A rapid rush to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) ended with a successful Indian Visa application, which is a relief to finally have, although it meant spending a whole week in this city of 8 million inhabitants and 8 million mopeds!! Didn't seem quite as hectic though as Hanoi - maybe because the streets are so much wider.
But best bit is I met Lucy and Kevin with a tearful meeting at the airport, having not seen my sister for the last 10 months! They came for a 2 week holiday in Vietnam / Cambodia / Bangkok.
HCMC is a sprawl of 16 urban and 5 rural districts (quan) with me staying in the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao. Stayed in a lovely hotel where I had a TV in my room with cable - so spent most of the nights up watching the French tennis open! Did meet with Heidi and Shaun (S. America trip) for dinner on the first night before they headed towards the Mekong Delta. Did find an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool, which was an interesting experience, but didn't rush back as one end it smelt as though there had been a little petrol spillage in the water!
To ensure I actually saw the sites I signed up for a day tour, and was driven around and shown the sites of interest - though not the most interesting!!!:
- Notre Dame Cathedral = built between 1877 and 1883. It's red brick, neo-Romanesque form and 2 40m-high square towers tipped with iron spires resemble that in Paris.
- Mariamman Hindu Temple = was built at the end of the 19th century and is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Mariamman. There are only 50-60 Tamil Hindus in HCMC, but the temple is considered sacred by many ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese.
- War Remnants Museum = displaying a huge number of disturbing Vietnam War photos and retired artillery pieces. Also has a model tiger cage which was used to house Viet Cong prisoners, but that left me feeling queasy so didn't examine very well.
Reunification Palace = built in 1966 to serve as South Vietnam's Presidential Palace it was here (then called Independence Hall) that the first Communist tanks in Saigon rushed on the morning of 30 April 1975, the day Saigon surrendered. The building looks the same as it did then.
- Cholon Chinese Market = sold absolutely everything in excess down the narrow aisles!