Ho Chi Minh City Journals

Ho Chi Minh City - My Wife's Homeland

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A travel journal to Ho Chi Minh City by jmineo

Two Ladies in Ao Dai Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam More Photos
Quote: My wife was born in this city and still has many relatives living in Saigon, so we try to make it back at least every year. This journal describes MY favorite attractions around the city, which for the most part were simple observations I made that had true meaning and impact to me.

Ho Chi Minh City - My Wife's Homeland

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Overview

Quote:
During our most recent trip to Saigon (post-war renamed to Ho Chi Minh City) we had the opportunity to visit some of the city's most famous attractions, many made popular as a result of the Vietnam War. However, my favorite attractions (besides my fun-loving In-Laws) were things that most locals would either take for granted, or just discard as uninteresting due to their fast paced, frenetic life-style brought on by their search for prosperity.Quick Tips: Bring U.S. Dollars, lots of them! Vietnam is the only country I know where U.S. Dollars are heavily favored over their own currency (the Dong) when it comes to transferring from one hand to the other. Coins practically don't exist. Techni...Read More
Quote:
This is one of Saigon''s premier hotels, along with the Rex, Continental and new Sofitel. When we stayed here they were completing a new 24-floor tower. We stayed in the other section of the hotel - the original 10-floor Caravelle Hotel, which was nicely rennovated since the last visit we made. The Original Caravelle hotel was home to the media and war correspondants, and is now on par with pretty much most 4 star hotels worldwide. We like this hotel because its centrally located in District One, opposite the city Opera House, the hotel is right in the heart of the bustling areas for shopping and entertainment. We stayed in the cheapest room, which was $130. If you indulged yourself in the Prese...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 21, 2001

Caravelle Hotel
19 LAM SON SQUARE DISTRICT ONE
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
84-8-8234999

Rex Hotel Rooftop Garden Bar

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Restaurant | "Rex's Rooftop Garden Restaurant"

Rex Hotel Rooftop Garden Bar Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
This was my favorite place to eat while in Saigon. We brought my brothers back a second time, although I think unknowingly at the time that they all came back for my sake. I had been oohing and ahhing during the first experience in this restaurant. The restaurant is entirely in the open air atop the Rex Hotel, with an exception of the bar area in the middle which was covered by a cabana style hard umbrella. They served both French and Vietnamese cuisine. Some dishes were a fusion of both cuisines. Absolutely the best views of Ho Chi Minh Square from the rooftop. We insisted on a table by the edge for views of down below. From our table we had a vantage point of the busy traffic ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 10, 2001

Rex Hotel Rooftop Garden Bar
141 Nguyen Hue Blvd.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
(84-8) 38292185

Ho Chi Minh Square

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Attraction

Ho Chi Minh Square Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
Saigon is a fun city despite the supposed depressed political atmosphere; especially at night when the day cools down to more bearable limits. Depending on what time of year you arrive, Ho Chi Minh Square is bustling with activity at night. Its a perfect place to sit on a bench and watch the many passers by. The square is strategically faced by the City's famous Town Hall, which was constructed with the French architectural influence and meticulously maintained by the Vietnamese to this day. Also facing the Square is the Rex Hotel, made famous during the war for offering U.S. Officers their bachelor quarters. The opera house, also constructed under magnificent French architectural influence, is a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 21, 2001

Ho Chi Minh Square
Ho Chi Minh Square
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

War Remnants Museum

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Attraction | "The War Crimes Exhibition"

Quote:
This was one of the few places I wanted to see, simply to see if it was true that the Vietnamese government would actually put up a memorial of sorts denouncing the U.S. presence during the Vietnam War. The War Crimes Exhibition, formerly the "Museum of American War Crimes", has been changed so as not to offend Yank tourists. This was a grisly place and I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. The brochure we received here was entitled "Some Pictures of U.S. Imperialists Aggressive War Crimes in Vietnam". The exhibits ranged from a mannequin of an American soldier stomping on a traditional rice basket with a burning village in the background to jars filled with pickled deformed fetuses w...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 21, 2001

War Remnants Museum
28 Vo Van Tan St, District 3
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
(08) 829 5587

Cao Dai Temple

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Attraction

Cao Dai Temple Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
The Cao Dai Temple is located about two hours drive out of the Saigon city limits. The best way to see this temple is by tour. You can also go it alone and rent a van for the day. The Cao Dai Sect compound was rather a unique experience. Caodaism is the product of an attempt to create the perfect religion. It mixes Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, native Vietnamese, Spiritualism, Christianity, and Islam. They get alot of their ideas and "saints" through seances. This is usually performed by a high priest holding a crayon or by a follower who leaves an empty envelope taped to the altar and when he comes back a divine message may be found inside. Patron saints include Dr. SunYat Sen and Victor Hugo....Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 22, 2001

Cao Dai Temple
Southwest of Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Overnight Trip - Nha Trang Beaches

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Attraction

Overnight Trip - Nha Trang Beaches Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
We took our first ride on the "reunification express" train from Saigon to Nha Trang overnight. We booked a four berth room and shared it with a young Vietnamese family. All foreigners traveling in Vietnam pay 5 times what the natives do for train, bus, etc. That's the way it is. When they found out my wife was a "Viet Q" they charged her the exhorbitant multiple too. Fortunately, the room arrangements weren't bad, except for the "Voice of Vietnam" blaring constantly. This is a propaganda station which airs 24 hours a day. We tried to turn it down or off, but they had removed the knobs. When we arrived in Nha Trang and the train came to a halt, many beggar children ran on board to collect any...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on January 22, 2001

Overnight Trip - Nha Trang Beaches
Tran Phu Boulevard
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ben Thanh Market

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Attraction | "Cho Ben Thanh and Cholon Markets"

Ben Thanh Market Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
Saigon's markets are worlds unto themselves. The most fascinating is the indoor Cholon "Chinese" market in the Chinese district of Saigon and the local Vietnamese Cho Ben Thanh market. Cholon market is a mind-boggling crush of restaurant booths, not to mention booths of exotic fruits, dried shrimp and fish, and mounds of grains and rice. In tight spaces, some women swung in hammocks above their goods. In the "restaurant" stalls, soupmakers clacked wooden sticks, which was their way of announcing their noodles were ready. I had three separate bowls of noodles because the portions they serve are for the much smaller appetite in Vietnam. This was a good place to pick up crusty "French" baguettes t...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 22, 2001

Ben Thanh Market
District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Giac Lam Pagoda

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Attraction

Quote:
Even though my wife and I are both Catholic, I wanted to go to the Giac Lam pagoda over on the other side of the city. I'd heard it was the oldest pagoda in Saigon, but more importantly to me, I'd never been inside a Buddhist temple. I'd always wondered since the days of David Carradine and that Kung Fu TV series. My Vietnamese mother-in-law absolutely refused for her children to go to any house of worship, except Catholic churches. So my brother and I arranged to sneak away, with everyone in on the plan but our "Ma." We took his motorbike across town, which was an adventure to write about similar to my first motorbike ride. The pagoda was a haven of tranquility. It was full of mellow woodwork an...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 1, 2001

Giac Lam Pagoda
Lac Long Quan Street
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office

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Attraction | "Notre Dame and General Post Office"

The Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
Come to this square any day if you want a slice of the typical French classical architecture. Come to this plaza on Sunday if you want to observe women in their traditional white Au Dai, the national dress, as they congregate to the Notre Dame for church services. We were there to conduct official post office business. Both the Notre Dame and Saigon's main post office are adjacent to each other, standing in all their French ornate glory. The pictures speak for themselves. After our business was over at the post office, we hung at the steps waiting for one of my brother's girlfriends. While we were waiting we noticed church services letting out and all these women in white Au Dai pouring out of t...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 25, 2001

The Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office
Dong Khoi, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Two Ladies in Ao Dai Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
Ao Dai, pronounced "ou yai", is a dress of pure art form. I wish every woman would have one of these in their closet. It is popular in the South, but not so much in the North. It is one of those fashions that seem to only have a last leg on life due to the global popularity of western dress. I see it in numbers mainly with the younger, Vietnamese schoolgirl who is still required to wear it (in white) and still found prevalent in most of the schools in Saigon. Its also refreshing to happen upon a Vietnamese wedding and see the vibrant colors adorned by women of all ages, as they dress their best for the momentous ocassion. Made of silk or a less expensive synthetic material, the ao dai is tightly f...Read More

Getting There - Oh My God

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Story/Tip

Quote:
"Hurry Hun hurry!" I yelled to my daughter as she ran through the seating area of Gate 12 to hand us the bag we left at the house. At the same time the airline official was trying to close the jet way doors and saying something like: “Sir we can’t delay the airplane any longer, you and your wife will have to board now.” I owed a debt of gratitude to my neighbor for speeding my daughter through the city ensuring we got that bag. I was prepared to use my body as a doorstop until my daughter showed up with that bag. It was loaded with requisite gifts for my wife’s relatives in Saigon, Vietnam (Although officially renamed "Ho Chi Minh City"), everyone still calls the city “Saigon"). This was the star...Read More
Helicopter Bunkers at Than Son Nut Airport Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
Getting past this point of our annual Saigon pilgrimage is always a sigh of relief, that is after we clear customs. During the war, Saigon Airport (Than Son Nut) was one of the three busiest in the world. Now it is pretty run down, but on landing, you can still see the fortress-like walls that protected the runways from enemy fire, now all overgrown with moss. The bus ride from our airplane to the immigration lines is a good vantage point to see the old delapitated, concrete U.S. Air Force jet hangars that were abandoned from the war in 1975. I always wonder before our arrival how much we would come into contact with the past. Thankfully it was usually pretty subtle, however, because I am an...Read More

Saigon Traffic - Controlled Chaos

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Story/Tip

Traffic Scene Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
Traffic in Saigon can be nerve-racking for the uninitiated driver, passenger or pedestrian. We notice the local drivers will honk their horns long and hard to warn pedestrians, bicycle riders, motorbike riders, and cars that they are either approaching or passing. Since the rules of the road are so liberal and the range of speeds so wide, this sort of honking is incessant. On the other hand, road rage as seen on the roads of America seems a rarity here in Saigon. Amazingly we saw no accidents during our bouts on the city streets, though a friend of ours saw many during the same time. I've developed a firm appreciation for the continual array of high pitched motor bike horns. Its what makes the city ...Read More

A dangerous motorbike ride.

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Story/Tip

Organized Motorbike Madness Photo, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Quote:
We took a taxi from our hotel to my in-laws' house. Little did I know my brother-in-law's fiancé was there waiting to anxiously take us to her family in another district of the city. Okay, this should be fun I'm thinking, meeting soon to be in-laws of in-laws. Arrangements are made in Vietnamese of course and its suggested by someone, still to this day I'm not sure by whom, that we make the trek on two motorbikes. I'm looking down at my brother's small motorbike (parked in the living room as a typical Vietnamese precaution) wondering how a bike so small can negotiate my 6-foot frame, not to mention my brother's frame. I'm less interested thinking how his petite figured fiancé and my wife will hold ...Read More