Zoom Zoom Vietnam

Trip Start Nov 19, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
War Remnants Museum, Chu Chi Tunnels

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, February 1, 2013


Had a car take me from Pattaya to Bangkok to catch my flight to Vietnam. Drive was 3 hours and traffic was pretty nuts once we were within 20km's of the Don Mueang airport. Checked in, grabbed a subway sub – Expensive!!! The flight was delayed an hour, but had a good book with me.

Flight over was uneventful, had a nap, read and then watched as the plane arrived at night into Saigon. Wow, it’s a big city! Immigration lines were next to nothing, but once I got to the officer, was redirected to get some paperwork done first. Ahaa, that’s where some of the folks from the flight went! Got the paperwork done in about 20 min’s and back thru immigration – ooooo, another pretty stamp for the passport.

Lots of people outside of the terminal and was approached by a few diff people. Took a private car in (got scammed – a whole $5.00 – but it was the principle). Should have walked another 50 meters to my original destination and taken a metered taxi. I knew this from Thailand, so my bad.

Hotel arrival was uneventful, but room wasn’t quite ready as they were working on a 'plumbing’ issue. Only had to wait 10 min’s so not a big deal at all. Room was nice, good size. Dropped the bags and went for a walk. Driver had pointed out a couple places still open close to hotel so it made my life easier. Was till full from the Sub and peanuts I bought so sat and had a couple Vietnam beers while I checked out the menu (which was about 10 pages). Interesting foods for sure as it was Japanese/Vietnamese menu.

Headed back to the hotel (5 minute walk), grabbed a map from the front desk and did a bit of research before calling it a night. They had Nat Geo channel, so threw that on, along with the timer for 90 min’s and zonk.

First day in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)!! The traffic started early, around 6:00-6:30 and I was on a main street, so early mornings (which is the norm for me anyway). Went for the buffet breaky. Wow, love being able to have noodle dishes and fruit for breaky, plus Vietnamese coffee which is the equivalent of what we call espresso. You only need one, but nooooo I had to have a couple. I can be hyper as it is, so with all this extra fuel in me, I was raring to go!

First stop was the War Remnants museum. It was only 100 meters from the hotel so took me no time to get there. Spent a fair amount of time in there looking at all the images taken from photographers (one of which is an iconic image which you’ll see). This was a heartbreaking horror in our history. It’s not called the Vietnam war on this side of the planet, it’s called the American War which is a Far More accurate description. This war could have been avoided with much more diplomacy on ALL sides. School kids go thru this museum to learn about their history…lots of classes when I was there. Yes, had to hold back tears many times reading the stories. EVERY continent (excluding Antarctica) protested this American War, including US Senators. It’s all said and done and the Vietnamese people have moved on, gained their (rightfully so) independence from the French and united North & South. They haven’t forgotten, but they (for the most part) do not dwell on the past, rather move forward with a better future.

Well, after that uplifting tour, decided to head down to the main Post Office building and Notre Dame cathedral as they were also recommended sites. Managed to find my way there using my map but getting across the street was a whole other thing! This guy (Canadian) saw me and said, "if you can get across, I’m following you". Good chuckle. Looked further down and said “you know, that intersection has fewer lanes and pedestrian crossing lights, let’s go there”. Good call and we had zero issues. Both buildings were very beautiful indeed. Didn’t go into the cathedral, cause once you’ve been in over half a dozen (Italy) there’s not much ‘new’ to see. Took some pic’s of the outside of the building and did head into the Post office building cause it was certainly different architecture. Dave and I separated ways at this point cause we were checking out different things. Glad I went to the post office as the gathering for my tour the next day was changed to depart from there. Will only take 15 min’s to get there in the morning and good to know where I’m going!

That was all there was to see in this district (#3) so headed back to the hotel and thought I Really need to cool off cause it’s friggin hot out here!!!! Made my way back but stopped for an iced coffee first. Changed and headed up to the pool with my book and a couple bottles of water. The water was cool and they have swimming lessons for a small group of Vietnamese during the afternoons. Great to see. What a great way to wind down the rest of the day.

Wandered around and found a great little restaurant so sat myself down and enjoyed some noodles & veg and a 333 beer. Back to the room for an early night cause it’s gonna be an early morning.

Woke up early and grabbed a nice hot shower that went from hot to scolding hot throughout the duration. Sure made for an interesting start of the day. Headed down for breaky, then grabbed some water for the hike to the post office. 10 folks gathered for the tour of the Chu Chi tunnels.

Stopped at a local farm along the way and learned how to make rice paper (same rice papers used for spring rolls). Very old school paper making and use basic tools for everything, nothing modern at all. Then checked out the pigs the farmers had and felt awesome knowing their demise is not a result of my eating habits – woohoo. Felt awesome!!!! Got to hold a 4 day old piglet which melted my heart until momma heard baby wailing and got stressed. I couldn’t give piglet back to farmer to give to mom quick enough. There was 4 month old, 2 week old and 4 day old pigs and WOW do they ever grow quickly. Went past the pig pens (no gestation crates like they over use in Canada and the States) into the back forested area where there were rubber trees! They were planted over 30 years ago and producing raw rubber & rubber milk they call it. It was Very Cool to say the least.

Next stop was the tunnels. This was what the Vietcong used to survive the American invasion. It was an amazing feat to say the least. Three different levels, they made air holes thru mounds they created to look like termite mounds (how they disposed of fresh dirt if not in the River). The lowest level was to get to the River at 9 meters deep from various areas in level 2 which was to get from village to village. Level 1 was a living level, i.e. sleeping, medical, school, meeting, ammo prep, food prep, etc. It was something else. Ended up going thru a few of them and how they did it was beyond me. We went a mere 100m and were sweating like a son-of-a-bitch and they would need to travel 3-4 km’s to get to the River for fresh water!!!! The tunnels we went thru were expanded to accommodate tourists. Their tunnels were small, small, small – even if their average height was 5ft it would have still been tight. Lived in these tunnels for over a decade. One of them even went right underneath the US’s largest military base.

Also learned that this is one of the places where extensive amounts of Agent Orange was dropped. The US wanted to clear the forest cause they were losing to the Vietcong who knew the jungle well.  After the drop, the jungle died which made it easier for the military to see their enemy and move around, hence the expansion of the tunnels which enabled many of them to avoid the US for over a decade. It was very educational and nice to hear the non-American version of events.

Halfway thru this tour we pit stopped at a place where one could purchase bullets and shoot from guns used by the military of the day. Another fellow Canuck and I decided to share the purchase of 10 bullets (min purchase of 10). We eat shot 6 bullets out of an AK47. Seriously a powerful piece and has No Place in People’s homes – sorry America, but seriously if you can’t defend yourself with several shots from a rifle or pistol, go to the shooting range and learn how to shoot properly….AK47 is overkill, absurd and ridiculous for personal use.

One of the most impressive things of this tour was the fact there was a lady who was 91 years young and she kept up with everyone, except going down in the tunnels (of course) and some of the bunkers where they made weapons (from shells that didn’t ignite). She was remarkable and stayed with the group along treacherous paths and hills. I was so impressed I had to sneak a few snaps in. J

The drive back was direct. Was just over a couple hour drive back. Got dropped off in front of the hotel around 3:30 (we left at 07:30) so had a chance to change and go hang out by the pool for a couple hours. Wandered around for a place to eat and ordered some Saigon Noodles. Thought it was a bit pricey for Vietnam, but when the order came it was Huge!!! Looked at the folks sitting at the table beside me and had a Huge chuckle. Well, guess I have lunch for the next day too – woohoo!! Have a small fridge in the room so perfect.

Decided to walk around a bit the next morning, then just have a chill day by the pool cause it was another hot one. It was just perfect. Ended up heading back to the room for my leftover lunch, then back up to the pool.  Late afternoon went back to the room and showered in prep for my Foodie Tour. Pickup was scheduled for 5:20.

Headed downstairs at 5:15 and there was my driver all dressed in her Vietnamese silk traditional outfit. Can’t recall the name of it. Introduced ourselves and onto the motorbike we went to meet up with the rest of the group and our first food stop! It was a beef noodle soup dish, so I offered the beef portion to a Canadian couple sitting across from me. My oh my, that noodle soup was Awesome. I can’t imagine we still have 3 more stops after this.

There are 7 districts in Saigon and we visited 5 of them on the motorbikes (scooters we would call them). My guide would explain much of each of the districts as we went along (as did the others). Wow, it’s a Big city and quite incredible. I did try goat, quail, shrimp, squid, crab, variety of veggies and fruits (that I never had before) as well. Had Vietnamese beer, wine and tea.

The hardest part was going thru the market where you’d see a bunch of chickens tied together as well as ducks still alive and well, but not for long. The fruit and veggie market was Huge to say the least. We also saw the largest Chinese market outside of China and the largest China Town outside of China. Let me tell you, driving in Saigon on the bikes was a whole experience unto itself. Man how they get thru intersection or circles amid the confusion is a talent unto itself….as in Thailand I simple called it “Organized Chaos”. Night ended in the roughest district, but my guide said “you won’t have a problem because of your tattoo’s” – hah, Love It!!! Finally got home at 10pm, more full than I’ve been in a long time and had to pack up in prep for departure back to Thailand in the morning.

Slept well, set an alarm on the computer to wake me up cause I don’t even own a watch so I could grab a bite to eat before heading to the airport. Flight left on time and was uneventful!
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