I took one day tour to Chao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnel. It took about three hours van riding from HCMC to Chao Dai temple. Luckily, an hour driving from HCMC, we stopped by at a workshop for the disable that made several beautiful Vietnamese crafts. We could go in to the workshop where the disable people work to know how the products were made and the next door is the big store where they sold the finished products. Afterwards, the journey continued to Chao Dai temple. My arse was sore because the road to go there wasn’t that smooth and the ride took forever. We finally arrived at the right time when the second mass was about to start. So, I and the rest of the tourists made our way to the second level of the temple and took some pictures when the Chao Dai believers worshiped God. The temple was very beautiful and the religion itself is very interesting which is combination of Budhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism with some Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism and Ancestor worship thrown in for good measure. Sounds complicated, eh?
We then headed to Cu Chi Tunnel, a complex tunnel that was dug by revolutionaries during the war. The place was really exciting. Soon after we arrived, we saw a video about the history of Vietnam War and the reason why they built the tunnel. Then we went inside the REAL tunnel. I was totally shocked to found out the tunnel was extremely small even for a person like me! I bet the soldiers back then were really petite! I found it was thrilling yet scary to be inside the tunnel especially when a girl behind me got freaked out and started screaming all the way from the point we started! Jeezz, I should have brought ear plugs! Haha!
It is not recommended for claustrophobic people since the tunnel is very narrow, dark and stuffy. Uh oh, probably good to bring your flashlight inside or at least switch on your digital camera to get some lights since it’s very dark there! Then, be very careful with the bats because they are flying everywhere!
* Daily tour to Chao Dai and Cu Chi tunnel costs $7.00 (lunch and entrance fee for Cu Chi Tunnel are not included)
One Fine Day in HCMC
A couple of weeks before I arrived in HCMC/Saigon, I’d been exchanging messages with Chaucy, a Vietnamese girl who helped me a bit with guesthouse information. Both of us agreed to meet when I got there. So, today is the DAY! Chaucy came to my hostel and picked me up since she promised me to take me around the city. YAY! Eventhough it was our first day to meet each other, we felt like we’ve been known each other for years!
Chaucy took me to the downtown with her motorcycle! It was a fun ride and I felt completely safe with her! But we didn’t wanna caught in the heavy traffic of Saigon, so we decided to park the motorcycle somewhere and walked around the city.
We visited couple of famous MUST-SEE places around Saigon. First place to visit was the Saigon Opera House which was built in 1897 by French architect. It was under construction when I was there but it looked good from the outside. Then we went to The Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica which was established by French colonists and was constructed between 863 and 1880. Both of us went inside to check out the interior inside and it was amazingly well-preserved. Then we crossed the street to The Saigon Central Post Office which features Gothic architecture styles and was designed to be in harmony with the surrounding ward. We took some pictures and I bought some nice postcards for my friends. We continued walking through a nice garden where mostly local students hanging out to go to The Reunification Palace. But we only found out that the place was CLOSED for couple of days. BUMMER. So we went to different direction and made our ways to The War Remnants Museum. It is a war museum that was inaugurated in 1975 and back then it was called “The house for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the puppet Government of South Vietnam”. This museum basically displays anything that related with Vietnam War. I couldn’t really say anything about what I saw. My heart sank. I hate WAR. It doesn’t do anything GOOD for both parties.
I thought the sadness made us hungry so from there we went to a nice Vietnamese restaurant called Rat Hue. I let Chaucy ordered everything seems she knew everything about Vietnamese food. DUH! The food was great and the place was nice. We ordered the famous Vietnamese noodle soup and spring roll and whatever! I forgot the name but I know it was delicious ;)
Then.. SHOPPING TIME! We went to Ben Thanh Market and looked for some souvenirs for my friends and my family. It was such a big marketplace! They do have different section for local cuisine, souvenirs, handicrafts, clothes, bags, clothes and even the famous Viatnemese dress called Ao Dai! It was nice to have Chaucy around because she’s a local so I got cheaper price!!
Cruise on the Mekong River
Today is another tour day and the Mekong Delta is the destination. I left Saigon at 8:30 AM heading to My Tho city and arrived around 10:00 AM where we hopped on a small boat crossing the river to visit the coconut production chain.
We saw how the locals made coconut candy using some traditional tools. They showed us how they grind the coconut, cooked and wrapped it until it’s ready for sell. The part I really like the most when we got free candy samples! We could get as much as we want! YAY!
Then, we continued on the river to the Bee Farm. Not much to see in this place other than a small bee farm. But we got to taste the HONEY TEA for free (again??) and it was UNBELIEVABLY good!
My favorite activity of the day was we took a smaller boat which only fit 6 people. Two of them were local women rowing the boat. They gave us traditional Vietnamese hats to wear to keep us from the sun. Then the next 15 minutes we cruise a beautiful little canal in the cool and comfortable shade of coconut trees. We could see closer how the locals lived and experienced the hospitality of the local people. We couldn’t stop waving to the kids because they couldn’t stop smiling and waving. They were gorgeous.
We finally stopped at a small village. I don’t know the name because I didn’t bother to ask. Hehe. The locals served us various fresh fruits like banana, dragon fruit, pineapple and papaya. While we indulged the fruits, we were entertained by couple of Vietnamese songs and traditional music. This was a great end to my day at the Mekong Delta.
*Daily tour to Mekong costs $7 (lunch is included)