Danny here in Ho Chi Minh City! I’m Avalon’s in-house photographer traveling on the Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia & the Mekong River itinerary. I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City just two days ago and I’ve been completely immersed into the culture already. We visited the Reunification Palace and took a tour of the War Remnants Museum, one of the most popular museums in Vietnam. Outside, it features artillery, armor and aircraft collections.
We got to join in the hustle and bustle of the Ben Thanh Market. The food in Vietnam is extremely fresh, usually the ingredients are bought from markets like this. It’s very different from the food in America (but in a good way)! Anyone up for some fresh crabs?
Speaking of fresh food, we participated in a cooking class where we prepared our own lunch. You really get the opportunity to learn about the culture when you partake in such a hands-on experience. We were educated on Vietnamese cuisine and how it can be divided into three categories based on the region:
- Northern Vietnamese cooking: much simpler in preparation and features more stir-fries that often use soy sauce
- Southern Vietnamese cooking: extensive use of vegetables, fish and other seafood.
- Central Vietnamese cooking: much spicier, and much more colorful, as well as being focused on small side dishes set on the table at once.
I loved learning how to create some authentic Vietnamese dishes and I’ll be able to show off my new cooking skills at home with the recipes they gave us after the class (I even bought two pairs of handmade chopsticks in the market, so I can’t wait to make this for my friends). Here’s what was on the menu:
Beef Noodle Soup (Phở)
Fresh salad rolls (Summer rolls)
Braised chicken with ginger
Sweet banana in coconut milk
Today, we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels, an extraordinary network of tunnels more than 120 miles in length that was used by the Viet Cong as a hideout and secret village during the war. Initially, the entries to the tunnels were created for the Vietnamese, and I was even able to walk through one of the original (very small) entries.
Don’t worry, other sections of the tunnels have been widened for Westerners and everyone in our group had the chance to walk through them to experience what life would have been like underground. There are so many fascinating exhibits at the Cu Chi Tunnels, including one that shows off destroyed American tanks from the Vietnam War:
In just two days, I’ve learned and experienced so much about the culture and the people in Ho Chi Minh City on the excursions. While walking around the city, you will see that the main way locals commute is by scooters. They’re everywhere!
Tomorrow, I will be boarding the new Suite Ship, Avalon Siem Reap, to embark on my week-long Mekong cruise. Check back on our Facebook and Instagram in a couple of days to see an album full of photographs of the new ship!
All photos courtesy of Danny Blair.