Tag: saigon

Learning about the Vietnam War in Ho Chi Minh

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The Vietnam War is a dark period in Vietnamese history. From 1955-1975, the country was under attack, first from France, in an attempt at recolonization, and then the USA, in their war against communism.

The Vietnam War was taught to me at school, so I had some background knowledge of the conflict before I visited Vietnam. (Unlike in Cambodia, where I ashamedly knew very little about the Khmer Rouge regime until I got there.)

The War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants museum is a great place to learn about the tactics and weaponry used by the USA against the Viet Cong during the war. Much of the content is distressing so be prepared for that when you go into the museum. Particularly upsetting are the sections about the War Crimes committed by the Americans and the effects of Agent Orange. IMG_8074

I thought the museum was very one sided and did very little to explain the world political situation at the time.

The Cu Chi Tunnels

In the afternoon I went on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. There, I learnt about the tactics used by the Viet Cong during the war against the USA, and also how villagers lived during the war.

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It’s interesting to see how resourceful the Vietnamese people were against the USA’s powerful weaponry.

The details of the traps the Viet Cong set to catch Americans are gruesome and it’s easy to see why so many US veterans of this war went home with mental health issues.

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There’s one part of the tour where you can pay extra to fire guns, such as AK-47s. The Americans left a large amount of weaponry and bullets behind when they left in 1975. The bullets fired are the same ones left behind by the Americans, and there’s still plenty more for tourists to fire in the future.

I hated how loud the guns were. If you’ve never heard a gun fire in real life, it’s actually really surprising how loud they are.

At the end of the day, we ate tapioca with peanut dip, which is what the people living in the tunnels would’ve eaten during the war. It didn’t taste too bad, but it was pretty bland.

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Learning about the Vietnam War was interesting, and I honestly think all visitors to Vietnam should take the time to learn about the history of this country. I think it’s important to learn about the history of a country when visiting, as it gives some insight into a country’s current state. Neighbouring Cambodia has also had a bloody history from the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

If you’re short of time in Ho Chi Minh City, definitely visit the Cu Chi tunnels and War Remnants museum instead of doing a day tour of the Mekong Delta.

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A Day Tour Of The Mekong Delta

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Ho Chi Minh City is situated close to the Mekong Delta, the end of a river which flows through 6 countries. (These countries are China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in case you were interested). It’s possible to do a day tour to the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh, which is exactly what I did.

It took 2 hours to get to the first stop. The bus stopped for a toilet break after an hour, but I suspect that the reason for the stop was less for guests comfort, and more so people could attempt to sell sunglasses to us.

We arrived at the first stop after 10am. Typically, a torrential downpour began as soon as we got off the bus. This was a place when honey was produced. We were given some honey tea and a small plate of fruit. There was also a photo opportunity with some bees.

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Once we’d had some honey tea and watched a traditional Vietnamese folk performance, we got in a small paddle boat. We were provided with traditional Vietnamese hats and the boat took us to a coconut candy factory.

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We were shown how the coconut candy is made and given free samples of the different flavours. They were delicious, especially the fresh ones!

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There was the opportunity to hold a boa constrictor, although it seemed a bit randomly placed at the coconut factory.

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We then got on a large tourist boat and floated along the Mekong. Most of the the other boats on the river were tourist boats – there didn’t seem to be many local people around. Which makes sense as it was the hottest part of the day.

mekong delta boats

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant. We were split into two groups – those who had elephant fish for lunch and those who were given pork and rice. The elephant fish looked good, but I had the pork and rice, which unfortunately wasn’t that great.

After lunch, we got back on the large boat and were dropped off at a point where the bus collected us.

We went to a pagoda which had an enormous statue of Laughing Buddha and Reclining Buddha.

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We returned to Ho Chi Minh City and arrived there around 6pm.

Overall, the tour wasn’t particularly amazing. It did kind of feel like the stops were simply to sell the products to us. I’ve spoken to other tourists who went to the Mekong Delta and stayed overnight and it does sound as though the overnight tours are much better. There’s an opportunity to see the floating markets and experience some of the food of the Mekong Delta.

Check out my other experiences along the Mekong, on the slow boat in Laos and kayaking to see Irrawaddy Dolphins in Laos

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