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Sunday, 01 November 2015

Impressions of Indochina - Page 2

Written by Mona Thomas
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    Saigon also gives access to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the mighty Mekong River. Cu Chi Tunnels are the underground network of tunnels that the Viet Cong constructed in the heart of South Vietnam to attack the enemy and to also escape from the indiscriminate bombing above ground. You can even crawl through a few tunnels to experience life as a Viet Cong guerrilla. Believe it or not these tunnels have actually been slightly widened for tourists! Originating in the Tibetan Plateau, you can sail along the Mekong from Burma to Vietnam via Thailand, Laos and Cambodia but if a day is all you have, you can also make a quick trip from Saigon and experience the vibrant commerce that carries on in this river.     

 

   There is a popular saying in Vietnam that people in Saigon first think and then act but people in Hanoi first think and then they think again! This I suppose is a result of the socialist heritage of northern Vietnam but Hanoi is an atmospheric city of lakes, a well-heeled French Quarter and a very zippy Old Quarter. You could very easily leave Hanoi having spent your entire time in the Old Quarter. It is a labyrinth of streets where shops selling wares from clothes to Vespa seats co-exist with hotels and guest houses, street vendors, tourists and a lot of two-wheelers. Do not be put off by the very basic appearance of the street food stalls. Just push your way in, find yourself a seat and cook your own food. Most stalls will offer two meals to choose from, usually a hot pot and a grill. Pho, the Vietnamese soup noodle is also delicious and you can eat it anytime from breakfast to dinner. This sumptuous food is best washed down with a cool glass of Bia hoi, the local drought beer.

 

   Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho as he is affectionately referred to is the father of the nation. We missed the opportunity to visit the mausoleum where his embalmed body is housed as it is only open on certain days of the week. Instead we took a ride out to Ba Vi National Park and walked up 2000 steps to his temple at the top of the peak. A visit to Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas on the outskirts of Hanoi took us off the main tourist map and it was worth the effort simply to witness the local village boys frolicking around the water puppet stage in the pond in front of Thay Pagoda.

 

   A few hours away from Hanoi is Halong Bay, a World Heritage site of limestone karsts rising out of emerald green waters. As expected it is a popular destination and if you want to witness the same beauty but in a more private manner, head to Cat Ba Island and Lan Ha Bay. You can hire your own boat which will come with a guide, driver and chef, kayak through caves into peaceful lagoons, choose your dinner from the floating fishing villages and at the end of the day go to sleep on the boat, gently rocked by the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.  

 Floating Village Lan Ha Bay

(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Sunday, 01 November 2015

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