Saturday, May 11, 2024

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Married Solo Traveler's Insights

Setting off on another Solo Adventure after a few quiet months (CHONBURI & BANGKOK) I packed my bags with excitement bubbling inside. This time, I was off to Vietnam and Cambodia for a 9-day tour. It was just me, joining a group (ROME & COMO) of strangers, but the idea of exploring new places made my heart race. At the airport, the local guide welcomed me, signaling the start of our journey together.

When we landed in Ho Chi Minh City around 2:30 pm, the city's energy hit me like a wave. After settling into my hotel room, I felt eyes on me as I joined the other travelers in the lobby. It was probably because I was the  only solo woman in the group. After freshening up, I was ready to dive into the city. Our guide suggested we check out the Ben Thanh Market, a short walk from our hotel. Despite feeling a bit nervous about wandering alone, I decided to go for it. Along the way, locals smiled cheekily and waved, making me feel welcomed and uneasy as well.


Entering the market was like stepping into a colorful maze. I couldn't resist buying a pair of beautifully crafted Vietnamese slippers and even made friends with the girl selling them. We snapped a quick photo together before I went on to explore more. Feeling hungry, I tried to buy some local snacks, but things didn't go as smoothly as I hoped. The lady at the stall gave me a strange look, making me feel a bit uneasy. Despite that, I continued to wander around, taking in the sights and sounds.

As the sun started to set, I headed back to the hotel, feeling a mix of excitement and curiosity about what the rest of the trip had in store. Once everyone gathered at the agreed-upon time, we set off for the Water Puppet Show. During the show, I struck up a conversation with an elderly Indian couple seated beside me on the long bench. Although the performance started off promisingly, it quickly became monotonous, with loud traditional Vietnamese music playing on repeat. I found myself eagerly awaiting the end of the one-hour show.

Afterwards, we headed to a restaurant for dinner, immersing ourselves in a traditional Vietnamese setting. The rustic ambiance, wooden decor, and authentic Vietnamese cuisine made for a delightful meal, complete with a delicious Vietnamese dessert.


The next morning, after the hotel buffet breakfast, our Vietnamese guide, who had a more Western outlook and language, joined us. He was supposedly educated in the US. Our first stop of the day was the Reunification Palace, formerly known as the Independence Palace. The outside area buzzed with excitement as we admired the war planes, helicopters, and other artifacts. We couldn't resist posing for photos until the guide reminded us to move inside the palace.

Once inside, we explored a series of rooms, including private quarters, dining rooms, entertainment lounges, and the president's office. The palace, designed by the Paris-trained Vietnamese architect Ngo Viet Thu, served as both the home and workplace of South Vietnam's President during the Vietnam War. The rooftop offered panoramic views and more displays of war planes and helicopters. Inside the palace, it was easy to get lost due to its vast size and multiple floors. However, navigating through the various rooms and halls was a fascinating journey through history.




After spending two hours exploring the Reunification Palace, we made our way to the War Museum. The Vietnam War and its impact came to life once again, stirring deep emotions within me. The exhibits depicted the horrors of war, including torture, pain, and suffering endured by those affected. Walking through the museum, I was confronted with the harsh reality of the war's aftermath. The stories of anguish and loss left me speechless. It was a sobering reminder of the human cost of conflict and the responsibility of leaders in sparking such devastating wars.



Exiting the museum, we were led to the torture chamber (Tiger Cage) outside. Witnessing the cruelty inflicted upon fellow human beings was a deeply tragic experience. It made me realize how fortunate I am to have never experienced the horrors of war firsthand. As we concluded our tour, I couldn't help but feel a sense of gratitude for the peace and stability in my own country. The visit to the War Museum left a profound impact on me, serving as a reminder of the importance of peace and the devastating consequences of war.


Next on our itinerary? The Saigon Post Office. While it may not occupy much of your time, it's certainly worth a visit. Functioning as usual to this day, this architectural gem was built in the 20th century by the renowned Gustave Eiffel during Vietnam's time as part of French Indochina. Its vaulted roof, arched windows, and colonial-era phone booths repurposed as ATM machines offer a glimpse into its rich history.

Across the Saigon Post Office lies the Notre Dame Cathedral, a miniature replica of its Parisian counterpart. Built in 1880 as a symbol of French occupation, it cr as a testament to Vietnam's colonial past. Though I only had a few moments to admire its exterior, the cathedral's grandeur left a lasting impression.

With half a day of sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City complete, it was time for lunch before heading to the airport for our flight to Cambodia. Stay tuned for more on our Cambodian adventure and the must-see sights awaiting us there.

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