War Remnants Museum
We started with the farthest point in the map and made it to the War Remnants Museum along Vo Van Tan street. The buses parked outside the museum was a telling sign that we had a literally packed day ahead.
Grim, depressing, and devastating, the museum told the story of the not-so-distant past. The walls were filled of photos showing the long-term effects of the toxic chemical Agent Orange, the protests in the US denouncing the war the government has raised against Vietnam, and photos of the civilians and volunteers caught in the crossfire. It is best to visit the place in the morning so you will still have time to fill your day with happier scenes of Saigon or make it your last stop if you want to end the day with a heavy heart. I thought I was being emotional but looking at the faces of the other visitors, they mirrored my thoughts exactly.
War museums are great for learning, but it does not do well for the heart.
We made a quick detour to escape from the sun and had a slightly expensive version of their iced black coffee. People sat in groups on the sidewalks drinking coffee from street vendors while we got ours from Starbucks' counterpart, Highlands Coffee.
Half of the time we trailed a group with English-speaking tour guides. Free lecture for us!
Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office
People's Committee Building and the Dong Khoi Area
Keeping in mind that we still have to visit a bookstore to get a better map, we roamed along the streets until we made it into the Dong Khoi Area, along Le Loi Street. For 15000 VND we finally got ourselves a nice street map of Vietnam. Nevermind that we found the bookstore in the late afternoon when we have already traversed the city!
Dong Khoi district is an upscale part of Ho Chi Minh, with even lovelier structures and high-end shops along the streets. Time seemed to slowly pass by in this area as people sipped their afternoon drinks and watched the traffic on the streets. This place is perfect for a lazy afternoon stroll.
We settled for an ice cream at Bach Dang along Le Loi before we slowly made our way back to the streets of Pham Ngu Lao. It was long day indeed and tiring as it was, I was glad we walked our way around.