Cu Chi Tunnels

The second half of my day tour consisted of an optional visit to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnels were built as a network of hiding and war strategy by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. During the war they would live and hide in the tunnel system.

As part of our visit we are given a demonstration on how the various booby traps would work to deter the opposing soldiers from finding the hidden Viet Cong.

We are also given a demonstration of a smaller underground hideout.

Various other tunnel entrances.

More examples of traps used.

During a short break there is an optional shooting range. Not really my thing so I sat this activity out. The gun shots coming from the range are loud and consistent.

We get to try out one tunnel. This one isn’t so bad with only just hunching over a bit. There is another longer tunnel to try but it looks way too narrow. I am afraid I’ll be trapped in that one.

Our tour guide shows us different plants in the wild and their medicinal uses. Living in the tunnel system away from hospitals was quite dangerous for the soldiers so they had to learn how to use mother nature.

Tunnel diagram

After my tour I am dropped back off at my hotel.

I spend the evening wandering around Bui Vien street. It gets pretty lively.

I try Bún Bò Huế across the street from my hotel. It is pretty decent and it is a good end to a long day of sightseeing.

Arrived in Ho Chi Minh City

My hotel

I am now in Ho Chi Minh City, the last town in my Vietnam exploration (or commonly known as Saigon). In my trip planning it was very important for me to include this city since it would help complete my tour of all the different parts of Vietnam. Each area of Vietnam has its own culture and style of food and I wanted to experience as much of it as I could given my short window (3 1/2 weeks in the country).

I am seated next to two friendly Vietnamese men on my flight. One lives in the United States and is visiting family, and the other is an infectious disease doctor in Saigon. I probe the doctor about the need for Malaria pills (since Cambodia is coming up soon). He assures me that I will not need the pills in any of the places I am visiting. It is so much more helpful to get the advice from a doctor that lives in the region you are visiting. The doctor gives me his business card in case I need any help around while in the city.

Looking down over Saigon

I stay in a hostel-like hotel in the middle of the action for my Saigon visit. I book a private room at the very pretty Aquarizon Boutique Hostel on the busy Bui Vien street. The hotel is funky and cool. Unfortunately my first room assigned is too moldy and musty for me to enjoy. After one night of sleep I fear I will get a sinus infection. Luckily the hotel has a spare room and is willing to work with me. I am moved to another room in the front of the hotel. The new room still has a musty smell but not as bad as my original room. I decide it is good enough for my stay. The noise from the street is louder in the front of the hotel but luckily I can mostly sleep through background noise; plus I have my ear plugs if I really need them.

Because I book a private room instead of the hostel dorm I get an upgraded breakfast. My breakfast is a buffet with more choices at the sister hotel next door. It is a bit of a maze to access the breakfast room but there is connectivity via one of the upper floors of my hotel.

My first evening I decide to try some mexican around the corner. I ask for a seat outside so I can people watch at Sancho’s Craft Beer & Mexican Kitchen.

Sancho’s Craft Beer & Mexican Kitchen
Bui Vien Street.
There are no cars at this time but usually you have to be careful to dodge cars while walking on the street.

Bun Cha 145

The next day I go out for Bun Cha. I have heard they make it differently in Saigon. It is true. It is sweeter down south. The place I choose is popular. I arrive before it opens and there is already a small line outside

I can’t resist ordering the fried banana in green rice. It has a fun chocolate dipping sauce.

I decide to wander around and find an indoor food court. I have recently eaten but make a mental note in case I run out of places to eat nearby.

The food court is next to a park. A collegiate girl stops me to practice English. She wants to major in hospitality and wishes to visit the USA someday. She tells me interesting things about the city.

Walking street

I walk back to my hotel via Bui Vien to take advantage of the happy hour offered downstairs that evening.

I have tours booked tomorrow so no late night for me.

More Hoi An

Since I booked many days in Hoi An (yea me!) I am able to relax and enjoy the city. I really enjoy just wandering around town.

I try the local specialty Cao Lau at a cute cafe. I wish I wrote the name of the place down because I can no longer remember where I stopped.

I finally make it to the night market. I make a good amount of purchases because I plan a shipment home after my clothes are made. I end up buying way too many lantern coverings.

The whole city is vibrant with colored lights at night.

After all that shopping I decide it is time for a night cap. I stop at a lively but quieter bar on the road along the water. It is a nice end to a nice day.

My Son is me sun

Today I am taking a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site My Son Sanctuary from my hotel in Hoi An (Vietnam).

The name ‘My Son’ looks like you are saying “my son” but it is actually pounced “me sun”.

These Hindu temples were built between the 4th and 14th century by the Champa Kingdom. My tour guide referred to it as little Angkor Wat. These temples are smaller and less impressive than the temples in Cambodia but are dated earlier and look similar, thus the nickname. My Son is impressive but I agree with the criticism that maybe it is not as impressive if you have seen Angkor Wat first. Luckily my first visit to Angkor Wat is later in my travels.

This UNESCO site had lots of destruction in the war (B52 bombing in 1969 and 1972) as the south Vietnamese were using the temples to hide out.

Researchers are still discovering how they were originally constructed in order to try to repair them. During my visit I saw temples in various states of repair.

Bomb site

There is a heritage dance show. It is standing room only in the very back for me. I only catch a short glimpse of it.

When our tour of My Son is complete we visit a lady who makes rice paper. We get a demonstration on how they are made.

We are taken to a local house where we are served a delicious meal family style. We are instructed on how to wet the dry rice sheets and make wraps filled with delicious toppings.

Our day is finished with a short boat ride.

Aaaah, I am in Hoi An

I am in Hoi An, Vietnam. I have heard many praises about this place but wasn’t sure what to expect. I anticipate liking it as well and book about a week in Hoi An. I end up loving it.

I book a really nice resort recommended by a couple I met during my travels. Luckily I had a good number of credit card points to offset the cost. I say it is expensive for Vietnam it is but the cost is $50 a night; quite a deal compared to what you would get in other countries. The hotel is on separate island from the main town of Hoi An but it is only a mile or so walk to the main tourist areas. There is a periodic shuttle to town but I end up walking there myself on most days.

Hoi An Odyssey Hotel

my view
Hotel pool at night

When I arrive it is raining again. I settle in my room and get dinner at the hotel restaurant. There are not any others dining.

The next morning I am off to get some clothes made. It is imperative I do my orders soon because it can take 3 days for the clothes to be sewed. There are so many choices and it is overwhelming. I end up choosing a place my hotel recommends. Not the cheapest tailor but they have a good reputation for quality.

I begin the couple mile walk. I could get a taxi but I feel I need the exercise.

Some of many tailors in town.

I choose designs and patterns. Many have fancy suits made but I end up ordering one wrap dress, one more formal dress, and one pant jumpsuit. Afterwards I go to have some shoes designed close by. I’ll come back a couple times for fittings at both places. After my first dress fitting I decide to order an additional wrap dress since they seem to be easy to make and are flattering.

After ordering my clothes I walk around town. There is a ticket you buy to each of the sites but I just view them from the outside instead. I like just hanging out in town and people watching.

I stop in a cafe for lunch. I order some chicken stir fried with noodles and vegetables.

After my lunch I walk back toward my hotel.

It is hot out so I enjoy the rest of the afternoon at the pool with a cocktail and apparently a new kitty to take home.

Loving my time in Hoi An thus far.