Ho Chi Minh city (also known as Saigon) is a bustling city in the south of Vietnam.
There are so many motorbikes in Vietnam that at any time, you could look down and they appear as ants moving on the roads below you. In fact, there are 37 million scooters and motorbikes in the whole of Vietnam, and they say somewhere around 9 million in Ho Chi Minh city alone.
Often the youth of Saigon will pop on their two-wheeled beasts and ride the streets, and have no destination – they are just joy-riding. Another thing you notice here is the noise. They seem to love to beep their horn. Sometimes you have no idea why, but it can get really busy and noisy, especially around the rush hour periods.
So it makes sense to leave the city behind you and head out into the countryside.
We made two x one Day Tours with Legend Travel Group and we’d love to share them with you.
Both were fun and educational – just what we as world-schoolers enjoy the most!
Cu Chi Tunnels
Just two hours with a pleasant drive out of Ho Chi Minh city near the Cambodia border is an important area where the wars were fought here at Cu Chi.
In both the Vietnam-French and the Vietnam-USA war, these local people dug a network of tunnels that led to a warren of three levels of deception that would thwart the enemy.
The day we visited was a great world-schooling day for Explorason.
After an old film was shown (naturally from the Communist viewpoint), we then moved on to learn about the traps that they used.
My eleven-year-old son found these fascinating and didn’t want to move on, and went back two times to see how they worked.
We then went to an area where we saw how they would have made shoes from old tyres / tires and reused ammunition over and over again. Even parachutes were used to make raincoats. Nothing was wasted. They used anything they could to assist their army – which was often made up of the youth and women of the area.
About 50% of those who spent any significant amount of time in the tunnels died. Lack of clean water, food, and sunlight all aided in diseases and illnesses becoming rife.
We had the opportunity to go inside the tunnels.
Not for the claustrophobic!
First off, let me tell you that the Vietnamese are smaller in stature than the westerners, so the entrances are TINY.
I barely fit, and then I put the cover over which has two handles inside and leaves were put over the top – and you would never know a tunnel entrance was there !!!!
Inside I had a moment of dread.
Pitch blackness and a fear I had no air overwhelmed me. Yet to think people lived in these tunnels.
We learnt how they went to the toilet, and how they would foil the enemy with split tunnels that would mystify someone if they did get inside.
We also learnt how they lived here by day and plowed the rice fields by night.
Children enjoy learning here immensely – it is a fun way to learn from a terrible war. But in my view, learning should be fun, and interesting.
Sad and tragic times and a loss of so many lives, and others lives ruined as a result of wars. I detest war. I think most mothers would, but it is our job to educate our children so they may be wiser should they be faced with a war situation where they might be conscripted.
We were able to walk along a couple of the tunnels crouched over, and he thought this was so brilliant. He went back a couple of times through these tunnels, and also explored a few extra tunnels that lead to dining, meeting rooms and a kitchen.
There is also a shooting range with old style rifles. It was quite loud and adds to the feeling you are in a war-zone.
A brilliant Day Tour by Legend Travel Group and a great way to teach your children ‘on a practical level’ about how humans fought in these wars.
Mekong River, Floating Markets, and the Delta Region
On a separate day, we took a Full Day Tour to the Mekong Delta region.
This was a pleasant drive in a lovely air-conditioned modern van with bottled water supplied.
We arrived at the dock and boarded a wooden boat with our day guide.
Then we motored our way past a very different type of floating market.
These are larger wooden boats that people often live on and are more a wholesale market.
The boat-owner will hang from a bamboo pole what produce it has for sale.
Some are permanently moored here, but many of the boats will journey to gather supplies that they on-sell to other boats that pass by.
Fruit and vegetables seem to be the main produce.
From here we go to a local family / community area to see how several of their treats are manufactured.
First off we learn how the coconut candy is produced. There are many flavours and it is almost like a caramel to me.
I love the fact the baby sits there with the mothers, grandmothers and aunts as they pack too!
Next, we get to see how rice wine is made, but this is with a twist. Here jars contain other items like frogs and snakes that are pickled in the rice wine.
I remember from my recent trying of Goat Genital Wine here in Vietnam, and I decline this time to try it.
Our guide informs me it really is only for the men, so I am glad I decided to give this a miss! I only try the rice wine instead.
Next, we see how they pop the rice. This is not like your average popped rice cereal for breakfast, but it is turned into a coloured sticky confectionery.
We are invited to sit and drink tea and sample the different wares which can be purchased here.
Back once more to the murky brown water, we step once more into our wooden boat, and then we take a ride along the mighty Mekong River and over to a private home where we get to see a musical presentation about the local life.
More tea is served, and a lovely platter of fresh local fruits are here for us to try. We both enjoyed the musical as our guide interprets it for us.
There is even a drunken skit near the end that gets a giggle from the small tables watching on.
From here it is another Mekong River ride, but just a short one, and we get to some low flat wooden boats.
We venture the mangroves and it is about now I feel really relaxed, and I realise how quiet life is here in the Delta region.
We are on this boat for about half an hour and pass by a few local homes. Included in this gentle ride is the use of the Vietnamese hats, and a rain poncho was passed out ‘just in case’, but we didn’t need it.
I watch men dive down and load up buckets with the river sand that they take to use in their gardens. They look so heavy and these wiry men are so fit and agile.
We get back to our larger motor boat and our lovely guide has organised fresh coconut water for us to drink.
I thought this was a really lovely gesture!
Across the Mekong River, we go and then before we know it we are docking for lunch.
This gourmet feast is included in the price of the Day Tour and is beautifully presented. Dietary requirements are considered, so vegetarians etc are catered for.
We dine ‘al fresco’ in a large undercover rear garden adjacent to the fruit trees, and hanging orchids are all around us.
Explorason is offered the hammock for the return journey and he thinks this is brilliant!
I enjoy taking photos of all the wooden boats, and watching the barges pass by, laden with the river sand and other produce.
On this particular day, we were back in Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) before peak hour traffic. So we had quite a bit of spare time on our return to the Liberty Parkview Hotel to post our photographs up on Instagram and Facebook of all the amazing things we had experienced on our incredible 17-day Vietnam tour.
If you’d love to visit Saigon and surrounding areas, please contact Legend Travel Group
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