Malaysian tourist fulfills wish of visiting Ho Chi Minh again after 20 years

The writer (left) with his wife Josephine at the Buddhist Temple Garden. — Photos: R. SATHIYAKUMAR

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My first visit to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam was in December 2003. Back then, I was part of the Olympic Council Of Malaysia secretariat during the 22nd South-East Asia Games, or Sea Games.

At the time, most of us on the council had to work for about 10 hours each day, so unfortunately for me, the only places I could visit were the sports venues, particularly the basketball and tennis courts.

The only tourist attraction I managed to check out were the historical post office, the opera house and central market.

Josephine holding a live bee hive.Josephine holding a live bee hive.

More than 20 years later, I again visited the city, this time with my wife and son. We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Valentine’s Day this year, and the first thing I noticed was just how modern the airport was now. So many things have been improved and upgraded.

With my wife, Josephine, and eight-year-old son Samson in tow, we checked out a food court near our hotel. There was a wide range of food options available, although the place looked like it catered mostly to international tourists.

On the second day we went on our first tour, a cruise on the Mekong Delta by speed boat. We enjoyed the fresh air though we did notice the murky waters.

At the same time we also saw unspoiled lush greenery on the smaller islands.

We visited a coconut candy manufacturer and a bee farm, where my wife held a bee hive. After that, we stopped at a fruit village where our English-speaking tour guide spoke to us about the varieties of fruits and animals there. We were then served slices of fruits sprinkled with salt and chilli.

Our final stop was on an island where crocodiles and fish were reared.

The next day we joined another excursion, this time for a tour of the beach city of Vung Tao. I was so impressed by the statue of Jesus perched on a hill facing the South China Sea.

Samson at the City Square in Ho Chi Minh.Samson at the City Square in Ho Chi Minh.

This statue, which kind of reminds me of a similar statue in Brazil’s Rio De Janeiro, began construction in March 1974 and was finally inaugurated on Dec 2, 1994. You have to walk up 512 steps to get to the peak here, for a glimpse of the cityscape as well as the beachfront.

After an appetising lunch at a seafood restaurant, we spent an hour walking and just enjoying the beach, as well as checking out the souvenirs.

We did our shopping on our last day in the city at the Ben Tanh Market and shopping malls. We also visited the Notre Dame Cathedral (which was being renovated), the French-built post office, and the beautiful Opera House.

It was a short but satisfying holiday as I finally fulfilled my wish of visiting Ho Chi Minh again, after my first trip two decades ago.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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