23 December 2012

Day 1 of 9: Vietnam (Cu Chi Tunnels and Downtown Ho Chi Minh)

Our first day was allotted for Cu Chi Tunnels which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam. We arrived at the hotel at around 2 AM that day so we barely had enough snooze time. We stayed at Hong Vinh Hotel at the Pham Ngu Lao area. It's an area popular for backpackers due to cheap hotels. Cza and I shared a room and it only costed 18 USD a night. Too bad that I wasn't able to take a photo of our hotel. It was nothing spectacular but it was pretty decent. We only had about 5 hours of sleep because we had to leave at 8 AM for our tour. Cza did not go with us because she had taken the tour before. She wandered around the city while we were away.

Prior to leaving the hotel, we had our first taste of Vietnamese street coffee and I am telling you, this beats Starbucks any time! It costs around 10,000 VND which is equivalent to 16 PHP. So cheap!!! Oh by the way, it's easy to be a millionaire in Vietnam and I think this would be the only place I'd be one in this lifetime.

Since Cza has been in Vietnam before, she introduced us to this sandwich, which I labeled "Vietnam National sandwich", made with baguette, meat, pork floss and cucumber. Yummeh.

We got our tour from our hotel and we were part of a group of tourists. The trip to Cu Chi Tunnels took about an hour from Ho Chi Minh but before that, we made a side trip to a porcelain and crafts shop. Each item made was very intricate showing the craftsmanship of the Viets.

Jet was the only one who bought something from the place. He took home this porcelain Vietnamese lady which, as he said, would serve as a conversation piece for his clients.

We finally got to Cu Chi and we learned more about the history of Vietnam during the war. We were first made to watch a video showing the history of the war. I was not able to understand it well because the audio was not very clear.

There were a lot of booby traps which are still in place up to now. I could just imagine the brutal death one would have when you fall into these traps. The Vietnamese did not just fight with guns but they fought with brains as well. This was explained by our very enthusiastic tour guide. I forgot his name but I think I'll always remember the way he perkily shouts.
Whoa just look at that!

There were also areas in the ground which were used as hiding spots. Tourists were allowed to go down to experience what it was like.

The area was really huge that thank God I wore light clothes because it was freaking hot! We were not able to have a decent lunch that we had to settle for fish balls and ice cream. Whattalunch!

The last part of the tour was to try crawling inside the tunnels themselves. RK was the only one who dared finished the 25 meters.  I tried but I chose not to continue because I fear that I might have an asthma attack while inside. It was really very narrow low. I just had my picture taken at the entrance. Poser lang. Haha.

Going back to the city we were welcomed by a swarm of motorcycles. Every Vietnamese household probably has at least one motorcycle. This is motorcycle country men!

And when I say everyone, I mean just that. You ride a motorcycle regardless of the length of your bottom. Not even a skirt will stop you.
Oha. May stockings pa yan!
We went back to the hotel to change and meet up with Cza to go downtown and have decent lunch. The street where our hotel was had restaurants along it and since we were really starving, we decided to just eat there. Of course, we had to have coffee. 
My very late lunch. Some chicken with cashew something. Hehe.

Now that we are full, we walked to the area of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. I was surprised that there were actually quite a population of Catholics in Vietnam. I thought this country would be Buddhist-dominated much like Thailand. 
Natakam sa mangga at ang winner na sawsawan na asin at siling labuyo!

We got really tired from all that walking so we decided to load on sugar and have sweets at the nearby NYDC cafe. Boy have they got really delish desserts!

After getting our fix, we headed back towards our hotel but not without shopping at the Ben Thanh market first. Vietnam is known as the country manufacturing popular brands of bags such as North Face, Samsonite and Kipling. And boy, did we hoard.
Sige, pili lang koya.

Exhausted and hungry (again), we tried eating along the street. Ben Thanh market closes at 6 PM but the night market opens after that. We really enjoyed Vietnamese rolls so we did that grilling thingamajig just because we saw people from the other table having it. We're gaya-gaya like that.
Doing some very intense grilling here. Do not disturb.
RK and I had beer which, to our disappointment, tasted really blah. 

That's just the first day. Eight days more. This is going to be exhausting.

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