The Heat is on

Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
Trip End Dec 24, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, September 8, 2011

8-9-2011 Motor Bike City

We start our 8hr journey at 8am. Lek tells us more about Vietnam, and about how the older generation can be hostile towards Americans (therefore any westerners because they can´t tell them apart) and are less friendly than in the South. She tells us, inbetween snorts of laughter, about a time when one of her group was pulled off of a bed on a night train by an older Vietnamese gentleman. Gotta love Lek. She´s full of stories like this, mainly of what stupid things tourists have done. She later tells us of how one Scottish girl thought that the bucket and water supplied in squat toliets to flush the toilet, was in fact a shower. The girl apparently took the bucket out of the water, stood in the bucket and used the water to wash herself, before emerging asking for a towel. How we would have loved to see Lek then, most probably crying with laughter.

Lek also tells us that it rains more here, and on cue, it starts to rain as we get on the ferry to cross the river.

Saigon is busy and more metrapolitan than we expected. Lek walks us around the old quarter, it is full of coffee shops, shopping malls, even a Chanel store, not the ´Quiet American´ Saigon we had in mind. There are Motorbikes for almost every person in the city and it shows, crossing the road is a pretty hair raising experience.

That night, we meet our new tour members, Will from Preston and Canadian couple April and Mike. 
After dinner we go for a drink at the REX bar, on a balcony at the top of the REX hotel. It is very swanky and there is a Vietnamese band who do an amazing rendition of Enrique Inglesias.
´´ hhhhhhhhhhhhwould you dance. hhhhhhhhhhhhif I asked you to dance.´´ Claire can barely contain herself.


We start the day with a tour at the Cuchi tunnels. The whole thing is very strange. As we walk in the jungle to the tunnels, fire crackers are let off, probably to create the atmosphere. In the ditance we can also hear the shooting range, which allows you the opportunity after seeing the tunnels, to shoot automatics.
The tunnels are tiny (although the replicas built for tourists, are made bigger) and Jo chickens out at crawling through once taking a look, although to be fair, Claire doesn´t even try. Those who do climb through tell us that the strangest moment was ducking for the bat who is hanging from the ceiling. At one point, we lose Markus who crawls in but doesnt come out the other end for quite a while, only to emerge, all smiles a while later.

Although it is interesting and ingenious how the Vietnames built and lived inside these tunnels, and used their traps usually for animals, to mame and kill American soldiers in the jungle, we cant help feeling that it is all presented with a little too much ´pat on the back´mentality and that anything to do with war shouldnt be glamourised or celebrated.

On the way back to Saigon, a drunk motorcyclist crashes into the front of our bus. No one is hurt, but the bus driver gets out angrily and what follows is a comedy routine of fisty cuffs. The man seems to be so drunk he can´t extend his forearm, and instead holds his elbow up towards the drivers face in an act of defiance.

We then stop for lunch (beef penis on the menu) before heading to the war museum. The agent orange section is the most interesting, and it is done well, despite the critisism of US aggresion (for which they have a fair point) it does also talk about american soldiers also affected by agent orange, and so feels more like a commentary on humanity, than exclusively Vietnam.

We decide to try and make our own way, by foot, back to the hotel, and of course get very, very lost. As a big group we must of looked a funny sight to the locals, all with maps and mobile phones amidst confusion. We do, eventually make it back, with woops and celebrations for Fabians sat nav.

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