Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City: Young Big City
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is often regarded economic heart of Vietnam. It is not as hold as Hanoi (Hà Nội) but still it has some magic.
Once I had found my feet after my arrival I started to enjoy the beauties of Saigon on my own. The first thing was local rain. Every day at more or less same hour it got darker and it seemed the end of the world is nigh. Five minutes later, however, it was done and sun shone once again
B borrowed a motor bike fro his auntie. Together we set off to sightseeing. Many sights have survived since the French colonial era. There is the town hall, Notre-Dame cathedral or beautiful pošty.
Notre-Dame in Saigon was built in the 19th century. The two towers are 58 meters high. Once you take a look at this structure you feel like in Europe. And it really was a part of Europe in Saigon heat. Allegedly, the construction material was imported from France.
There are many museums in Saigon. The Museum of History or the War Crimes Museum which resides in a building that once was a US infocenter. There you can see war photographies, weapons or a guillotine. It was used by French to execute guerilla fighters. However, the exhibition’s main focus are atrocities done during the Vietnam war by Americans and Chinese.
To calm down after this horrid experience one can go to one of many temples or mosques that stand in tree shadows. You can have delicious Vietnamese coffee – the best is with ice and condensed milk.
As me and B are interested in Chinese culture we concluded our day in the Cholon neighborhood (Chợ lớn). Basically it is a Chinatown in Saigon. Many Chinese settled there. Chinese influence and culture are easy to spot here. But the market place is more Vietnamese than Chinese. However, temples and inscriptions make it clear Chinese live here.
Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh city as its correct name is today has many beautiful sights and there are waiting there for you to see them.
GPS: (Notre-Dame cathedral) 10°46'47.5"N 106°41'56.5"E
Text and photos: Hana Bašová
Today we are about to enjoy our last amazing trip in Vietnam, we originally intended to visit the Ba Vi National Park, but for time constraints we had to change our program because we need to reserve at least two days for this park. So we had a hotel counseling and planned a trip to a place that was not even mentioned in our book guide, although it is very popular for tourists (even for local people). Today, we go to visit the largest Vietnamese pagoda Bai Dinh and then explore the beautiful complex Trang An.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
The end of my stay in Vietnam was neigh. There was one more place to see, a must-see place. The Caodaistic temple. Caodaismus (Đạo Cao Đài) is a young, syncretic religion established by a bureaucrat from South Vietnam in the 1920s.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
Omnipresent honking, grandmas pulling bikes with flowers, Vietnamese sitting on small chairs, food, bikes, wires, bikes, French cafes, bikes with food, bikes with chairs, bike transporting part of another bike… Welcome to Hanoi! It is a city crazy beyond believe. You either love it or you hate it eternally.
We had no problems with B to communicate in China. In Vietnam, B took the role of the guide. When we decided to travel to Cambodia, we realized this would be the most exotic country simply because we don’t know the Cambodian language.
When visiting south Vietnam, go to the Mekong river delta. The river originates in China and runs across five countries. It is however in Vietnam where it enters the sea. The area lures in tourists who may experience boat rides here, a floating market, or see interesting life of the locals on the riverbank. Its brown color is not appealing for locals use it to their everyday activities – washing, cleaning etc. There are no dangerous animals in the river so you can swim in it.
Do you think which destination is the right one for you? Where is something interesting and unusual? Where you can find beautiful landscape, excellent cuisine, and pleasant locals? Well, I know where to go. My favorite place is... Vietnam and I will try to convince you in the next few articles that even for you this is the right choice.
Upon our arrival and first impressions of Vietnam, we take a tour of Hanoi. The guide first takes us to Ba Dinh Square, which is famous especially for Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
We imagined the visit to the lake as relaxing time after quite a busy day. The reality was seriously different from our expectations. I have remembered the first impression until today. With my daughter and son, we dodged through the local traffic and it was not really easy. The flood of motorcycles was not to stop. We naively thought that someone might slow down or even stop. Don't expect that. Just walk to the other end of the road. And be brave.
The very first day in Asia went very quickly, and in the evening we moved to a cozy family hotel. The environment is friendly, staff gives advice with a smile, they recommend you meals, trips, help with transportation or you can buy the fruit you want. At least first, before you get by, you will certainly appreciate the help.
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
In the region of Sa Pa, northwestern Vietnam, the best means of transport is a bike. You don’t have to worry about missing your bus, of taxi not coming, or that your taxi cab driver would be someone who drives illegally. Therefore, we rented us a bike in Sa Pa. It cost only a few crowns. Then we planned our trip.
When someone in Prague says “Sapa” everybody recalls the famous marketplace in Prague. However, once you dig into where the name originates you soon find the mysterious area of Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northwest (near the borderline with China).
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
I was feeling like travelling in China when I was on my way to Hoi An – “there is going to be this yellow bus. It will take you there“.
On the following day we set off to Hoi An (Hội An . It was during the daylight and also it didn’t rain. The sun was pleasantly shining and warm. We reached the historical center by foot and were ready for some great sightseeing (even the one in the night had its atmosphere).
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
Even though the title suggest some offensive connotations we were did not intend to disgrace royal tombs as if we were in an action movie. A rented bike, however, solved our problems. The tombs around Hue are scattered along vast area. Before relying on public transportation it is better to pay couple of crowns to rent a bike.
The last day was before us in Hue, the picturesque imperial city. In the early morning we hit the streets and just roamed around in the city. Indeed, we saw one of the most distinctive sights in the city - the Trường Tiền bridge across the Perfume River.
We reached Hanoi (Hà Nội in Vietnamese) by train, again. Friends had been waiting for us at the train station already. Hospitable as they were they took us on their bikes to their place. Founded in the 11th century, Hanoi’s original name was Thăng Long – Soaring Dragon. The legend says the emperor saw a dragon soaring at this place so he founded the city there.
Someone loves it. Someone swears to not to come again. There is nothing in between. I am with the first group. From the first day on in Saigon, a hectic city, and I turned into a side street. We are about to introduce you to a new series where we tell you about interesting places in the city and the country. First of all, let’s talk some important facts about the country.
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
As much as I hate to travel by bus, I would repeat the ride from Nha Trang and Da Lat. The former is the city of two hundred thousand. It is the most popular spot to spend honeymoon at in Vietnam. It is situated at 1500 meters in the Central Highlands. You can enjoy a number of great views while on the road. And it gets even better on bike …
Recently was thru internet voting selected the new seven natural wonders of the world. Most information on these remarkable localities in the Czech Internet dismissed several photographs, but we will in our “Do you know that” – serial will try to say something more about the places that you did not receive his reputation by accident.
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