When we started our trip through Southeast Asia, our itinerary was wide open. We filled in cities as we went, revising when things didn’t work out, and staying in each city till we felt like moving on. Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, was our last stop. (We had booked our flight back to America from there months earlier.)
We initially wrote it off as a big, hot city and planned to spend as little time there as possible before flying out. For about the 97th time on our trip, we were wrong.
Our night bus in from Dalat was a dream (especially compared to the sketchy night bus we had from Hoi An to Dalat). Our room at the hostel was ready as soon as we arrived, so we checked in hours early and had time to recharge before exploring. We also connected with a friend through the couchsurfer we met in Hue, who invited us to a swing dance jam session that night. It was a blast (even though I don’t know the first thing about swing dancing properly).
Saigon itself was cool too. I created an amazing free tour for Susan, and at least half of the information I gave her wasn’t made up. It included a stop at the Notre Dame Basilica, the very cool Central Post Office, the Jade Emperor Pagoda, and of course, Dunkin Donuts. (The tour was technically free, but Susan tipped in bagels.)
The War Remnants Museum was my favorite stop. It was intense, and very compelling. I thought it was really well done. (They refer to it as the American War there.)
We decided to skip a trip the Cu Chi Tunnels, where tourists can see up close what the tunnels in the Vietnam/American War were like. I had initially considered making the trip out of the city to see them, but I found the description a bit horrifying. It wasn’t the talk about the conditions during the war, the booby traps, or anything historically relevant that bothered me. It was that sections of the tunnels had been enlarged to accommodate (mainly western) tourists. They also have a shooting range where you can fire assault rifles for $2 a bullet. That settled it for me. I passed.
We only had two days and they went quickly. We ate more street food, sat in more tiny plastic chairs, sent more postcards, and took in one last sunset from the rooftop of one of the city’s skyscrapers.
We were ready to try to wrap our minds around getting back to America (emphasis on try), but we had one more stop before that happened. As luck would have it, the cheapest flight home included a 12-hour layover in Tokyo. 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Bring on the sushi and ramen!