Ho Chi Minh (or as the locals all call it, Saigon), is a great city. Compared to Hanoi, it felt far more developed, with skyscrapers and shopping malls greeting us on the way in. Despite being more Westernised, the local way of life was still dominant, with endless street sellers and markets, street bars on tiny seats, and the roads covered by Tuk tuks and motorcyclists. It felt like the city had found a happy medium.
Our first trip was to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Used by the Viet Cong in the war to avoid the US, the tunnels are now open to the public. Although you can only go in with a registered guide, this actually helps, as they explain the many booby traps dotted around and give you a better insight into how the Viet Cong avoided the US, and their dogs. It was amazing to get a better understanding of the planning that went into the design of the tunnels, and the extreme lengths both sides went to avoid defeat. The tunnels themselves were brilliant, getting into a Vietnamese sized one (some have been widened for Westerners) was a tight fit, and very claustrophobic when the lid was down. After volunteering to go in first, the tour guide thought it would be funny to put her foot on the lid and lock me in, quite scary. Overall it was an excellent tour, and really gave you a better understanding of how vicious the war became as the US tried to flush the Viet Cong out.
Part of the tour package was stopping at the nearby shooting range to try some of the weapons used at that time. Paul had had his eye on this for a while, and so quickly signed up to shoot an AK47. The noise coming from the range was unbelievable, and with the bullet casings pinging all over the place, I was keen to move on. Paul enjoyed his 10 bullets and then we were off.
On the way back to the bus, walking back through the tunnel area, we heard singing and music, interspersed with the gun fire. Our guide told us it was a wedding. At a shooting range/war tunnels?! Seemed an odd place to be celebrating, but it sounded like they were having a good time.
We were staying in the backpacker area of Saigon, which by day was busy, but by night was absolutely packed. Through the evening street side bars would gradually add more and more tiny little chairs and tables to accommodate the crowds. By the end of the night, entire roads were blocked as bars on either side of the street grew and met in the middle. A street that we, and normal traffic, had easily passed through at 7pm became an absolute battle by midnight, crazy stuff.
We spent a few days soaking up the city before we started making tracks to Cambodia. Aware that we were running out of time, and with 2 countries still to see, we booked ourselves onto a 3 day Mekong Delta trip as the final part of our Vietnam adventure.