We caught a sleeper bus from Da Lat to Ho Chi Minh during the day and arrived about 5pm into the city. We’d booked Hideout Hostel and it was conveniently on the same road that the bus dropped us off at so it was only a short walk with our backpacks. We checked in and then checked out the local area in search of some food. There were quite a few restaurants claiming they did western food and we were both sick of Asian food for the moment so we went to a restaurant that did Italian. Unfortunately when Asian places say they do western food, what they really mean is they do their own version of western food, which is never the same. We left feeling disappointed and still a little hungry. We were both knackered from the long drive and carrying our backpacks was starting to take its toll on our back and shoulders so we decided to go for a relaxing massage in a spa round the corner from our hostel. It was good value and very relaxing. Also a bit funny too as the woman got Jordan to take all his clothes off (he doesn’t wear boxers) so she could really get into those butt cheeks! Cucumber all over the face was an interesting one too, but the hot stones felt lovely and as it was a full body one we felt very relaxed afterwards. The rest of the night we chilled in the room using the wifi to skype Natalie’s family and making the most of the hot shower.
On Monday we had a bit of a lie in and then decided to go to a gym we found online which was close by called Mach’s Gym. It was small and not very well air conditioned but it had all the equipment we needed and was a good workout. It was also in an area that had lots of sports shops so we did a little shopping afterwards looking at the Nike gear that was all pretty much the same price as home. Natalie did buy herself some non-branded sports leggings though. After a shower and some lunch (sad to say we had jacket potatoes and they were good!) we headed to the War Museum. We’d heard from our hostel that cyclos (men riding you round in carts) were a dying breed but used to be very popular and is a classic Vietnamese thing to do so we decided to get one to the museum to see what all the fuss was about. They’re quite expensive but when you think of how much work the cyclers have to do, weaving in and out of all the motorbikes (Ho Chi Minh is nicknamed ‘motorbike city’ as there are 8 million bikes driving around – pretty much one to every person living there) it must be very tiring for them. So we thought it was well worth the money.
Our cycler told us about the city and said he was in the Vietnam war. It was interesting to talk to a local. It started to chuck it down with rain just as we got outside the War Museum so we quickly ran inside. The museum was very eerie and quite hard-hitting. Seeing pictures of the effects of Agent Orange was disturbing and reading everything that the Americans did to innocent Vietnamese civilians was shocking. But we are so pleased we went.
Afterwards we tried to find a nice coffee shop we had been to three years ago when we last travelled South East Asia. We walked around the area that we thought it was but had no luck, so we got a taxi to the Bitexco Tower which is the tallest building in the city and has a helipad on it. We had heard that you could buy a drink in the bar and enjoy the view without having to pay the ridiculous prices to eat in the restaurant. And as it was our 6 year anniversary the next day we thought ‘Why not!?’ So we got the elevator up to the 52nd floor and went round the corner to the bar area. We felt a bit under dressed when we saw everyone dining in the posh restaurant but once we entered the bar, there were lots of backpackers there so we fit in quite well. Beer wasn’t too pricey there and cocktails were about £6 – similar price to what you would pay at home – so we didn’t mind paying, especially as it was a special occasion. We both had two cocktails each but they catch you out at the end when they throw a service charge on top of your bill so we probably spent about £25 all together.
Now you would think that after a romantic drink overlooking the lights of Ho Chi Minh City that we would go somewhere nice for dinner, but we thought we would save that until our actual anniversary which was the next day. So on the way back to our hostel we stopped at McDonald’s of all places (we told you we were craving Western food!). We felt so guilty but sometimes it has to be done, you can’t eat the same thing all day every day. We then went to the bar next to our hostel and had a few drinks there. We walked up to the top floor of the bar where they had a chill out area with a huge flat screen TV that had over 100 films for you to choose from. We chose to watch Inter Stella.
The next day we got up fairly early to go to the gym again before getting picked up to go together Cu Chi Tunnels at 1pm. We had no idea it took nearly 2 hours to get there! The trip was really interesting and we learnt why the Vietnamese soldiers made the tunnels and some different defence theories they used to trap and kill the American enemy.
Jordan also shot an M1 gun there, and then it was time to crawl through the very narrow Cu Chi Tunnels. The Vietnamese soldiers made these tunnels by hand to get around the battlefield undetected by the opposition. They made them extremely narrow so that the American soldiers could not fit in them if they ever discovered them. The Vietnamese soldiers were even smaller build than they are now so the tunnels had to be made slightly wider for tourists to fit through them during their visit. The tunnel you crawl through on the trip is 100 metres long and there are exists at every 20 metres if you feel uncomfortable. Natalie is a bit claustrophobic so she was a bit nervous and was about to give up near the 80 metre mark as it did get very tight, but she persevered and we can both now say that we crawled through the Cu Chi Tunnels. We didn’t get back to our hostel until about 6pm and we were both starving so we quickly put our glad rags on – it was our anniversary after all – and got a taxi to a French restaurant a couple we met in Da Lat had recommended. It was a really nice restaurant and the food was delicious. It was similar prices to what you would pay in a restaurant like Prezzo or something back at home but the quality was much higher so we were happy to pay it. We shared some pita bread and veg with three dips to start, then Natalie had the BBQ pulled pork with peas and mash potato and Jordan had the medallion of pork with vegetables, which were both delicious. We contemplated the dessert menu for a while and settled on classic New York cheesecake and warm chocolate brownie. With a glass of wine each as well the meal was perfect.
We walked back to our hostel as it wasn’t too far and Ho Chi Minh City is so pretty at night. We then watched another film in our rooftop bar and turned in ready to fly back up to Hanoi the next day to do Halong Bay.