Trip Start Aug 24, 2008
Trip End Jul 07, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We took the bus from Dalat to Saigon, which took 7 hours and was the worst bus ride in Vietnam so far. They had the TV on at a ridiculously high volume the whole time, deafening us with terrible singing and shouting. The air conditioning hardly worked and there was constant sniffing and coughing. We were so glad to get off the bus. We were dropped in central Saigon and were immediately hit by the heat and the humidity. Dalat was high up so had a cool climate, but Saigon was hot. We went in search of a guesthouse just as the heavens opened and huge blobs of warm tropical rain drenched us. After running about trying to find somewhere to stay for about half an hour, we found a nice family who rented out their rooms so we checked in. We then went for a walk to find some food. We walked past the park where all the new years lights were being put up. It looked like Christmas with loads of lights.

The next day we headed off to Cao Dai to see the temple. The temple was surrounded by pretty yellow buildings and gardens full of flowers. The temple was painted yellow and had lots of colour all over it. It was very hot inside. We went in to admire the dragon sculptures and the huge ball with an eye on it at one end. There were a few worshippers in there dressed head to toe in white. We went upstairs just as a ceremony started where they all sat on the floor and chanted. More people came in dressed head to tow in red, blue and yellow. We left the temple and had some lunch. Back on the bus we drove past the street where that famous photo of the burnt naked Vietnamese girl was taken in the Vietnam war.

After lunch we went to visit the Cu Chi tunnels. This is a network of tunnels in the forest that the Vietnamese used to hide from the Americans during the Vietnam War. The entrances to the tunnels were tiny - I couldn't fit in! They were obviously built for the tiny Asian frame. Anyway we saw some horrible traps that the Vietnamese set for people to fall into and get impaled on spikes, and also some bomb craters. We were taken to a shooting range where we were allowed to shoot a gun. David chose an M16 rifle and we were given 10 bullets. David fired 8 and I fired 2. The sound was so loud that it nearly deafened us even though we had earmuffs on. It was very easy to shoot, you just aimed and pulled the trigger. There was no kick back or anything. I didn't like the ease of it very much, and hoped I would never be in a situation where I had to use one. David of course loved the whole thing and wanted to do it again!

After this we actually got to go inside one of the tunnels. It was very hot, sweaty, dark and claustrophobic in there. We had to crouch. and we were in an enlarged tunnel. The original ones were much smaller. How they spent weeks down there I don't know. I was glad to be back outside.

The next day David and I headed to the post office to post home some of our souvenirs (should arrive some time in April!). The post office was an old French colonial building painted pink. It was very pretty inside with wooden counters and a huge Christmas tree. We also saw the Cathedral, a brick replica of Notre Dame in Paris. We headed to the Presidential Palace which we looked around. It still has everything that was in it when the president left it in 1975, including a cinema and a gambling room. It was here that the communist tanks came and removed the president from power in the Vietnam War. After this we went to the War remnants museum. This was a rather sobering experience. There were some truly horrific pictures of piles of massacred children, mutilated bodies and even some GIs grinning with the heads of 3 decapitated Vietnamese. It had photos of the babies deformed by agent orange, and even some pickled deformed babies in jars. They had the cells that prisoners of war were kept in (tiny dark rooms) and also some of the US aircraft and tanks. It was a horrific but interesting place. Afterwards we needed cheering up so we went to an excellent restaurant called Good Morning Vietnam where I had salmon an caviar risotto and David had tortellini followed by tirimasu and chocolate mousse for a bargainous price!
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