Tag Archive: Ho Chi Minh city


Whether you’re in the actual capital of Hanoi or in the commercial capital of Ho Chi Minh City, in the mountainous northern precincts or the sand-swept southern coastal areas, evidence of style abounds in Vietnam. It’s in everything from what the Vietnamese wear, such as the elegant ao dai, to the architecture of the buildings.

It should come as no surprise. Not when the country’s storied history is examined even somewhat closely.

Vietnam’s affinity for style — and, by extension, art — can be traced as far back as 8,000 BC, when experts believe this part of the world began creating pottery. Over the years, Vietnam’s art has been most influenced by China (Confucianism) and France, which ruled Vietnam from the late 1800s until the mid 1900s.

But what’s developed is a country with a personality all its own. For proof, one need look no further than some of Vietnam’s must-visit galleries.

In the western suburbs of Hanoi, Nha San Duc has been hosting local and international artists for years now. The two-story ‘house on stilts’ includes old statues and artifacts — many of which are for sale — and serves as a venue for exhibitions, installations and performances.

In Ho Chi Minh City’s first district, Craig Thomas Gallery is where it’s at for those with a passion for art of a more contemporary kind. The founder moved to Vietnam in 1995, became actively involved in the city’s art scene in 2002, and opened the gallery in 2009.

That’s also when Tadioto debuted in Hanoi. Owned by Nguyen Qui Duc, who worked as a journalist in the U.S. before returning to Vietnam, the six-story space is where to go for everything from live music showcases and literary readings to photo exhibitions and late-night cocktails.

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ImageVietnam continues to make a name for itself as a destination with underground excursions.

The tunnels at Vinh Moc, in the central province of Quang Tri, once housed an entire village and today host travelers who want to experience the grim depths of wartime living.

The tunnels at Cu Chi, where the National Liberation Front staged strikes on Saigon and the occupying American forces, are one of the country’s top draws.

Now, add one more to this roll call of subterranean adventures. In late May, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi opened a wartime air raid shelter that once harbored the likes of Joan Baez and Jane Fonda and that was only rediscovered during construction of the hotel’s Bamboo Bar last summer.

To visit the shelter, you have to be a guest of the hotel. But a night’s stay at the Metropole is one splurge worth making anyway.

The shelter is a warren of corridors and chambers, preserved as it was in the days when sirens resounded all over Hanoi. Though this space is dank and austere, it’s relatively luxurious when you compare it to the earthen tunnels of Vinh Moc and Cu Chi.

Upon rediscovery, the hotel didn’t find any skeletons in this closet. Just an old wine bottle, some old light bulbs and old electrical outlets and air ducts. Oh, and some graffiti from one Bob Devereaux, an Australian diplomat who scratched his name in the wall one day back in 1975.

For more on the shelter, including images and video, check out the Metropole general manager’s blog.


When it comes to cruising, the best way to stimulate your appetite for the increasing-popular activity is aboard a small vessel, according to a recent Travel + Leisure article.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m all about exploration by boat. And not the deep-sea kind, either. River journeys actually. Trips that let you glimpse the daily life along rivers such as the Irrawaddy or Mekong from the quiet comfort of your cozy cabin. Or from the sundeck of a replica paddle-wheeler, as a tropical breeze blows soft against your face.

Got two weeks? Think about the Irrawaddy-to-Inle experience in Myanmar. The trip includes five nights aboard the RV Pandaw, whose staterooms are 170 square feet in size and beautifully finished in teak and brass. A featured pitstop is Ava, the capital of Burma between 1364 and 1841.

For a shorter — but no less extraordinary — adventure, consider a tour from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to the Mekong Delta, a vast network of distributaries dubbed “a biological treasure trove” by World Wildlife Fund.

Thousands of tourists visit the Cu Chi Tunnels everyday, an immense network of connecting underground passageways just outside of Ho Chi Minh City.

The 121 km-long complex of tunnels is where thousands of Vietnamese soldiers supporting the north hid out during the Vietnam War. Even though the tubes have been enlarged to accommodate visitors, they are still extremely claustrophobic — just wide and tall enough to walk through stooped over. They are dark. And ventilation in them is poor.

To tour the tunnels, visitors need not get down and dirty or be ready to overcome fears. Experienced guides are there to tell stories and answer questions about what happened in various ‘rooms’ underfoot.

Saigon Profile: Meet ‘Uncle Nam’, a Cu Chi Expert
Uncle Nam is one such guide. He was born in the district of Cu Chi and lived in the tunnels as a soldier and vegetable grower from 1963-1975.

For more than a decade, he called the subterranean labyrinth home. He even met his better half down there.

Uncle Nam made lots of friends in the tunnels, as well. He realized just how many friends he had when he was injured by a U.S. bomb; his comrades gave him the best seat in the house — “near the vent, where there was much more air to breathe,” he remembers.

Nowadays, the 66-year-old draws energy from the people visiting the tunnels in hopes of learning more about Vietnamese culture. He enjoys leading tours because it keeps him active and bolsters his self-worth.

“I am proud of where I come from,” says Uncle Nam. “It makes me happy to be able to contribute to my hometown.”

If visiting Cu Chi, ask for Uncle Nam. He is a delightful guide, and more than happy to show you around a place he knows well.