Saigon and the Mekong Delta
Trip Start Jan 22, 2009
19Trip End Dec 22, 2009
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We made it to Saigon and immediately found our friend, Brady, at a bar near the bus station. Brady had been teaching English and traveling in Thailand for the last 6 months and came to Saigon for a few days before leaving for home. After enjoying a cold one with him we found a hotel nearby. We went out for the night right away to celebrate meeting a familiar face so far away from home. We drank Saigon beers at local bars and took a couple shots of "Bacardi" that Clint had purchased in Mui Ne...or was it Bacardi? It tasted more like rubbing alcohol so chances are it was cheap liquor with a Bacardi label. As we sat and chatted and drank in front of a bar/restaurant 2 guys came running out of the bar trying to stomp on something...we couldn't see what it was. Another guy ran around the corner with a stick. We heard a bunch of ruckus and then he came back holding the tail of a huge, almost dead, twitching, rat. Blah! We all just laughed and went on with our evening. I'm sure a sight we will see again. So, feeling good after our liquid courage, we headed out into the streets, purchased a few more beers ( the cheapest ones possible and the nastiest!) and decided to try our luck with shellfish from a street vendor. What were we thinking!?! We chose snails, small clams and dried squid. The same dried squid that smells horribly everywhere we go in Vietnam. Clint and I did not care for the squid at all so Brady handled that. Clint loved the snails so he went to town on those! I ate it all but not nearly as much as the boys. What a night.
The next morning, fuzzy and with a headache, we all ventured out into the city to visit the market, the "Reunification Palace" and the "War Remnants Museum". The market was a bit much that early in the morning...people would physically grab you and try to pull you into their stalls. We didn't last long there. The museum had the greatest impact on us. We all left feeling heavy and walked home in near silence. The atrocities of war were displayed in extremely graphic photos, testimonies, and exhibits. Some of the stories were incredibly difficult to read and imagine...and then to look at the photos of both the Vietnamese and US soldiers and put faces to the horrific stories made it an even more emotional experience. We were reminded of how many people are still greatly affected by this war. We happened to be in Vietnam on the day that my uncle had been killed in the War (Feb. 3rd...on is 21st birthday) and so we thought of him a lot during our stay here, even though we had never met him. That night, drained and exhausted, we ended the night early.
We wound up staying a few more days in Saigon. Clint and I got food poisoning (or something) and so we were held up in the hotel room. Clint was a lot worse that I was. He said he doesn't ever remember being that sick. Poor guy was puking his guts out all day. Was it the street food shellfish? Perhaps...Brady also felt very sick a couple days after us. I think we learned our lesson. After recuperating, we really needed a break from the big city of Saigon. There are 10 million people living in Saigon and 5 million own motorbikes...imagine that! We booked a 3 day Mekong Delta Tour that would bring us to Cambodia. We were hoping for a relaxing, romantic, boat ride with beautiful scenery and instead we got an overcrowded, uncomfortable, loud, diesel smelling boat through a polluted, garbage filled river. Sure, there were moments of beauty on the tour, but for the most part we were saddened by the sight of pollution and overcrowding. Clint tried Vietnamese Snake Wine for the first time. This is a rice wine with dead snakes and an entire bird, feathers and all, soaking in the wine. The tour guide said this wine "makes wives very happy all night long". Our guide was a hilarious character and told us we could call him by his English name which was "Stifler" or the "Stif-miester" (after the 'America Pie' character). The highlights of the tour were the children waving and yelling "hello" from the shorelines. At times we felt like we were in a parade constantly waving from one shoreline to the other. Clint said he had never waved so much in his entire life...even at a hip-hop show (friends, you know what I'm talking about). The kids were beautiful and put smiles on our faces nearly the entire time. The other event that made us smile (or laugh in embarrassment) happened on one of the bus rides through the Delta towns. I had to pee really, really bad and finally insisted that the bus stop. When I got off to go to the bathroom, Clint said the tour guide got on the microphone and made an announcement telling everyone to "please stay in your seat until the scheduled rest stop in about 10 minutes. We had to make a stop now because someone had 'stomach problems'". Everyone watched me run across the street to the nearest café. Clint just busted out in laughter instead of defending me. Later that day, I had people coming up to me asking how I was feeling. God Damn my small, small bladder!!
The boat ride into Cambodia was more what we expected the Delta to be like. The further we got away from the tourist spots and the Delta cities of Vietnam the cleaner, quieter, and more pleasant our trip became. The border crossing into Cambodia was easy and went off without a hitch. We'll be spending one day in Phnom Penh then on to the southern coast. More to come from Cambodia.........
Things we learned from Vietnam:
1. That you can drink wine with dead coiled snakes and birds soaking in it.
2. That you can fit a family of 5 on a motorbike/scooter
3. That photos can be deceiving (tour company's need to keep it real)
4. That sunscreen is necessary, especially when taking malaria pills
5. That you should always use the restroom before long bus rides
6. That all you need is a little Snake Wine or Root Wine to keep your wife happy all night long.
7. That being 6 ft 4 in SE Asia can be very uncomfortable, challenging and also attracts a lot of attention
8. That you should never eat the snails
9. That you should always use your silk sleeping sheet (to keep the bed bugs from biting)
10. That if you don't know how to use chopsticks before coming to Vietnam you should learn.