Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City seemed to lack the glamour that it’s former name of Saigon gave it. It’s a sprawling, developing city of over 21m people in the greater metropolitan area, with an increasing number of glass towers housing finance and business.
My favourite place to visit was the Reunification Palace (also called Independence Palace), built between 1962 and 1966 on the site of the former Norodom Palace which was partly destroyed by rebel pilots. It’s a classic piece of sixties architecture.
Inside the five levels clearly no expense was spared on the fit out.
On the roof is a replica of a US helicopter used for the President of the Republic of Vietnam on tours of inspection before 1975.
Downstairs in the basement is the telecommunications centre and war room, which would have been heavily used between the completion of the building and end of the war in 1975.
On the subject of the Vietnam War (known in Vietnam as the American War), the War Remnants Museum was an intense reminder of the suffering it caused, and it’s ultimate futility. One of the most visited museums in Vietnam it was an unforgettable place.
As were the Cu Chi Tunnels outside the city, a 121km long complex of tunnels used by Viet Cong soliders as protection during combat, and as communication and supply routes. Above ground were shelters, tanks, and traps.
Below ground was another world, an incredibly claustrophobic, humid and unpleasant place, accessed by unbelievably tiny holes. I can’t think of a more uncomfortable place I’ve ever been, and I only spent a few minutes underground in the ‘tourist’ sized tunnels, free of rodents and venomous creatures, in which the Viet Cong would spend most of the day.
Returning to the city, with the impressive Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 19th century. All the building materials were imported from France!
To finish with the beautiful interior of the Ho Chi Minh Train Station.