The nearest hub to get to Ho Chi Minh City from Hoi An is Da Nang
We had a flight from Da Nang International airport to Ho Chi Minh City International airport at 8.25 am. This meant that we had to settle all our bills and leave the hospitality of Ly at Hoi An by 6.00 am. The cheapest way would have been using a bus from Hoi An to Da Nang to cover the 40 km distance. However, the buses aren’t regular and take more than an hour to reach Da Nang. We paid about 300k for a taxi instead for the sake of reliability.
As the taxi passed through the curved coastal road that connects Hoi An and Da Nang, I saw a lot of developmental projects and holiday resorts being built (as well as operational). Squarely aimed at the recreational tourists, these are clustered near the upmarket city of Da Nang rather than the quite ancient town of Hoi An that the backpacking, budget travellers prefer. (This doesn’t mean that Da Nang is not visited by backpackers or the recreational tourists avoid Hoi An.)
It was Mr. Pho’s idea to get a flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City (Sai Gon). It was faster and cheaper than the other means of travel, including the railways.
If any of this blog’s reader ever meets Mr. Pho in Hue, please tell him that Sauvik and Nitesh from India thanks him for the generous help he had extended to us.
Our flight took about one and half hours to drop us at Ho Chi Minh City airport.
Requiem for a War
If you are in Sai Gon, you must visit the War Remnants Museum. It chronicles the Vietnam war through artillery, bombs, photographs, propaganda posters and reproduction of publications.
I can assure that a person who has entered the building and has gone through the exhibits will exit as a changed man. Some of the images are not for the faint of the heart. An interview of Tim Page was being screened in the documentary room. After keeping a straight face for a long time, even he broke down when he inaugurated the Requiem exhibit.
There is a board that sums up the war in stats –
During the war,
- 3 million Vietnamese were killed (2 million were civilians)
- 2 million people were injured
- 300,000 people went missing
After the war,
- 600,000 tons of bombs were left behind
- 6.6 million ha of land were contaminated with bombs and explosives
- 9,284 communes polluted by bombs and explosives
If that wasn’t enough, there have been over 42,000 deaths and 62,000 injuries due to un-triggered land mines lying in the fields. The effect of Dioxin (Agent Orange) is still prevalent in the second generation kids of survivors who are born with congenital defects or ill-developed brain.
Superficial visit to three more monuments
We walked from the War Museum to reach the Notre Dame Cathedral. En route, we crossed by the Independence palace. The palace closes at 4.00 pm everyday and we were about 30 mins late.
We expected the cathedral to remain open but as it turned out that the cathedral doesn’t allow visitors beyond 4.00 pm. However, worship / sermons / sessions are held after that.
Just across the cathedral is the historic post office. thankfully, it was open for us to enter and take a few pictures. The pillars of the post office have plaques with names of various scientists on them, viz. Galvani, Ampere, Coulomb, etc. Maybe all the names are of scientists who have helped develop the theory of electromagnetism but I need someone to affirm me on this hypothesis.
We also had some Bahn Mi near the post office. The flavour profile does not even come close to the one we had yesterday. Compared to Madan Khanh’s preparation, this wasn’t even amateurish.
The Underbelly of Sai Gon
Pham Ngu Lao and the street parallel to it, Bui Vien is the underbelly of Sai Gon. It’s filled with beer joints and restaurants and people who either do impromptu performances or sell useless stuff just to make their ends meet.
There is a lot of illegal activities on this street. One must be cautious while navigating in order to avoid the pimps and those who want to sell weed and drugs.
We sampled a lot of places and we can safely say that the food at Tiny’s restaurant is the best. In fact, this place is highly rated on TripAdvisor and we wanted to have our lunch here. But due to some GPS error we were unable to locate it in the afternoon. It did not disappoint us in the evening, though.