Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Visit to Cu Chi Tunnel, Vietnam

I had the opportunity to visit Ho Chi Minh City. One of the itineraries is to visit Cu Chi tunnel. These tunnels were dug up by the Vietnamese years ago especially in their fighting against their enemies. Vietnam's war history dated back in 1860 until 1980. It took 120 years of war killing millions of people and leaving many people loss their parts of their bodies. The last war was with China (northern region). I learned more on Vietcong Vs Americans in the 1970's. The war made many Vietnamese fled the country and became refugees. Some landed in Australia, USA and Canada. Now , the war was over. The tunnels are open for the public to see. This tunnel was declared as historic vestige site on December 15, 2004  by the government. It becomes a source of income through gate ticketing.

Cu Chi is about 70km north-west of Ho Chi Minh city. It is a rural area. Going to visit the tunnels, you must pass through villages, country side, rubber plantation and agricultural areas. Once you reach the Cu Chi tunnel, you pay VD75,000 for the entrance. You walk down the concrete tunnel first, then you are ushered to a sunken hut which display the video on the war and tunnel. Then you are introduced to the tunnel.

Inside the hut where briefing on the tunnels was done.

The briefing by this war veteran is also given on the bus before you arrive at the tunnel..

The guide (a war veteran) gave the briefing on the tunnels. The tunnels have three layers: the top, middle and lower level. I was told the tunnels have meeting rooms, accommodation, kitchen, toilet etc. The water is taken from Saigon river nearby. Actually there are two sites, but we were only introduced the tunnels at Ben Dinh.

The opening of the tunnel. Only a small body can go in this tunnel. The fat person if insist will be stuck.

I tried to experience the tunnel. I am  fat and found difficulty to come out.....

Visitors attentively listening to the guide's briefing.

Entering the tunnel. It is very narrow and low. It can accommodate small frame people.

If you can not proceed crawling inside the tunnel, it is better to come out. There are many exit points along the way. The tunnel is winding and you can hide.

The attap roof (dried leaves) of the tunnel.

Some bombs were displayed.

If you are interested to visit, you can contact the local travel agent. The fee to and fro is USD5 excluding the lunch and entrance fee. Dress comfortably in case to need to crawl in the tunnel. To know details go to this web  Happy travelling.

Central Mosque and Halal Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City

For Muslim travellers, this little information that I am going to tell you may help to find these services fast enough when you visit this city in the future. It is about a mosque and halal restaurants. Since there are few Muslims in Vietnam, certainly these services are important to the Muslim visitors. 

There are a few mosques in Ho Chi Minh City. This includes the one in Cholon, a mosque along Nguyen Van Troi Street and of course the Central Mosque.

The Central Mosque is located at Dong Du Street in Ho Chi Minh City. Dong Du Street is located between Dong Khoi and Ba Trung Streets. It is about one kilometre (to the north) from Ben Thanh Market. You need to follow Le Loi Avenue and turn right to Dong Khoi Street and look for Sheraton Hotel. The mosque is quite old and had staircases.

You can walk from the Market (A), follow the blue line to the Mosque (B). (source: google map)
Central Mosque at Dong Du Street. On the left is Sheraton Hotel.

The lady who is in-charge of vehicle parking in the mosque compound.

Posing for a picture with Jet Yau and Hana. Both girls are tourists from Malaysia.

This mosque is more than 40 years old. Behind it, there is a religious school and a canteen. The mosque design is like other mosques in India. There is a large "kolah" (rectangular pond) for people to use the water for ablution.

Opposite the mosque, there are a few restaurants offering halal food. One of the restaurants is by the name of Halal@Saigon. The restaurant is managed by a Malaysian lady who has a passion in running this restaurant. She has 25 workers. This is one of the restaurants in the city which has halal certificate from the authority.

Halal @ Saigon restaurant at Dong Du Street.

The pictures on the restaurant's wall.

The restaurant is narrow. It is only 12 feet wide. Therefore, to look wider, the operator hung many mirrors at the wall.

One of the visitors to the restaurant.

Nasi Lemak with "Rendang Ayam"(chicken with coconut milk), sambal, fried chicken, fried egg, anchovies and nuts and the vegetables. It cost VD100,000. It is delicious.

Other restaurant which offers Malaysian food (Malay food) is Four Seasons. It is located at Thi Sach Street, a street away from Dong Du Street. I did not have the opportunity to taste the food there as when I arrived   at the door, I found they were many patrons occupying all seats.

The Four Seasons (Empat Musim) restaurant at Thi Sach Street.

For those travellers to Ho Chi Minh City, these restaurants serve  good food and its location is accessible and strategic. The caution is, if you come with a large group, it is advisable to make reservation. If not you may not be able to eat there. You may have to find alternative food like bread or cake. Two slices of chiffon cake cost VD5000, a loaf of french bread cost VD5000 at the market. The cup of tea or coffee cost VD10,000. If you want to taste Vietnam's Pho, there are many Pho shops with the name of Pho 24. Look for vegetarian pho. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is called bee-hoon soup in Malaysia or Bakso in Indonesia.

Update march 2012: There is a new mosque at the Khoi Nghia Street, towards the river, by the name of Masjid ArRahman. For the restaurant: VN Halal 14, Pham Hang Thai, 100 metres south to Ben Thanh market.Open:11.00am -9.00pm. This double storey restaurant can accommodate  many diners at a time .Tel 0838 220.252 email:; For those who like ready made halal food, try at Parkson food court level 5 or just try fish and chips at KFC around the city.

Situated near a busy road, 100 metres from Ben Thanh.
Rice VD10,000; chicken soup VD50,000; vege VD50,000.Drink bandung cinchau VD30,000.

D'Anjung stall at Parkson Food Court is also popular, serving Malaysian food.
 Happy travelling and tasting....

Trees and Park in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is a new name for Saigon. Located near the Saigon River, this city is one of interesting cities that I had visited. I am impressed with trees and park in Saigon. The park is big with many tall trees that give shade. Many activities are conducted in the park such as jogging, tai-chi, reading, etc.

The students begin their class here to draw the scenery of Saigon.

The big park with tall trees and grasses is nice and easy to maintain.

Trees in the city park.

Canned drinks are sold in the park. Just insert your coins.

These tall trees took years to grow. They are taking good care of these trees.

Elderly people do their morning exercise. Note that the tree has a number 252 on its bark.Here all trees seem to have their numbers. This means the city hall has the registry of all trees.

 This section of the park has smaller trees and a few games courts.

The popular flower in one of the ponds in the park.

On the south of the park, there are many bird cages are hung on the poles. The singing birds in the morning give much pleasure to bird lovers.

This park is very big, located right in the city centre. It is bordered by Nam Khi Khoi Nghia Street (north), Nguyen Du Street (east), Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street (west) and Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in the south. 

If you are interested to visit this park, it is advisable to go in the morning as the morning breeze is much better to energize you.Happy travelling.

A Cheaper Way from Airport to Ho Chi Minh City Centre, Vietnam

I had just returned from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam after a four day visit. It was an interesting city. Every day I walk around the city especially in the city centre which includes Ben Thanh Market, Le Loi Avenue, Dong Khoi Street and Nguyen Hue Street. What I am going to tell you is how to go to the city with a bus from the airport.

I know you may have many options how to do it. You may take a taxi which cost around USD 5-10. I found going by bus is a cheaper way to travel. If you bring a small bag, then I think you may consider to go by bus.

The bus no:152 will take you from the airport to downtown Saigon Bus Station.

Once you reach Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh, after clearing all immgration and customs, go out of the airport. Look for the blue bus no:152. Normally this bus will stop and wait for the passengers at the road in front of the arrival hall. The cost per person is only VD3000. If you bring a bag more than 10kg, you will be charged another VD3000. Travel time is only 25 minutes.

On the way back to the airport, you may take this bus again at Saigon Bus Station opposite Cho Ben Thanh Market. Happy travelling.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Shanghai, China

Shanghai is the largest city in China. Being a big metropolitan city, Shanghai boasts economic magnet for investors. This city is special in terms of urban planning and development. It has an Urban Planning Exhibition Hall exclusively to display urban planning and development of Shanghai. It is open for the public to view.

The 5-storey building is located in the city centre at People's Square near Nanjing Road and Central Tibet Road.Behind it is the Shanghai Municipal Government Office.

It has many physical models, transportation of Shanghai, virtual Shanghai (where you may feel as if you fly through Shanghai), souvenir shop at various levels and the top floor is the restaurant and viewing gallery. This exhibition and its material is very useful for city planners and city fathers to learn about Shanghai.

The front of the building facing Central Tibet Road.

The signage of the hall.

The model of tall buildings in Shanghai is located at the ground floor.

Model of Shanghai.

Another model.

The River front development.

The souvenir shop.

The cross section of the integrated station.

Visitors appreciate the model.

Shanghai model attracts many people.

If you are in Shanghai, I suggest you find time to visit this exhibition hall. It is close to Nanjing Street.You need to pay a ticket to enter this hall. You can take a cab or use the subway and stop at People's Square (line 2). Happy travel.

Kew Gardens (Royal Botanical Gardens), London

Kew Gardens is one of the world's renown botanical gardens. It is located in Richmond on the west of London. The Gardens cover 132 hectares and has many attractions like treetop walkway, palm house, Princess of Wales Conservatory, Temperate House, etc. It has attraction for the children too such as tree house towers, badger sett, climbers and creepers.  The garden has a few gates for entrance but the notable and close to the Kew Gardens station is Victoria gate.

The Victoria Gate is 400 metres from the Kew Gardens Station District Line that connect it to the London Overground.

Map of Kew and its Kew Gardens.

The Glass House has walkway and palm house terrace.

The briefing given by the park officer to visitors.

The children are having some snacks.

The gardens is well kept by the management.

The Plant + People Exhibition Hall.

The bird walks freely here.

The opening times to the Gardens is 9.30am till 5.00pm. You need to pay BSP13.00 for the entrance. The gardens have a few restaurants and cafes and mostly located near the gates.The one that located next to Victoria gate is Victoria Plaza Cafe and shop. The shop sells books and Kew publications and other souvenirs.

The area around the gardens and the station looks pleasant and serene.

Shops and restaurant near the station.

If you are interested to visit this Royal Botanical Gardens, take a train (District Line) and stop at Kew. Then walk  to the right side using the underpass or bridge to the Gardens. You need to walk about 400 metres to reach the Victoria Gate. Happy travel.