A photographic tour of South Vietnam
Most visitors to Vietnam start their trip in Saigon. The first thing you'll notice is the traffic. It's hectic all the time.
This is the view from my old office on the 17th floor of the Gemadept tower. It's called something else now. It wasn't always raining. The photo gives a good impression of the city; buildings crammed together and constant construction.
This was a neat cafe opposite my house in District 2. It's changed owners and it may not even be a cafe anymore. Things in Saigon change so rapidly.
Many visitors will check out the War museum, which used to be known as the 'Museum of American War crimes', which is essentially what it is despite the name-change. This particular Tank is at the Ho Chi Minh City musem; about a 15 minute walk from the war museum. The HCMC musem tends to be quieter, and I think it's nicer. The Fine Art museum is my preferred museum option in Saigon.
Dam Sen Park. You won't find many western tourists there- which is one reason I think it's a perfect place to visit. Don't go on a national holiday though or it'll be packed full.
In the background on this one we've got the Bitexco tower; Saigon's tallest building. I believe this view is taken from Nguyen Hue street before it was pedestrianised. There was a bit of a riot here in 'The March of the Dragons'.
The rain can be brutal in Vietnam, but it's usually gone quickly enough. This view is from the steps of An Dong market in District 4 of Saigon.
'Independence Palace' - despite my love of history, I never went inside this place. It's a popular tourist stop.
Plenty of places to buy local crafts in district 1. You'll find lots of shops selling these ships. They're built in factories in Bien Hoa district. The final touches to the models are made in the shops, to avoid the fragile bits breaking in transit. A big ship the size of one Richard Hammond carried on his bike in 'Top Gear; Vietnam special' might set you back a mere $200... unless the salesman thinks you'll pay more.
Moving down towards the Mekong Delta. This is the Can Tho bridge. It's huge. A massive section of it collapsed during construction, killing a large number of workers. A temple built beside the bridge was dedicated to them.
The floating market of Can Tho. Beautiful and relaxing. Away from the crazy pace of Saigon.
Country life at least seems at a more relaxing pace in the Mekong Delta. A lot of boat tours are available. I have a friend who is starting up a business taking tourists into the villages deep in the Delta where they can live like a local for a couple of days and learn some local skills.
Heading a little North of Saigon, this is a view of Mui Ne. Popular with Russian expats. It might get busy on national holidays. I visited the day after a national holiday and the beach was empty and the resort was empty of guests; so the owner fed me for free, gave me beer and made me sing karaoke with him in Vietnamese... I don't even speak Vietnamese.
This monkey was pretty cool. The resort owner in Mui Ne kept him; apparently they can be bought for around 1 million VND (about £30). I did complain that his lead wasn't very long and that he probably wasn't happy being chained up 24/7, but I don't think the owner was too concerned. I bought the monkey some bananas to only later find out they shouldn't eat them. The little guy was friendly enough and he spent quite a lot of time sitting on my shoulder and head. I missed him after I left, but I'd have rather seen him living in the wild.
Like England, central Vietnam is known for a lot of rainfall.
Moving a little further north to Hoi An. I love this place. The historic town very much feels like it's still the 1800's.
A 20 minute bicycle ride from Hoi An will bring you to a nice stretch of beach. A lot of bars overlook the beach, I was visiting with male friends so it suited us to drink beer and then stupidly go for a swim. There is a long section of beach away from the bars too which would be better for families. There was a Samurai display while I was there, orchestrated by a group led by a chap who did the fight choreography for 'Kill Bill'. It was fun to watch, but it made me wish for my European longsword so I could fight it out with them.
The Japanese bridge in Hoi An features heavily in tourist literature. It looks kind of nice, but honestly it's not any more interesting than the other features of this great town.