While the drum beats softly in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is best described as an abrasive noise farm.
Gangs of people compete to become the loudest resident, winning attention and respect for drowning out all others.
I had heard of the term 'noise pollution', but always assumed it was contrived by those overly sensitive to the world around them.
Ho Chi Minh City proved me a fool. Enough constant noise can drive you mad, affect your mood, and even destroy your health.
Streets packed with motorbikes flooding the air with exhaust so thick, it resembles the breath of an entity seeking to suffocate you and blacken your lungs.
I was obviously one of those people that lived in Sai Gon long enough to become the City's most affected and vocal opponent.
It becomes an odd memory when you can laugh at the madness, laugh at the stutter steps you used to inch across the roads, safely.
Motorbikes flying past you, often seeing how close they can come to harming you as possible.
What is it about this city that wakes you from your slumber, sharpens your senses as though you were hanging from a cliff with no safety ropes?
It raises your senses until you are more aware that you are alive than ever before.
Ho Chi Minh City is no place to allow your mind to wander.
Your senses must be fully engaged at all times, and thus no memories ever fade, imprinted by trauma.
There is no longer the mundane.
I was there for 3 years in total. Brought over by Nortel to train workers to build hardware.
Nortel went out of business 8 months after I'd arrived.
There was no hate for Saigon. I had fallen in love with the City, and took a job teaching English just for the chance to stay.
English teachers in Ho Chi Minh City earn more than in any other major city in Asia.
Some people call Ho Chi Minh City harrowing. Others call it heaven, and a complete quench of their thirst for action.
Most people either come by bus from Cambodia, or by air from just about anywhere.
No matter your budget, if you are unfamiliar with the City, then you must make your way for District #1, also known as Phạm Ngũ Lão.
If you can say "Fam Goo Lao", then every driver of every vehicle known to man will understand where you're going.
Have a look at the variety of Hotels and Guesthouses available in this area.
That also goes for food and everything you will need, and everyone speaks English in that area.
Notre Dame Cathedral is located at Quang Truong Cong Xa Paris, District 1.
This Cathedral was built by the French in 1877.
It's the best known building in Ho Chi Minh City for its neo-Romanesque architecture and the two towers that stand 57 Meters high.
A statue of the Virgin Mary stands right out front of the Cathedral.
in 2003 blood colored tears began running down the stone cheeks of her face. It went on for weeks, and attracted crowds so large that you couldn't get anywhere near the area.
Eye witnesses claimed it a miracle. The same 'Eye Witnesses were soon selling hot-dogs and souvenirs in front of the Statue.
They made a killing, but never tried the same stunt again. Vietnamese people are mostly Christians, and flocked to see this miracle.
Located at #2 Nguyen Binh Khiem St, District 1, HCMC.
This is one of the oldest museums in the city. But, unless you are an antiques enthusiast; The Phu Nam culture, The Cham Arts, and even The Mekong Delta Arts, are difficult to appreciate.
Just don't be offended when they triple charge you as a foreigner.
It's still fairly cheap at about $12USD a person.
Located at #1 Nguyen Tat Thanh, District 4, HCMC
This building was the place where Nguyen Tat Thanh, later known as Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh), embarked on the Latouche Treville.
Fancy words for when he went abroad and decided that he wanted to begin a war for Vietnam's Independence.
But, he did win.
The museum displays anything that might pertain to President Ho Chi Minh's purported activities while overseas.
Of course, it's all about seeing Ho Chi Minh through the eyes of blind, reverent, communist Vietnamese propaganda.
He is the hero and a god-like figure to most Vietnamese so it's a political statement in the old Communist way.
It was interesting to see how people reacted to the account of how Ho Chi Minh exterminated nearly two million South Vietnamese people, seizing their land and assets once they were dead and buried.
Located at #3 Hoa Binh St, District 11, HCMC.
Dam Sen is where the teens hangout. It's just another theme park, but the Vietnamese teens come out to strut their stuff.
It's usually crowded on the weekends but the water-park is not all there is. The roller-coaster is great for the kids and just silly for anyone over 10.
Of course, I went. The Kids wanted on that Roller Coaster more than anything. I stuffed my knees into the dashboard of the tiny car and there were giggles all around.
I won't be including a picture of that. It was ugly.
It is a quarter the price of Suoi Tien Theme Park and a good way to end a trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
Benh Tahn Market is a great place to do some shopping before you leave.
Good for T-shirts; souvenirs and beautiful traditional Vietnamese dresses.
And the coffee and spices, which can be easily found at Benh Tanh Market are to die for.
Just remember that you can usually shave %50 off of the asking price if you just barter.
Located at 133 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, District 1.
This was the site of the former palace of the French Governor of Indochina.
Built in 1868, it became the presidential palace of the South Vietnamese when Ngo Dinh Diem came to power in the 1950s.
After being damaged by bombs during a coup attempt in the early 1960s, the palace was rebuilt.
On April 30, 1975, tanks of the North Vietnamese army crashed through the main gates of the palace, ending the 20-year war for Vietnam's reunification.
There are some captured American tanks and a Jet Fighter parked near the front entrance.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a ninety-minute drive North of Ho Chi Minh City.
They were built by Vietnamese resistance fighters during the long years of struggle for independence and unification.
the three level tunnel complex was dug Four meters below the surface and spread out lie the branches of trees for more than over 200 kilometres.
The tunnels were built with incredible structural integrity, that even after months of monsoon rain, very few of the tunnels collapsed under the repeated bombings of the US Military's most powerful conventional bombs.
Not even the weight of heavy armored vehicles constantly rolling over them did any damage.
There is an entire subterranean city housed beneath the dirt.
A City equipped with conference rooms, guard posts and booby-trapped false tunnels for use by the resistance fighters, but also kitchens, sleeping quarters, school rooms, and field hospitals.
They even housed cinemas for the entertainment of an entire company of North Vietnamese fighters and their Southern Vietnamese sympathizers.
Today the tunnels have been widened to allow easier access for the many overweight foreign visitors who come each year to marvel at the ingenuity.
Learn more about the Best Budget Cu Chi Tunnel and Cao Dai Temple Tour.
Located at Tan Phu Street, District 9, HCMC
This is a nice Theme Park for Kids, but I had no desire to swim with 100s of other humans, with fake waves riding over me and shoving dirty water down my throat.
I could see a few kids enjoying it, but I wouldn't even allow my kids in this cesspool of flem, sweat, and urine.
I spent the day at the Cu Chi Tunnels studying the incredible detail in those tunnels and explaining to my Kids what had taken place there.
I took the Private Tour because they picked us up at our hotel and the three of us got charged just over $100.
That included transportation to and from my Hotel, lunch, water and a stop at The Cao Dai Temple.
This Theme Park was nearly double the price and was just gross.
Located at #28 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3, HCMC
A must-see for foreign tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
On display are exhibits concerning the atrocities during the Vietnam war such as the My Lai massacre and victims of napalm bombs and Agent Orange.
There is also a guillotine brought to Vietnam by the French colonialists. In the late 1950s, this guillotine was moved to several provinces in South Vietnam to execute revolutionists.
There is also a souvenir shop that sells items related to the war, but they don't call it the Vietnam War, they call it The American War.
Share with us your views on Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Is it better to spend your time in nearby Phnom Penh, Cambodia and avoid Vietnam altogether?
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