First impressions - a busy vibrant city - HCM is the largest city in Vietnam - 50% bigger than the capital Hanoi.
After coming from Cambodia there is also an impression of wealth - every family has a motorbike, people live in nice houses (at least where we stayed, maybe they lived in cramped quarters but a decent building) - I think this may change as we see more of the country as this is the largest urban centre and isn't representative of the majority of the population - 70% are farmers.
Where we stayed - in a rats warren of alleyways right next to the locals - you could see where they ate their Pho Bo and got their coffee and haircuts etc. This reminded me of the medina of Fez - we only got lost once though, so very proud!
Once we'd found our way from our room back to the reception of the hostel we booked up a Cu Chi tunnel day trip. Next up was an explore around the city centre. On foot this is exactly as I remember from 2002 - you seem to take your life in your hands crossing the road - as everyone has a motorbike and they all seem to want to use them at once! (Not enjoying being back in rush hour!)
We managed to cross many main roads by using our gumption rather than any particular method and made it to Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Central post office is just next door and a lovely old colonial building
With some stirring communist statues outside:
After Cat & Kitty posted their Christmas pressies we headed to the War Remanants museum. Although I'd been here before I'd completely forgotten the impact. It was brutal - Cat & I cried after the first exhibit and it was difficult to see the effects of Agent Orange on the populace. Whilst the museum has severe propaganda issues (not neutral in the wording at all! I heard some disgusted Americans!!) the information is still shocking and the effects of the war - especially the chemicals - are still seen today.
There was also a really good exhibition of war photographers work - all of whom died in the war - from both sides of the conflict.
The next day we headed to the Cu Chi tunnels to sample what life was like there. Now they've widened the tunnels for tourists - but its still scary to get in them and crawl along.
Into the tunnels
On the way back from the tunnels for light relief I amused myself with the signage boards in Vietnamese, a selection of which are below:
And the noisiest bus yet - Qyet Thanh!