I heard about Vietnam as war country; they were fighting for several years with French and Americans.
When I got assignment in Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City); the first thing I did is to check on world atlas where this country is located. This was just to get an idea where I am going to go. As I had no information about this country at all; I started my search about Ho Chi Minh City, some tourist places there (well I had no time to visit any tourist places), etc.
I bought ticket & visa and started my journey again with Singapore Airlines. Reached Singapore & took connecting flight Ho Chi Minh. Another name of this city is Saigon and still this is a popular name.
It was very hot & humid climate in Ho Chi Minh City. I reached there in afternoon and straight went to hotel. Hotel was located in very bustling area. There were lots of small shops located around my hotel. While on my way I saw many people on two wheelers than in cars. It is not rare scenario but the ratio of four wheelers and two wheelers was approximately 4 : 50. Once signal turns green and if you are on road; you feel so many ants (two wheelers) attacking you.
Same day evening I met many people gathered for course from various parts of the world. I like such assignments because I get to know different people with different culture. I was happy to see 3 Indians.
After 3-4 days, we (Indians) got bore eating the tasteless vegetarian food in hotel but food in factory was comapratively good. The cook used to make some pakodas for us. I praised him for making pakodas & after that almost everyday we had some vegetable pakodas in lunch. :) I am vegetarian, so I always have to face this problem in abroad. One evening we hired a taxi and went for shopping in down town. I saw many Indian restaurant and we decided to pay visit next day for dinner. But next day was totally surprising as our host took all of us to restaurant named Tandoor. It was small cozy restaurant playing old Hindi songs. It was really great surprise.
After few days; in morning they took us to place called Cu Chi tunnel near from Ho Chi Minh City. After reaching there; they asked us to sit and listen some explanation about the tunnels. I felt it very uninteresting to listen; I was more interested to see the place. But I was totally wrong. The information they shared really moved us. Vietnamese dug the tunnels of five levels below the ground for twenty years. Some of them born and brought up in tunnel. Everyday people spent about 16 hours in digging and created about 150 sq km network. Those people actually lived in tunnels.
Way to Cu Chi Tunnel
Now for tourists they opened few tunnels, you literally have to crawl through and it’s better to follow your guide and have flash light with you as there is no light in tunnels and you may lose your way out. But it is really a fun and great experience. After crawl - walk through for1 hour, we entered a big room underground, where we had some snacks and little wine.
I must say, a Cu Chi tunnel was the most amazing place I have ever seen in my entire (small) life. This place made my Vietnam trip memorable.
On one Sunday; our host took us to amusement park, this was the first time I was visiting such amusement park or water world. Enjoyed lots of rides. In the following week, our organizers dropped us to a shopping complex in down town. Initially I exchanged my currency to Vietnamese Dong. It was bit weird that for 1 US$ I got about 16000 Vietnamese dong. It was so difficult to bargain anything when the prices start from 10000 VND. But later I understood, they accept many foreign currencies directly even I paid in dollars to cab driver. While shopping I faced no language problem as many Vietnamese people can speak Japanese language. :)
During this trip, I had decided not to spend more money on shopping but one day I ended up buying many souvenirs but I found I just spent only US$ 10. One more thing, on that day we were been told bus going back to hotel will start from 6 pm & if we get late we have to return by cab. It was not difficult to return by cab but I & my consultant realized at 5.55pm that both of us had run out of money, so we rushed to exit of shopping complex to catch bus waiting for us. Phew… the bus was still there. Few of the friends were already waiting in bus didn’t understand why we came running to catch bus. ;) (I told them reason later)
One evening I went out on stroll around my hotel, I found many small shops selling variety of products; some shops were selling some weird things. Those shops have arranged bottles with snakes & other small animals in it. The long bottles were filled with snake and some yellowish liquid. I tried asking the shopkeeper but unfortunately I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Next day I asked a fellow in the seminar, he told me it is (yellowish liquid) a kind of medicine. He also didn’t know exact usage of that medicine. Well, I didn’t ask any more questions as I felt very uneasy, thinking someone is pouring that liquid in my mouth. Heheheeee….. (See the below photo having snakes like Cobra in bottles)
snakes in bottle
On last day; our host gifted us straw hat generally all Vietnamese wear. I saw many people working on street wearing those hats. Actually I bought one of such hat immediately after coming to Ho Chi Minh thinking that I may not get time to buy it later. Now I have two such hats with me. That was the best souvenir I bought for myself. It was bit trouble to bring them intact from Ho Chi Minh to Mumbai via Singapore but I managed very well as I had good experience of bringing such things from China. ;)
Vietnam trip was unforgettable like all other trips but Cu Chi tunnels and warm hearted Vietnamese people made it really special.