Nha Trang to Saigon
A free day for sightseeing in the ‘R and R paradise of Nha Trang’ saw us all staggering down to breakfast as late as possible, lingering over our food and drinking endless cups of tea and coffee and agreeing to meet at some stage on the beach if we could manage the 5 minute walk. I spent most of the morning in the cool air con environment of my hotel room, sorting my bag, reading my book and generally lazing around, with a wander down to the beach mid morning for a short walk and chat to the others before retreating back to my bed. I don’t think anyone did any sightseeing. Mid day we headed to the airport for lunch and our flight to Saigon. this time we practised the words to our Favourite Ho Chi Minh song – in the past we only knew the chorus.
We arrived into Saigon in the evening and our free night was a genuine free night as our guide was meeting a friend so we split into groups and wandered around a bit and had dinner and then back to the hotel to bed.
Today is the last full day of the tour. We started the morning with a trip to the Cui Chi tunnels – where the Viet Cong hid out underground close to Saigon. The tour started with a Vietnamese propaganda film from 1967 about the peaceful locals and the devil Americans. It was a fascinating film as an experience of pure propaganda of the era. It was made more peculiar by the persistent sound of live gun fire I the background. It turned out there was a life firing range in the complex where tourists could try their hand at firing an AK47. The things people do for fun. After the film we commenced our tour. They start by showing you the hidden tunnel entrances when a very small person could pop in and out, the they showed us bigger more obvious ones which were bobby trapped, then showed us the booby traps and finally we ended some of the tunnels. They’ve apparently been enlarged for western tourists but you still had to bend double and almost crawl through. They had whole complexes under there, including sleeping quarters, medical clinics and so on. It was quite extraordinary and pretty scary. Quite a few people didn’t go in at all. We spent some time admiring a portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the end and then headed back to Saigon for a bowl of pho for lunch.
Our first stop in Saigon was the war remnants museum which has old American aircraft and tanks outside and inside is a series of photo galleries detailing the atrocities of the war. It was again a masterpiece of propaganda but totally fascinating and well done. In one gallery they start with the first para of the US Declaration of Independence (about all men being equal) which is sounded by photos of American soldiers committing unspeakable atrocities. After that we moved on to driving past the reunification palace and the old US Embassy and then stopped at a lacquer wear factory which was fascinating. We the visited Notre Dame cathedral which was fascinating as the design is based on Notre Dame in Paris and all the stone is from the south of France, across the road was a colonial era post office now decorated with a huge portrait of Ho Chi Minh. Then finally we has a quick look at the outside of the opera house and the old continental hotel (mentioned in The Quiet American).
Then back to the hotel to get ready for or final dinner and flights home in the morning.