Vietnam – Ms Saigon & the Cu Chi tunnels


Although many westerners still imagine Vietnam through the lens of war, it is in reality a country filled with captivating natural beauty and tranquil village life.
Ho Chi Minh City is the heart and soul of Vietnam. It’s a bustling, dynamic and industrious centre, the largest city in the country, the economic capital and the cultural trendsetter. Yet within the teeming metropolis are the timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture.


This is a city that churns, ferments, bubbles and fumes. The streets, where much of the city’s life takes place, are a jumble of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks. It’s impossible not to be infected by its exhilarating vibe.
If Beijing is “the City of Bicycles”, then Ho Chi Minh City is “the Capital of Motorbikes”! Ho Chi Minh city’s road system is in pretty bad shape man. Many of its streets are riddled with potholes. This is especially true of the city’s numerous back streets and alleys, which are sometimes little more than dirt paths.

The richness of Vietnam’s origins is evident throughout its culture. Spiritual life in Vietnam is a grand panoply of belief systems, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Tam Giao (literally ‘triple religion’), which is a blend of Taoism, popular Chinese beliefs, and ancient Vietnamese animism.


On our first night in HCM city, we had the pleasure of eating at Song Ngu ( 70, Suong NguyetAnh, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam +84 8 832 5017). This place was really cool!

Life traditional music coaxed from the skillful fingers of pretty maidens dressed in the traditional “ao dai” .. could make the toughest man, weak at the knees ;P


Delicious starters were served – deep fried baby shrimp that look like potato chips! Very cute;)


And yet the appetizers kept coming… !

And more wine…


This was ‘Sup Hai Sam Cua’ – the Vietnamese version of shark’s fin soup.. minus the fin! Still, incredibly tasty.


We enjoyed seafood in every shape, taste and form here… it was almost too much of a feast for us..



And even when we thought we had eaten our fill…



they just kept right on serving us.. !

Man.. tomorrow, we better get some exercise in.. or else… ;P


Early the next morning.. we head on out to ye olde field.. the place where it all happened. One of the most famous battlegrounds of the Vietnam war…


We past villagers going about their business on the way…

Sometimes I look at this place, and think to myself, that time has stood still for some, whilst it has and still is, hurtling at an incredible pace for others… it is just too much of a time warp for me to fathom, really, and I try to occupy my mind with other happier thoughts.


Welcome to CU CHI tunnels. The rattle and pop of automatic weapons greet a visitor. Young women in the black pajamas of the Vietcong flit through the woods. A man in green fatigues picks his way down a narrow trail, leading a small platoon of foreign tourists.

This is the site of the Cu Chi tunnels, one of the most famous battlegrounds of the Vietnam War. Today it is one of the country’s prime tourist attractions, part of a new industry – war tourism! Sometimes, these spots seem to be memorials to wartime propaganda as much as to the war itself… imagine that?!


Following the man in green fatigues, we arrive at an open-sided hut, where the women in black show us to our seats. There, on a big-screen television set, the Vietnam War plays on – B52’s drop strings of bombs, villagers run for cover, communist guerrillas fight back.

For those who still don’t get the message, a narrator says-

“Cu Chi, the land of many gardens, peaceful all year round under shady trees … Then mercilessly American bombers have ruthlessly decided to kill this gentle piece of countryside … Like a crazy bunch of devils they fired into women and children … The Americans wanted to turn Chu Chi into a dead land, but Cu Chi will never die.”

Wow! I wanted to jump up and down and Cheer! …erm, but of course i didn’t. That would be too much of a ‘sore thumb’ right.. harhar:P

But seriously folks, since the war ended in 1975 with a communist victory, Vietnam has rebuilt and moved on. It is almost impossible to find anyone who still talks like the soundtrack of the Cu Chi film! (0f course la.. who can keep up being so DRAMA QUEEN, you tell me). Even the young women in black, who work as guides and ground keepers, dismiss the hard language, repeating instead today’s government line – ” We are all friends”… dum dee dum…

The Cu Chi tunnels, a 75-mile-long underground maze where thousands of fighters and villagers could hide, are just totally amazing!

A trap door on the jungle floor leads down into the Cu Chi tunnels. Closed and camouflaged, it is almost undetectable.


The camouflaged trap door, now open… isn’t that just the most brilliant form of guerrilla warfare you have ever seen ?!

A booby trap…


with bamboo spikes.. yikes!


The fighters and villages even cooked in these underground “homes” and the smoke from the cooking would be discreetly let out through these holes you see in the ground. The moss you see are a sign that these are cooking holes and the American soldiers would use the moss as signals for places the fighters lived/cooked.


More booby traps..


Very sharp.. do not place foot inside!


The fighters and villagers were really smart! They used tyres from blown up vehicles, to make shoes for the underground army!


Even baby had a pair ;)


So… can a grown person actually fit down that hole…?


The answer is YES! And that’s me… proving it (ya lar.. back in the day, before i gave my hair THE CHOP).

Be warned… not for those who suffer from ‘claustrophobia’..


Phew.. ok then.. enough blood and gore and underground excursions for one day…
Time to eat!

This is Lemongrass. One of my fav restuarants in HCM city. Here is the address – 4 Nguyen Thiep St, Ho Chi Minh City, +84 8 822-0496.

The atmosphere is cool and intimate, very Vietnamese, with cane furniture and tile floors, yet it’s not overly formal. On a small romantic side street that’s becoming it’s own “restaurant row,” these three floors of subdued cool and fine dining are a great place to duck out of the midday sun.

Set lunches are an affordable option – soup, spring rolls, and a light curry for USD2. What a steal! The long menu emphasizes seafood and seasonal specials. Particularly outstanding are the deep-fried prawn in coconut batter and the crab sautéed in salt and pepper sauce. The portions are very healthy, Asian family-style.. i.e. on the small side la.. lol. So order more, can?

For us, we are HUGE fans of the PHO (noodle soup… rhymes with DUH), oh yes we are!


Just look at my godbrother from Hong Kong, Eddy… he grew up eating this stuff.. and man is he RIPPED! lol.. (ok, truth be told, it’s also the the 2hours of gym, 7X a week that does it..)

Anyway, moving on, this is yet another place we love… PHO 24!

This popular national chain serves good Vietnamese pho as you like it – make your own creation by ticking boxes off a punch list of ingredient choices. The beauty at Pho 24 is that it’s damn clean, ok.. :P


A nice quiet stroll through the not-so-quiet nightlife of HCM city.. so we can digest our food…


Ooooo.. yawn… time to hit the sack… :)

Comments

  1. I love Vietnamese dry noodle. Gosh, should I put Vietname in my must visit places list?

  2. Criz Lai says:

    Wow… what a great overview of HCM. Now I know why my brother loves to have their food over there. By the way, I love their creamy, not-so-sweet Vietnamese Coffee :)

    http://crizfood.blogspot.com/

  3. CUMI & CIKI says:

    jason:
    me2.. hanoi and HCM city.. a must :)

    criz:
    cool.. is ur bro stationed there/ go there a lot?

  4. Nic (KHKL) says:

    wah, like globetrekker+no reservation+cafe asia liddat…hehehe…

    none of that baguette sandwich thingy? ;)

  5. backstreet says:

    You have done a quick brilliant breezethrough of this amazing country and its amazing hardy people , and groundbreaking food. We believe this will be the next place to watch , much more vibrant than our very own sickly Malaysia of today.Well summarised tho that slim feminine desirable object in da hole is certainly hard to forget

  6. CUMI & CIKI says:

    nic:
    no chance to eat baguette.. but we had loads of that in siem reap tho.. :)

    BSG:
    lol.. very farnee boys.. :P

  7. Precious Pea says:

    Interesting write up! Always wanted to explore this beautiful country but Hubby not too keen :(

  8. fatboybakes says:

    haiya pea, your husband very conservative hor, yogya oso not keen, saigon oso not keen…HOW CANN!!!!

    hey cumi/ciki, i got a friend who looks JUST like you la, her name’s mel. okayla, just a bit like you. but you hotter la.

  9. CUMI & CIKI says:

    pea:
    make him!!!

    fatboybakes:
    thx 4 stopping by! really.. i think i may know this mel ..lol

  10. fatboybakes says:

    ooh, you do? her hubby’s sunny. same one ah? i link you ya.

  11. CUMI & CIKI says:

    eh. .wrong mel.. this one’s married to JEN.. :( lol

  12. if you like PHO, you should try to eat PHỞ HÒA,it’s on Pasteur street( near the end on the street,district 3, Ho Chi Minh city…..it’s the best :))

    • Knorr! thank you for your lovely comment and stopping by our blog! will do.. next time i am in HCMC i will try to check out ur place. thank you!

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