How to spend two days in Ho Chi Minh City

Sweaty and tired after another night (and most of the day) train, we treated ourselves to a taxi from the station to our hostel just off Pham Ngu Lao road. A quick nap and then it was out to eat! We found a rooftop, ordered some beers and barbequed strips of marinated venison on our in-table grill (so much for not wanting to cook). Delicious, cheap and there was even some soccer on the TV for Leigh.

The next day I walked across town to the War Remnants Museum, which Leigh had visited when we first arrived (while I napped). The installations here were more difficult to process than the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima. The names hint a little bit at the difference – while the museum in Hiroshima is almost clinical in its description of both sides of the story, the War Remnants Museum is not so finely unbiased.

It was really interesting (and confronting) to read through the exhibits relating to Agent Orange, dioxin and the affects chemical warfare has had on Vietnamese communities (and some American families) exposed to it during the war. The english-language translations of plaques were the best we’ve come across in Vietnam as well, which helps to get more out of the displays. I spent an hour and a half and probably could have spent longer if I was happy jostling around in the crowd.

As I made my way downstairs to leave the clouds broke and all of a sudden there were sheets and sheets of big fat raindrops falling like theatre curtains outside. I waited nearly 15 minutes, made another pass around the beautiful black-and-white photography exhibit downstairs, then gave up and walked home in the rain… which gave me a great excuse to take up some of the offers being promoted by spas and salons up and down the street. Three hours of pampering ensued for under £20, I don’t think I’ve smelled so nice since we left the UK!

That night we booked our trip from HCMC to Pnom Penh, a three-day tour that would take us through the delta in the south of the country before sweeping up a river to Cambodia’s capital. We still had one more day before we left though and for once, Leigh had something he really wanted to see: the Museum of Traditional Vietnamese Medicine. We started on the top floor and worked our way down through not-so-well translated exhibits that showed the development of traditional medicine over several hundred years. I have to admit that my favourite part was where we got to dress up and stand behind the dispensary for photos! There was a short documentary at the end which caught us up to modern day practices and how drugs are being developed from the same plants that have been used for hundreds of years, then it was out through the gift shop (where Leigh bought a tiny pot of peppermint oil to help breathe through his old-man nose).

We walked back in the direction of the hostel and split up when we got close: I wanted to keep walking and Leigh wanted to go back (there was probably a Forumla 1 race or football game he had to watch). I didn’t do anything special, just walked. Through the park, down a highway, around the outside of the backpacker district then straight through it. I didn’t understand a word of what people around me were saying and I got lost a few times but I found my way back in the end, where I got to pack (again) and made sure I had an early night ahead of our early start the next day.


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