The first full day we were in Ho Chi Minh, we decided to get our Super Tourist on and walk everywhere. Turning down the offers of tuktuk rides and scooter tours, we marched to the cathedral and wandered in and out of shops.
Having had a bit of a late start to the day however due to sleeping in after our rather lengthy series of plane rides, we ended up walking through the midday heat. This, we learned, is exceptionally inadvisable. Luckily we were able to buy some overpriced yet icy coconuts and duck into the Reunification Palace to cool off.
If I’m honest, the main draw of going to the Reunification Palace, also called the Independence Palace, lies in its historical presencing: you want to stand at the gates where the Vietnam war was ended by the tanks driving through them.
That said, I’m glad we did it. The architecture of the building was beautiful and it certainly was an excellent place to spend during the 12:00-3:00 period so as to avoid choking on the humidity.
It also seemed that not many people knew the roof was open to viewing. We escaped the crowds for a few minutes of peaceful circling around it, learning that the architect originally designed it to be the “zen space” for meditation away from the stresses of politics. (It was instead used as a party pad.)
We also got to see the rooftop helicopter which was used for quick getaways in times of emergency (seriously I thought that only happened in the movies).
Once it started to cool off, we headed to the market. I will, however, for the sake of thematics, save that for another post and instead skip ahead.
On our second day we decided to continue our trek through museums – first being the Museum of Vietnamese History, dating back all the way to the neolithic period until present day, and the second being the War Crimes Museum, also known as the “War Remnants Museum” from the Vietnam War.
We took no pictures in the latter because it was a sobering experience and one that neither of us felt comfortable documenting like a tourist attraction. It was a necessary visit to witness first hand: displays of weapons; galleries of photographs captured moments before civilian executions; the mangled bodies of soldiers; rooms dedicated to the images of Agent Orange victims including a real preserved malformed fetus in a tank.
Although it was harrowing, it felt like a pilgrimage to pay tribute to all those affected by the war. I very much recommend a visit if you have the opportunity.
Before we went there though, we visited the Museum of Vietnamese History – and here we did take many pictures.
As a much lighter and aesthetically pleasing tour, we wandered for several hours through ancient artefacts and dioramas displaying the old ways of life. There were even a few rooms dedicated to ceramics and porcelain from the French colonial period. As a humourous side note, I’ve never seen a museum with so many gift shops – it seemed after every two or three rooms there was a little boutique and courtyard to relax and fan away the creeping afternoon heat.
Ultimately, it was a gorgeous museum; everything inside and out was beautiful. We capped off the visit with a leisurely sit at the built-in café with a delectable order of iced Vietnamese coffees.
And so here are all the photos from the Vietnamese History Museum.
Next up will be a post about the Bến Thành Market where I can justly say we spent most of our time whilst in Ho Chi Minh. Prepare yourselves for the bursting chaos and colour!
See you later, alligator.