Monday, August 4, 2008

SE Asian Adventure--Central & Southern Vietnam

Inside the Tan Ky House in Hoi An. This house is from the 19th century and was once owned by a Vietnamese merchant.
At My Son, outside Hoi An.
In front of the Presidential Palace in Saigon.
Ho Chi Minh sandals (in a variety of sizes!) made out of old tires. These were the footwear of choice for Viet Cong.
The hotel room at the Bi-Saigon in HCMC. The weird little building in the room is the bathroom (with 2 showers!).

On the 5th day of the trip, we flew to Danang and then drove 30 minutes or so to Hoi An, in central Vietnam. Hoi An is known for its architecture and in fact, it's a Unesco world heritage site. It's also near China Beach, of Vietnam War R&R fame. The first thing that hit us about Hoi An was how hot it was, especially considering that we had a really early flight and got there about 8 AM! After checking in to our hotel, we went out and looked around the town, including a pretty lame museum and a music show. We also had the Hoi An specility, cao lau, for lunch that day. It's this delicious noodle dish with pork, croutons, bean sprouts and greens, and a savory sauce. For it to be authentic, it has to come from Hoi An because the water must come from one specific well in the area. After a swim and a nap at the hotel, we went out for dinner at the Cargo Club.

The next morning, we got up at 4:30 to take a trip to My Son, a group of ruins about 35 km away from Hoi An. My Son was a religious center during the 4th-13th centuries. Today the ruins are in a jungle valley. It was a good thing we went as early as we did because it was pretty hot once the sun rose. After getting up so early 2 days in a row, I felt perfectly justified in taking the rest of the day off and doing nothing more than swimming, napping, and eating more cao lau!

The next day, Abby and I flew to Saigon (technically it's called Ho Chi Minh City, but pretty much everyone calls it Saigon. In fact, the airport code is still SGN). I was thinking that Saigon would be as overwhelming as Hanoi had been, or even more so, but instead it was so much easier to get around in. The streets were in more of a grid pattern, so it seemed easier to find our way around, and the traffic wasn't quite as crazy as it had been in Hanoi. After getting to our hotel, Abby and I went to the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Mueseum, both of which I'd been to before and had enjoyed. The Palace was originally built in 1966 and on April 30th, 1975, the Viet Cong crashed tanks through the gates when Saigon surrendered. The building has been left looking pretty much like it was that day, so it's got a very 70's feel, which I love! The War Remnants Mueseum is really interesting, not only for its exhibits and artifacts. It also has a lot of anti-US propaganda, which is interesting to see first-hand. It has different artillery pieces, photos of victims of the war, and preserved babies who were born with birth defects caused by Agent Orange (at least that's what the mueseum says caused the birth defects and it's probably true).

The next morning we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border during the war and were quite successful for the Viet Cong. The tunnels have been reconstructed for visitors, so you can go see bomb craters, shoot an AK-47, and crawl through the tunnels (part of the reconstruction has been making the tunnels bigger for the heftier western tourists!).

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