destroyed during the American War (as its called in Vietnam) but among the many nondescript buildings were a few gems left over from French Colonial times.
Unfortunately we spent most of the first day dodging the rain as well as the motor bikes and didn't take many photos.
City Hall, built in 1908 when Saigon was a French Colony
The Central Post Office, now a tourist attraction, designed by Gustav Eiffel (yes that Eiffel) opened in 1891 when Saigon was part of French Indochina.
The splendid interior of the Post Office
Reunification Palace built in 1966. The home of the President of South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu until the fall of South Vietnam in 1975.
Captured and abandoned American tanks
The war ended on April 30, 1975 when tanks from the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the gates of the Palace.
The next day, we took a private tour outside Ho Ch Minh City to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, located about an hour away from the city. It consisted of a maze of very narrow bomb resistant tunnels spanning nearly 75 miles. Miost of the tunnels have either collapsed or fell into disuse once the war was over, but some have been restored as a tourist attraction and war museum. Cu Chi was the location of several military campaigns during the American War and the base for the Viet Cong Tet offensive in 1968.
The actual tunnel entrances (ass seen here) were very small and would have been hidden by leaves and dirt.
The original tunnels would have been narrower, but they have been enlarged to allow western tourists to go through them..
This photo shows one of the many devious traps located above the tunnels designed to kill or maim troops looking for the tunnels and their occupants.
Another trap which would have been hidden by grass. The spikes would have been smeared with animal dung so besides getting a nasty wound, the wound would become infected..
One of many dining halls located in the tunnels. People lived below ground for months, only emerging to collect food or to attack the Americans nearby.