Our first stop is Saigon Central Post Office to buy a couple of post cards. The building is unique with influence from Gothic, renaissance and French
The old map of Vietnam inside the Post Office.
The view outside
The Next stop is the Reunification Palace
The view from the 2nd floor
Inside we are treated with replicas of the the Government’s offices, meeting rooms for diplomats and function rooms where they entertained the other countries presidents and/or dignitaries.
This meeting room with the beautiful 40 hand painted wooden panels backdrop tells a store about the Vietnam’s Kingdom army in the olden days
Underneath the museum, we see a bunker and some photos from when the country was at war and divided. The black and white photos are the testament of how the struggle for freedom and unified the country are sometimes hard to swallow.
The original flag @ the Fall of Saigon.
One the PAVN Tanks. This one, Tank 390, and Tank 843, went through the gates of the Independence Palace to raise the NLF flag and take over the city.
At night then we see the famous Water Puppet show. This art comes from the (Mekong) Red Delta River in the 10th century. The farmers developed an entertainment in the rice fields and rivers. The puppeteers are in a waist deep pool, using bamboos under the water, manipulating the puppets that weight around 15kg.
The Musicians sometimes act as the voices of the characters and banters with the other side of the pond players while playing the traditional music instruments.
The program starts with a puppet introducing the musicians and the water puppets. He jokes around and plays with the audience, splashing the front row. The story centers around myths and legends from the rural areas.
Saigon girl wearing the tradition Ao dai
On the excursion the next day, we take the Cao Dai and Cu Chi tunnel tour package. Between HoChiMinh and Cu Chi, we stop over to see the local craft. They use mother of pearl and sea shells to make a beautiful painting.
We arrive at Cao Dai Temple, a religion of 7 religions (yes, you got that right).
Here we have the eye and the 3 representative of The Sage, Buddha, and The Saint. The entities above are Guanyin, Taishang Laojun, Buddha, Confucius, Guangong, Wenchang Di, Jesus Christ and Laozi.
‘Tis an interesting since the inner decor, even the way they pray follow the bastardisation of a Chinese Tradition, Islam, Christian, Buddha, etc. hence the Dragons, the starry sky, and the Lotus from Buddha.
In the religion, the members of the Buddhist group wear yellow robes, the Taoist priests wear blue and the Christian priests wear red.
Next, Cu Chi Tunnel, to see where the Vietcong won their war through guerrillas warfare inside the long winding and small tunnels underneath the area and even under the very nose of the American base at that time.
This local can fit into that 7inches wide hole. The Guide says that because of the scarce food, the Vietcong were very, very thin and could go in and moved quickly to avoid the US Army. He then looks at us and said that nowadays it’s hard for us to fit in the hole (i.e because we’re fatter. Haha.)
The entrance of the tunnel. Visitors can go in and try crawling in a 100m long tunnel that’s already widen twice from the original size. I crawl and on my hands and knees in the dark with only small emergency lights to guide my way. It is an experience, but once in a lifetime is enough. I think.
The Vietcong build traps like these and camouflage ’em with leaves and dirt. You step in the wrong way… OUCH. bye bye.
They even have trap door in the villagers’ houses. When the enemies barge in… two levels of spikes hit the unfortunate soul from head to knee and…as our Guide say, there are many men moved to Thailand without their jewel.
While having snack made of casava and with crush peanuts topping, our guide continue with the history lesson. The tunnels have a make-shift kitchen and hospital and for a living to avoid bombing and the enemies. Most of the fighters work as farmers and home/tunnel industry, making traps from fallen bombs, sandals from tanks’ or jeep’s wheels and anything they can use into everyday things.
The Guide says that the Vietcong holds a shovel for farming in one hand and a riffle on the other hand.
Optional: After the tour, you can try to shoot a riffle for a minimum of 10 bullets (Range from 25.000 – 30.000 @ bullet). From left to right: AK47, M16, CABIN, GARANG M1, THOMPSON, M30 and the BIG M60
Next stop: Hue
It’s recommended on travel sites to fly to Da Nang for transit and go by train to Hue. The train ride is pretty long but the scenic by the sea is worth it.
We arrive in the evening. While riding the taxi, we pass by the old Quoc Hoc High School (112 years old stone school). It is considered to be the oldest, largest, and hard to get in and famed for its political, social and industrial school system in Vietnam. The girl riding the bicycle just got back from school, wearing the traditional uniform.
The next day, we take the one day tour for several sights in Hue. For those who doesn’t know, yes, once upon of time in Vietnam, there WAS a Kingdom and several dynasties, before it got bombard with occupations and war.
First, we pass by the home industry in Hue: incense making and wood carving.
The making of Vietnamese style conical hat, nón lá and Vietnamese incense.
A man making a dragon ornament
The Tu Duc tomb is the last home for the 4th Emperor. Even when he’s still alive, he lives in the complex with his wives because he has smallpox.
Small resting place where the Emperor write poetry while looking at the pond.
Every tomb will have several statues of the ministers, a horse and an elephant to accompany the soul of the Emperor in the after life.
Next we go to Khai Dinh Tomb, the 12th Emperor. He’s also the so-called-puppet Emperor for the French, and because of that, he has the obsession with Dragons in his tomb designs.
His tomb is still the most colourful ones with influence from French (with painted marble walls) and Chinese (porcelain and glass with amazing and beautiful colours and crafted decorations).
The throne with the settling sun. As explained by the Guide that the settling sun is a normal decoration for a dead monarch, symbolising the end of the Reign.
Some eye candy made of glasses and pieces of porcelains.
The Emperor Minh Mang, was the grandfather of Emperor Tu Duc. No surprise in terms of designs and layout there. Only this one is much smaller.
The lotus in the pond aren’t in bloom or this tomb will look lovely and wonderful. Only the Koi fishes are still as fat and big as ever.
After taking a break and lunch, we go to the monument with the Vietnam flag.
We enter the Imperial city. The design follows Chinese Confucius, with stone and bricks and moat from the Huong River (Perfume River), surrounding the whole city in a 2 km x 2 km stretch. The Purple Forbidden City was home for the Nguyen Imperial Family.
One of the entry gates with colorful designs with glass and porcelain decoration.
The Palace court yard
The 9 Dynasty Urns castes and carved by crafters from Hue. Each and every one of them is dedicated to an emperor, with different handles and feet individually.
We visit Thien Mu Pagoda (The Heavenly Lady Pagoda).
The Thien Mu Pagoda is the tallest Pagoda in Vietnam. 7 Levels with high ceiling. On the side, it has several houses for the monks to learn and meditate.
A small pagoda by river
When going to Vietnam, we have to take a photo with the Turtle. This one is taken from the Thian Mu Pagoda.
Vietnamese prefer motorcycles. Like with a family of five, instead a car or two + a motorcycle or three, prefer five motorcycles. We miss it, but apparently every weekend nights, the Vietnamese go out and tour the city with motorcycles. Too bad we don’t get to see the sights.
Sources: wikipedia.org, wikitravel.org or otherwise stated.