Choose the right Travel Agency
I've heard of Sinh Cafe and felt that this would be a safe bet if I'd to book my day tours with them.
I can safely say that they are one of the best tour agency around. Booking of the day tours was a breeze and they have everything from a one day tour, to a 3-day Mekong delta tour, to even adventure tour for those who wants to rough it out.
Located along De Tham St (Along a row of backpacker's motels), Sinh cafe was easily the busiest of all the tour agencies located there. Bus after bus brought tourists to their various locations, and everything ran like clockwork. If they say they'l leave by 8.15am, they will, though not without a grace period.
The guides speak understandable english and there were no forced purchase of any items (Had a very bad experience in China. I'll leave you to read my entries about Shanghai), and they did not demand for a guide's tip.
They also ensure the safety of those under them and also gave us enough time to explore the places that they brought us to. Extremely good customer service at a totally inexpensive price.
They are also very efficient in replying your queries through email.
246-248, De Tham St, Dist 1
24-26, Pho Duc Chinh, Dist 1
To Saigon by Piper Apache, back by Caribou
1. Sidewalk market near the Tan Loc Hotel
2. Pedicab near Ciné Van Hoa
3. Saigon mosque
4. Sidewalk soft drink stand
My ninth visit to Saigon was from May 14 to 17, 1965. Again I stayed at the Tan Loc Hotel, which is the one I described as "the second sorriest hotel in Saigon (the first being Hotel Saigon, out by the HSAS library)."
In a letter from Saigon dated May 15, 1965, I wrote:
Happy 2509th anniversary of the birth of Buddha! I am in Saigon for the occasion, quite accidentally. […] When I came into Saigon yesterday it was on a plush little executive-type plane: a two-engine, six-passenger Piper Apache. Very comfortable and smooth-flying. The pilot had dropped off some bigwig in Phuoc Vinh and was returning to Saigon empty, so he took me along.
For Saturday, May 15, I noted: "Swimming, walking, library: feeling scatterbrained, skimming everything, e.g. the Lawrence Durrell letters, math and astronomy popularizations, Mario Pei books, etc. Also atlases, encyclopedia articles on Iceland, travels, something called World of the Wind by Slater Brown, etc."
On Monday, May 17, I returned to Phước Vĩnh in a two-engine Caribou aircraft. This was a Canadian-built plane, by the de Havilland Canada company, which was designed particularly for carrying large amounts of cargo and for being able to land and take off from short runways.
The Caribou was no doubt a versatile and practical aircraft, but it had no windows, just a large loading door at the back, and was not at all comfortable for passengers -- the opposite of the Piper Apache that had taken me to Saigon a few days before.
My friend Nguyen, I met her in...
My friend Nguyen, I met her in one market in Saigon, She is working in a very original shop, were i bought a Cobra Liquor, an powered drink for all kind of purpose.
I actually have a fluent contract via e-mail, and we share lot of impression about Viet Nam, history, rules, culture and future of the country.
I am learning lot of thing from this very intelligent girl that i met in the market.
Set around 35km from central Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels earned legendary status during the American War. A massive network of underground tunnels and chambers, Cu Chi, in its entirety, stretched for over 250km from Saigon all the way to the Cambodian border. Few sites bear stronger testament to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong's will to defeat the Americans (and the French) than these tunnels.
It's a little realised fact that the Cu Chi tunnels predated US involvement in Vietnam, with the first tunnels being dug after the end of World War II in the late 1940s. In the following decades the system became more comprehensive and the tunnels and chambers more elaborate. The US tried first to attack the tunnels from within by sending soldiers down into the tunnels to fight their way through. These brave soldiers, operating under dual disadvantages of their size and not knowing the territory, endured a horrific fatality rate. When that was shelved, the generals decided to attack the tunnels from the air, first defoliating land then bombarding it with heavy bombs, including weaponry specifically designed to collapse the tunnels. Through all of this the tunnel networks survived. It wasn't until the late 1960s when American B52s carpet-bombed the area that substantial sections of the tunnels were finally destroyed.
Despite all the bombings in their town, the Cu Chi people were able to continue their lives beneath the soil, where they slept, ate, planned attacks, healed their sick, and taught their young. Some even wed and gave birth underground, but over 10,000 lost their lives here. I went on a tour with the Sinh Cafe whose offices are in the Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area of Ho Chi Minh City and it cost me 136,000 VND (about $8 including lunch) which also included a trip to the Cao Dai Great Temple at Tay Ninh but you still have to entrance fee of 80,000 VND. When we arrived we were shown a black & white propaganda film and then our guide showed us the hidden entrances to the tunnels and various traps and home-made weapons that were used. The tunnels are extremely small with an average height of between 1m and 1m 30 so, being as I'm 6ft 2" (185cm), there was no way I was going down! You can also fire various weapons such as an AK-47, M16, M60 or Magnum 44 where each bullet costs between 20-25,000 VND but for a minimum of 10 bullets. For more information and pictures of Cu Chi why not visit my Cu Chi page below:
Something For Everyone
Everybody who goes to Saigon usually goes to Ben Thanh Market. They go either to just have a look and see if all the fuss is worth while or to try and spot that one off bargain of a lifetime.
Yes it does have just about everything you might be interested in as a tourist and there are some real bargains to be had, I felt particularly in clothing but they are in varying degrees of quality. If you are not used to bargaining you wont get the best deals.
As it is mainly enclosed it does get very hot but you can get a drink inside or something to eat as well. If you are lucky enough to befriend a local like I was and they are happy to go shopping with you let them bargain for you as they will get much better prices. You will likely get a better price as well using the local dong rather than dollars although prices are cheap anyway compared to europe. Local arts and crafts, clothing From a few dong to a lot of dollars