Our third (and final) overnight train ride was much less stressful, and we arrived very early in the morning in Ho Chi Minh City. In the 18thcentury the area was occupied by the Nguyen lord based in Hue and named ‘Sai Gon’ after the kapok tree. In 1802 he returned to Hué as the new emperor Gia Long and Saigon remained the administrative centre in the south, during which French traders and missionaries settled here. The 1862 Treaty of Saigon declared the city the capital of French Cochin China and Saigon came to be known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Begun in the 1940s, this legendary tunnel network allowed the Viet Cong to control a large area close to Saigon. At its peak, the tunnel system stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. Over 250 kms of tunnels, some several stories deep included living areas, hospitals, storage facilities, weapons factories and kitchens.
This was built in 1871 for the French Governor-General of Indochina, and it was later used as the presidential palace. It was extensively damaged in an assassination attempt and subsequently demolished. The current building was erected in 1966 and renamed Reunification Palace after April 30, 1975 when tanks smashed through the front gates and Saigon surrendered to Ho Chi Minh’s soldiers.
The Mekong Delta area is an intricate pattern of streams and canals. Water is the focus of life and the main means of transportation. Floating houses, markets, and fishing boats are everywhere. The Mekong travels 4500 kms from the Tibetan Plateau to the delta, where it splits into the tributaries which give the area its name Song Cuu Long – River of Nine Dragons. The rich soil and silt distributed by the river make the region agriculturally rich, growing predominantly rice and fruit.
Coconut Temple (in the Mekong Delta)
And that concludes my whirlwind trip to Vietnam. As you can see, it’s an amazing country and I hope to go back one day. I am so grateful for the new international friends I made on this trip, and I hope we can meet up to travel together again one day!