On my second day in Ho Chi Minh, I visited the War Remnants Museum, Saigon Central Post Office and Notre-Dame Cathedral.
On my second day in Ho Chi Minh, I met a guy from Germany in the hostel named Marcel. That day, he was expecting his friend, Marius. They flew together to Vietnam, then parted ways, then would meet again later for their flight back to Cologne. Since Marius wasn’t gonna arrive until the afternoon or evening, Marcel agreed to stroll around with me in the morning. After having breakfast and shower, we headed out.
Our first stop was the War Remnants Museum. Everything in HCM is cheap so taking a cab wouldn’t cost you a lot. From our place to there, we only paid around USD 2.00. While in the cab, Marcel and I talked briefly about ourselves and took a picture together.
Gruesome history at the War Remnants Museum
Now at the museum, the entrance fee is worth VND 15,000. The place closes during lunch time and opens back in an hour. As its name implies, War Remnants Museum houses remnants from both Vietnam War and Indochina War. I personally didn’t know much about those wars before going there so it was a shock to me how much damages were done to Vietnam.
Trigger warning: the first exhibit, Aggression War Crimes, has a lot of graphic photos. I’m going to share just a few to spare the readers.
In the other room is an exhibit about Agent Orange Aftermath. Agent Orange was a strong mixture of chemical defoliants sprayed across acres of land in Vietnam by US soldiers to destroy the forest where their enemies could be hiding. Later on, it also caused serious health issues – including cancers, tumors, psychological symptoms, birth defects, among others – to people exposed to it. The worse part is even up to this day, some babies would be born with defects as it runs down in their genes now.
I saw this interesting letter of a Vietnamese girl with birth defects for US President Barack Obama when he was just elected in 2009. There was also a donation box for the victims, both of us donated our spare money!
Trying Jollibee in Vietnam
At 12:00 PM, the museum shut down so Marcel and I decided to grab lunch. He said he’s okay with anything except seafood. We tried two restaurants but both were full so we kept on walking around. When we were on our way to the museum, I saw Jollibee and funny enough, our feet led us back there! Of course I had to let him try it.
The Jollibee there had a different, more localized menu. Personally didn’t find it as good, but I hope Marcel enjoyed his first one! 😆
We exchanged more personal stories. It’s awesome that at the young age of 21, he has already seen most of the world! His stories really inspired me. He is an amazing person in and out! 🙂
Back to the museum
We checked out the artilleries and aircrafts outside before going back inside the museum. It’s not everyday that you get a chance to be near these rather scary machineries, but it was a pretty cool experience.
When were done outside, we headed to the third floor to see the last exhibit called Historic Truths.
The photo above stood out the most to me. It’s such a powerful photo of a Vietnamese mother trying to escape with her children. It won a Pulitizer Prize in 1966.
The Tiger Cages in Côn Đảo Jail
On the left side (from the entrance) of the museum, you will find some tiger cages. They are very low and interlaced with barbed wires, and 2-7 prisoners would be crammed inside during the Vietnam War. Other forms of torture performed to the prisoners were also depicted and explained. It’s a shame how such inhumane and brutal acts were done to the Vietnamese people!
The Saigon Central Post Office
It was almost 4:00 PM when we finished. I wanted us to go to the Reunification Palace too, which was just nearby, but there was no enough time. Marcel wanted to go back to the hostel already to meet his friend. We hailed a cab, and he dropped me off first at the post office.
The beautiful Saigon Central Post Office was constructed in late 19th century when Vietnam was still under the French government. It was designed by Auguste Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux, not Gustave Eiffel (like what I said on my IG post).
It’s still operational up to this day so I thought of sending Marcel and my future self a post card. I got mine in a week, while Marcel got his in like 3 weeks. Not bad!
Check the rates of sending below.
VND 11,000 / postcard
VND 15,000 / letter (20 grams)
VND 13,500 / postcard
VND 20,000 / letter (20 grams)
VND 15,000 / postcard
VND 24,000 / letter (20 grams)
On both sides of the entrance, there are stores where you can buy a lot of souvenirs. They are a bit more expensive than usual so if you want to save some coins, go buy somewhere else.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Just walking distance from the post office is the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon built between 1863 and 1880 by the French colonists. It was Good Friday so I made sure to attend the Holy Mass.
The last mass for that day was at 5:00 PM so I was just on time. Unfortunately tho, it was in Vietnamese language. The structure of the mass is the same as in any Catholic mass anyway so I kinda was able to follow through. It’s been a while since I did the 14 Stations of the Cross so I felt really good. The whole thing ended at 7:30 PM.
The bustling night life of Ho Chi Minh
I had a difficulty getting a cab going back to the hostel. There was a little bit of traffic because of all the motorcycles. We passed by Bến Thành Market, a place where you can get souvenirs and gifts at really cheap prices. I had gone inside the day before but was too lazy to get anything.
When I got to the hostel, Marius still hadn’t arrived! 😆 Good thing Marcel met 3 other Germans so he didn’t feel bored. After a while, we all decided to have dinner in the next street. They were fancying some Indian food, so even though I don’t like spicy food, I obliged. Saigon was really alive and vibrant at night!
I think it was already 11:00 PM when Marius finally arrived. They had a really early flight to catch so Marcel didn’t sleep in our room anymore and bid goodbye. It was a short and sweet meeting, but I’m definitely hoping we could still travel together in the future! 🙂