Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ho Chi Minh City Tour, Continued (HCMC Trip Day 1)

From Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, we continued our city tour to the Independence Palace and War Remnant Museum. We took 10 minutes to walk from Saigon Cathedral to the Independence Palace. Independance Palace is a beautiful building with well preserved interior. It was the office and residence of the president of South Vietnam. 

According to the local, the palace was built according to fengshui- with the main building located on the head of a dragon. However, the good location was not good enough to stop the advancement of North Vietnamese Army into the palace, and marked the end of Vietnam War in 1975. Although the palace was the place where the rulers resided for hundreds of years, the current structure that we visited was built in 1966.

The entrance fee for foreigner was VD 30,000 per person, opened from 7 - 11 am, 1 - 4 pm daily. The palace is located at Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Road. Too difficult to remember? Well, if you are standing in front of the cathedral, facing the entrance, you just need to turn left, cross the road, walk through 200-meter long garden, and you will find the palace right in front of you.

The 200-meter long garden ensures a comfortable walk from the cathedral to Independence Palace.

The Independence Palace is a white building with a fountain in front of it.

The ticketing counter is located at a side of the palace's compound (upper row). The interior of the palace was well preserved. The function room (lower right) and meeting room were located on the ground floor.

The president's office at the first floor.

The helipad on the top of the palace (upper left), the president's car (upper right) and residence (lower right), and the underground bunker were some of the interesting sites that we could see around the palace. The president's residence was decent, but still considered luxury compared to where Uncle Ho Chi Minh stayed in Hanoi.

 Don't forget to stop at the balcony of the palace to take a look on the busy street in front of the palace.

We left the palace through another entrance at 11 am, and walked to War Remnants Museum. The museum located at Le Quu Don, some 10 minutes away from the palace. The entrance fee was VND 15,000 per person, and the opening hours were from 7:30 to 12:00 noon, then from 1:30 to 5:00 pm daily. 

We roamed around the museum till 12 noon (yes, we left after the last call for lunch break). The real "hardwares" of the remnants are on the outside of the museum building, while the inside are mainly photo galleries. We couldn't deny that the photo galleries were shocking, but well, we expected to see other types of "remnants" other than the photos.

We left the Independence Palace through the back door. How to go to War Remnants Museum from there? Once you are out of the gate, turn right and walk till the end of the street (as shown in this photo). Then, turn right, walk, and take your first left turn. The museum is some 100 meters away on your left. So, it's as simple as "right-right-left-left".
The museum is a modern 3-storey building.

 The compound of the museum was not big, arranged with many old U.S. war machines.

Tank and helicopter.

The ground floor of the museum consisted of several souvenir shops (upper left), while the upper levels highlighted a few photo galleries (upper right). The walkway on the higher levels were blue due to the lighting effect (lower right). Several types of bullets and guns were exhibited in the museum as well.

The orange gallery showed the effect of the dioxane to the local communities. Dioxane was the orange powder dispersed by U.S. army to clear the forest.

We went through all the photo galleries, but not in detail. We skipped most of the captions, as it was too much for us to read. Well, the photos collected all around Vietnam during the war could be the best way to show the "remnants" of the war across the whole country. But frankly, we were expecting more "physical" remnants rather than the photos, meaning, we hoped to see more on the things that we could touch with our hands, rather than with our heart.

Unless you like to see endless sad photos of the war, or else the museum is not a good place to stay for long. We left War Remnants Museum for our lunch at somewhere near our hotel by taxi. The taxi service was good- metered, cooling air conditioner, polite and professional driver. He couldn't speak English, but well, we managed to communicate with him with simple body language, and the destination "Saigon Square"- a landmark nearby our hotel. We took banh me (bun) and fruit juice as our lunch at Hoppy.

Went back to hotel to rest for a while. Afternoon, we walked to Saigon Square and Ben Thanh Market. The sun was stinging hot. Saigon Square was air conditioned, but the hot weather turned the shopping mall into a big stuffy box. Bien Thanh Market was even worse, but we managed to stay at the food and beverage section for a while, and took several local delicacies- shredded pork spring roll, shrimp and pork spring roll, and beef noodle. The food tasted good with reasonable price. Unbearable heat drove us from the market and we decided to visit the market some other time. We took a walk down Le Loi Road, shopped around at Parkson and Vincom Center till 7 pm (first visit). On our way back to our hotel, we stopped and joined the congregation of night strollers at Nguyen Hue Road. We will share more about shopping and food in Ho Chi Minh City soon.

 Nguyen Hue Road looks different at night.

Vivid city hall at night.

Night strollers at Nguyen Hue Road.

Although none of the attractions were as stunning like the Thang Long Citidel in Hanoi, The Imperial City of Hue or the old relics at My Son, the city stroll was a great experience for us. Well, the experience would be a better one without hot weather.
We rested around 11 pm. Next day, Our itinerary- Cu Chi Tunnel. Stay with us. More about our experiences in Vietnam are available at:


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