• Main entrance to the Museum of Ethnology Hanoi
    Asia,  Blog,  Travelogue,  Vietnam

    Museum of Ethnology

    The country’s biggest ethnic group may be the Viets – around 86% of the population. To understand more about the rest of the ethnic group, you would need to visit the furthest corners of Vietnam. Or, you could simply head to the Museum of Ethnology. Example of Hmong House An introduction A proposal to set up the museum was first approved on the 14th of December 1987. Constructed continued for a little under eight years, when on the 12th of November 1997, it opened its doors to the public. Sitting on a 10-acre property, about 8 km outside Hanoi, the exhibition building, in the shape of a Dong Son drum,…

  • Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum with a guard of honour
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    Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex

    Ho Chi Minh is revered in Vietnam. He was both prime minister and president of North Vietnam and played a key role in the early stages of the Vietnam War. And what better way to honour a beloved leader than to embalm his body and have it on permanent display at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Ba Dinh Square with Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum in the background However, that is not what Uncle Ho, as he was popularly known as, wanted. Just before his death in 1969, he had left strict instructions that his ashes should be buried in the hills throughout both North and South Vietnam. However, his colleagues…

  • Main entrance to the Imperial City.
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    The Imperial City

    The Imperial City is, by far, the most prominent feature of the city of Hue. It sits on the Huong river, or the Perfume river as it popularly known as. It’s minutes away from the South China sea. And should be your first stop on a visit to Hue. The Vietnamese flag flutters atop the Citadel It’s exactly these features that caught the attention of Emperor Gia Long, the first ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty. Its proximity to the surrounding mountains also made it an ideal location. He went about setting a new capital in 1802, making Hue the administrative and military center of Vietnam. However, when the monarchy came…

  • Temple of Stratum Bodhisattva and Temple of Relatives
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    The Pagoda of the Celestial Lady

    Thien Mu Pagoda, also called the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, is a must for all those who visit the imperial city of Hue. Garden behind the temple with bonsai trees For reasons best known to us, we chose to walk the distance from town. While I would ordinarily walk around 7 kms without too much of a hassle, so long as it’s an easy walk, this proved to be a bit tedious for other reasons. It was drizzling and chilly, like it had been all that week, both in Hanoi, and now in Hue. Except for the Huong river, or the Perfume river as it is famously known as,…

  • View of a crashed helicopter
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    DMZ

    All is quiet on the DMZ now. The bases and bunkers are no longer there. The country is one. And the area is a major tourist attraction. View of the Ben Hai river when driving However, it wasn’t always so. When the world’s powers convened in Geneva to try and sort out the mess the French had got themselves into in Indochina, Vietnam was split in half along the 17th parallel. A strip of land, running about 5kms on either side of the Ben Hai river separated a nation and its people. During the ensuing Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese and US-supported South fought ruthlessly, trying to gain an advantage…

  • Reunfication Express train on its way to Danang which you can see in the background
    Asia,  Blog,  Travelogue,  Vietnam

    The Reunification Express

    First things first. There is no Reunification Express. At least not officially. It is called the North–South Railway. Covering 1,726 kms, it is the main railway line that connects the political capital of Hanoi with the commercial capital of Saigon. View of the South China sea A bit of history first Construction of the line linking these two cities began during the French rule in 1899.  It took nearly 40 years for its completion, finally connecting the cities in 1936. However, the line was continuously sabotaged and bombarded during the Vietnamese fight with the French, and later during the Vietnam War. It wasn’t after the war finally ended, in 1975,…

  • The Saigon riverside
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    Aah Saigon!

    Ho Chi Minh City, popularly known as Saigon, can be a chaotic place that asks whether you are ready to go along for a ride. Motorbikes rush past on a busy street in Saigon It starts the moment you arrive into the city. At first, the hustle and bustle of the busy streets can be quite overwhelming, especially with the number of two-wheelers that zip by. However, in time, you realise there is a certain order to this chaos. Let me explain. Crossing the streets must be the most daunting task any traveller would face in Vietnam, and especially in Saigon. While the four-wheel vehicles are fine, it’s the sheer…

  • Artillery gun in front of War Remnants museum
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    War Remnants Museum

    A visit to the War Remnants Museum is a must if you are visiting Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is popularly known as. While not for everyone, it is an absolute must if you want to understand what transpired under both the French colonialists, and during the Vietnam War. A tank outside the War Remnants museum building Its history The museum originally opened on the 4th of September 1975 as the Exhibition House for US and Puppet Crimes within the former United States Information Agency building. However, with the normalisation of diplomatic relationships between the Vietnamese and US governments, it was renamed as the War Remnants Museum…

  • Exterior view Independence Palace Saigon Vietnam
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    Independence Palace

    On the 30th of April 1975, at approximately 10:45am, Tank 390 from the North Vietnamese army crashed through the wrought-iron gates of Independence Palace. The first tank to break through the palace gates And with that, the Vietnam War came to an end, literally at its gates. Waiting for the North Vietnam soldiers in the reception chamber was General Minh and his cabinet. It was only 43 hours before that he had become head of the South Vietnam state. For those visiting Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is popularly known as, Independence Palace is a must-see. Especially if you are interested in history and have a fair…

  • Billboard with Bui Vien Street name hung over the street
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    Party all night long

    As the sun sets over Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it is popularly known as, there’s one street that is slowly waking up. Bui Vien Street. A street vendor in costume If there’s one word that, to me, describes this street, it’s ‘Madness’. It’s loud. It’s bright. It’s seedy. It can get aggressive. And it goes on till the wee hours of the morning. It’s got to be one of the craziest streets I’ve ventured into. It’s no wonder, as it is also Saigon’s backpack quarter. Which means cheap hotels and hostels, and even more cheap beer and street food. Massage parlours flourish and disco lights light up…