Saigon Day 4: Cu Chi Tunnels, War Remnants Museum, AO Show & More

Intensive but fulfilling day: a Saigon day itinerary worth following.

Looking back, this day was quite intensely packed with activities, debunking the idea that there's nothing to do in Saigon. If you've religiously followed my Saigon travelogues or read the title of this post (heh heh), this is already the fourth day in Saigon and we're not losing steam in finding places to explore at all. In this post I'll cover three attractions and a lot of delicious food places! 

The day started bright and early (okay, not thaaat early) slightly before 9, where we gathered at Bui Vien Street for a half-day tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. We bought a tour package two days before in one of the travel agencies along the backpackers' area of Bui Vien and were instructed to meet at the front of the travel agency at 9 to catch the bus.  I don't remember the exact price of the half-day tour, it was approximately 150,000dong (~S$9.50) if I am not wrong. This includes the two-way transport (90mins one way), a guide, and the tour itself. Entrance fees of 90,000dong (~S$5.70). Freshly squeezed, ice-cold mango milkshakes go at 15,000dong (~S$0.95) around here.
Total damage to wallet: 150,000 + 90,000 + 15,000 =  255,000dong (S$16.15) 
Note: Worth it, considering the tour was quite long (2.5 hours) and very vital to understanding Saigon's past.

The bus conductor was very informative at telling us stories about the Cu Chi tunnels, the historical background about the Vietnam War, but thirty minutes into his speech, each of us nodded off... his voice began to sound like a lullaby... But his speech gave us a good background information on what to expect, how the Viet Cong made those tunnels of 200km long by hand, why it has to be done that way, the intelligence of the system and the terrible war incidents that happened then. These tunnels were literally underground cities, where the soldiers live, cook, and sleep in there.

It involved a first-hand experience crawling through the tunnels. It completely challenged my claustrophobia which I tried for a while, but it was indeed a bit scary. It is unimaginable how they could have survived so long in those tunnels when I couldn't even last 5 minutes! There were displays and guide explanations on how the booby traps and other interesting functions of the tunnels, including how they managed to cook underground and hide the smoke from their cooking. We also watched a propagandic film lambasting the Americans' infiltration into Saigon during that time, especially their usage of agent orange which caused tumours, birth defects, rashes... with consequences lasting till today.

/Inappropriate expressions but it's too natural to smile when there's a camera/
The area has already been cleared and restored for tourism purposes, so it didn't feel eerie, but felt so much awe and respect for the soldiers that actually invented the system and lasted within in! The Vietnamese are indeed very intelligent at warfare tactics. The Cu Chi tunnels were critical at forcing the American troops to withdraw then. Though in war, nobody wins...

We tried eating sweet potato dipped with peanut shavings, it was quite delicious (but maybe I was just hungry). This was what they ate during the Vietnam War. It probably won't be delicious anymore if eaten on a daily basis. Thereafter, we were brought to a painting factory where the victims of agent orange worked at, and produced goods for tourists to buy. Then we swung right back to town.

I am two minds about recommending this place, Dac San Bún Mắm, which had the most delicious but disturbing meal I've had throughout this Vietnam trip. Okay, let's first focus on the food: bún mắm (65,000dong; ~S$4) is the one you see on the left, with a darker thicker sweet seafood fish-sauce-based broth with chives, fried garlic and other herbs, which absolutely whets my appetite. The white vermicelli noodles and the freshest prawns, eggplant and meats were also used, and I love it. The one on the right is a chicken vermicelli soup which was pretty delicious as well. Their Vietnamese spring rolls (10,000dong/roll; ~S$0.60/roll) here are made on the spot, right next to us, and is my favourite from this trip as well... 
Everything about this place is a heavenly sweet find for a foodie, except you've got to close two eyes when you eat, because there are little roaches running across the floor.  
It might already be a nightmare for some already, but look at how low the tables are - a characteristic of most 'authentic' Vietnamese eateries, and imagine how close you are to the floor... okay, enough of scaring you.

Granted, I really liked the food here. And it probably won't get an 'A' for NEA here. But we didn't get any stomach issues after the meal here, so what say you? At least you'll get a delicious meal in an authentic Vietnamese eatery ticked off your bucket list - so here's the address:
Dac San Bún Mắm
22 Phan Bội Châu
P Ben Thanh, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City

We walked over and grabbed an ice-cream at Fanny Ice Cream after the meal - one of the highly raved dessert places in Saigon. I think it was quite good, but not fantastic - but it did help us escape the heat! There was a quirky shop with a lot of T-shirts and hipster Saigon memorabilia around the corner but I forgot the name.
Fanny Ice Cream
Vincom Center
72 Lê Thánh Tôn, Hồ Chí Minh
Bến Nghé Quận 1 Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Hopped onto a cab to War Remnants Museum just 1.5km away because we were running out of time! If you only go to one museum in Saigon, it'll have to be the War Remnants Museum because it really tells you in detail what happened during the war, chronology of events, the effects of the war, especially in reference to agent orange victims. Very heartbreaking to look at some of the paintings and photographs, a lot of 'last picture the war photographer took'.

Next, onto the AO show!

It was held at the Saigon Opera House right next to Dong Khoi... 
We bought the tickets at the booth next to the travel agency we bought the Cu Chi tunnels half-day tour along Bui Vien Street, which was rather inefficient. Would have much preferred to do it at the Saigon Post Office instead.

Pscyhed for it to start! I wasn't sure what to expect, and when it happened, it was so awe-inspiring and kept me at the edge of my seat all the time! The performers were really agile and performed crazy and creative stunts with their traditional props. It was a visual feast and adrenalin-pumping! We saw snippets of the performance at the places promoting the AO show, but nothing compares to watching it LIVE right before your eyes. The prices to the AO show are not cheap though for the 90 mins performance.
630,000dong for the ahh! zone (~S$40.70)Not that good, we missed some stunts at the side of the stage, but it was still decent.
1,050,000dong for the ooh! zone
1,470,000dong for the wow! zone 

One picture with all the performers, still looking quite energetic after the crazy performance. Was it worth it? For the professionalism (zero-mistakes!) and memorable experience, I would say I definitely didn't regret going for it! After all you're saving aplenty on booze in Saigon already with 15,000dong beers... ;) But it's definitely not cheap. Would I recommend it? Only if you enjoy these sort of stage performances.

We wrapped the long day up with a good meal at Chanh Bistro Rooftop Saigon with burgers and fries - the food here is pretty good and big portions with affordable prices! Set at the 6th floor, it was a little elusive to get to, but once you're there, it's a little hidden gem to chill at.
Chanh Bistro Rooftop Saigon
43-45 Hồ Tùng Mậu
Bến Nghé District 1
Hồ Chí Minh

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a travel and food blogger with a constant longing to be somewhere to makes her feel alive ☆ life's an adventure

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