Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City (Deaf School and Zoo)
Day 2: Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple
Day 3: Ho Chi Minh City
Day 4: Meekong Delta
Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City and the Surrounding areas
The Ben Tanh Indoor Market: Only open in the daytime this is a great place to get souvenirs, knock off designer goods and North Face items, fruit, and pirated DVD’s. Avoid the perfume though, although the items on display smell good, the stuff in the box the sell you is just soap and water.
Night Market: At Night when the Ben Tanh Market Closes down another market opens up around the markets perimeter. This is a good place to get amazing street food and also potentially get some better deals than you can in the in indoor market (it sells many of the same items).
Cao Dai Temple: I did a trip here in conjunction with my trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels (both fit perfectly into one day). Cao Dai is a religion formed in Tay Ninh in 1926 by Ngo Van Chieu. It’s doctrines and art combine many elements from other world religions including Catholicism, Buddhism and Islam. The Primary temple is an eclectic mix of bright colors all flowing into one. You are able to watch their worship service from a balcony the encircles high above. Worshippers sit in rows on the floor as a gong sounds near the front of the building. Your average everyday worshipers where white uniforms while those that I can only assume are higher up in the chain of command where brighter colors such as red or blue.
Cu Chi Tunnels: It was really easy to see that we were on the other side of the war here. An underlying anti-American sentiment still resounds and they are loud and proud about the number of Americans they were able to surprise and kill using these tunnels during the war. I have to admit I didn’t actually expect this. After watching a video about the tunnels you are taken out and given a tour of the area. First is what they call a “tiger trap.” This hole had a camouflaged door on top. If you stepped on it you would immediately fall into the hole and meet your death upon dozens of 2 foot spikes. I was just thankful they had a fence around it. Then they go on to demonstrate how truly camouflaged the entrances and exits to the tunnels are, along the way showing off a captured US tank. Soon you hear gunfire in the distance. While an immediate pang of terror goes through your body you realize it’s probably ok. Now I must ask have you ever had the desire to shoot a M-60? Well you can here for a price. Just be careful though, they’re VERY loud. After your experience in the gun range you can actually go and try out the tunnels for yourself. Note if you are claustrophobic to any degree I do not recommend this. Also, I do not recommend wearing a backpack. Space is tight. Thankfully if it’s getting to hot and cramped for you there is an exit a little more than halfway through the tunnel experience should you wish to take it.
Mekong Delta: I did this trip as part of a tour group. We boarded a boat in My Tho and crossed over to one of several islands in the delta. Here we got to eat fruits and see a cultural song and dance. We then got into small canoe like boats in a canal where we were rowed by 2 Vietnamese women back out to the river and our awaiting boats. That was one of my favorite experiences of Vietnam because we were really able to see what the rural delta was like and we were able to just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery while wearing rice hats as well J
After this we were taken to a plantation where they make delicious coconut candy and rice wine (that’s strong stuff), and for some random reason they also have a large python that you can take a picture with wrapped around your neck.
Lunch was spent eating family style on a giant porch. Elephant Ear Fish (I had never heard of before, it was ugly but delicious) , spring roles and other Vietnamese fare.
Massages: As you walk down the streets of HCMC there’s no doubt that a woman will hand you a paper advertising a massage parlor. Massages in Vietnam can be very cheap and mine was very good. I got a 75-minute full body massage for $15. It was worth every dollar.