Wednesday, November 12, 2008

SE Asia Days 4 and 5: Ho Chi Minh City

I left Bangkok on the afternoon of my fourth day.  I flew Air Asia, this cool new discount airline in Southeast Asia.  They’ve developed the model of selling rock-bottom tickets, and then charging you for everything else—from your first checked bag to a can of soda.

Again, I had this plan of using a bus to get into town, but I arrived after the bus service had shut down.  So, I got a cab driver who took me to the area where I was planning to stay.  The guy was kind of a jerk.  He wouldn’t take me down the side street where my hotel was actually located, and then he was insisting on a tip.

The first night I stayed at a place called Hong Hoa.  It was pretty nice and centrally located.  I quickly discovered the most of the hotels and guest houses in Ho Chi Minh are tall and skinny—often having 14 floors with only two rooms on each level.  I had a great dinner at a nearby restaurant and went in for an early night.

The next morning after a quick breakfast, I decided to change hotels.  I moved to Hotel 64, which is run by Madam Cuc (pronounced kook).  Madame Cuc runs several guest houses in the area the include breakfast and dinner with the room rate.  Anyway, I liked the place and decided to stay there for the next few nights.

After that, I went for some lunch and then out to see the War Remnants Museum and the National Palace.  The war museum contained mostly pictures taken from journalists during the Vietnam conflicts—both the French-Vietnam conflicts in the 50s and the US-Vietnam conflict.  Without controversy, this museum could be said to at least show the horrors of war.

There is military hardware left behind from the American withdrawal next to the American brands that came later.  IMG_1842

There were also a few reminders of the French occupation.  Here is a real guillotine.  The second I saw it, I got shivers all over.


Below is a mock-up of the “tiger cages” used to hold prisoners under the French and later under the Saigon regime during the war.


The museum was sobering to say the least.  From there, I walked to the National Palace.  The place is strange.  It was built under the Saigon regime during the war for the president and it seems to be frozen in time.  Here’s a conference room that asks, “Hey, remember the 70s?”


By the time I got back to the hotel, I was beat—it was a lot of walking.  I went out for some great pho—Vietnamese soup.  The restaurant is called Pho 24.  According to the menu pho is, “more than just a balanced meal.  It is [sic] represents the heart and soul of Vietnam and its people.”DSCF2324

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