Christmas in Saigon!!
Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
123Trip End Jun 19, 2013
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We left Kep at 7am in the hope of catching an early bus to HCMC. Our tuk tuk man was on time and it took an hour to get to the border crossing. The view on the way was once again stunning, passing through rice paddies and farm land, tuk tuks are definitely the way forward! Once arrived our tuk tuk driver helped us find 2 moto drivers (motorbikes) so we could cross the border. There were many locals around but no other tourists what so ever. Our drivers stunk of alcohol but we safely made it, firstly getting stamped out of Cambodia and then getting our visa checked in Vietnam. In no mans land were a few casinos for the Vietnamese as its illegal here. In Vietnam our moto drivers magically appeared some helmets for us. Legally passengers must wear them, funny how we didn't get the option in Cambodia. Our moto drivers were very friendly and it was pretty exciting driving amongst the crazy moto drivers of Vietnam
Once dropped off by the taxi we faced the one small problem of crossing the road. We faced a constant stream of motorbikes all whizzing past with no traffic lights to break the traffic up. There are zebra crossings but were not sure why, just to mock us maybe! We've learnt a nice slow 'confident' (ish) pace and the bikes will just flow around you like water. As I'm still writing this clearly it works. We took a few moto rides around the city as there's no tuk tuks here only taxis (too expensive for us). This is definitely the best way to see the city and so much fun, if slightly dangerous
The best thing we did in HCMC was free, a walk through the city. Daily life here seems so exciting, early evening we watched so many people head to the park. Groups of women playing badminton, men playing keepy-upy and the older generation using the free exercise equipment. Walking down the back alleys we saw shops, cafes and homes all rolled into one small room. The local butcher chopping up meat on a tiny plastic table trying to get out of the way of mopeds, even though there's barely enough room. Even at midnight the city just seems to get busier, noisier and more exciting, it's certainly a city that never sleeps.
For breakfast we found one of many food stalls on the corner of a street and sat down on the small metal stools watching the world go by. The noodle soups with beef, meatballs and pork were delicious. So much flavour and so cheap. In the day time everyone is sat around on the street eating noodles and drinking iced coffee. For dinner we tried a Vietnamese BBQ. Each table has its own gas cylinder and hot plate. We ordered deer with 5 spices and beef with honey
We spent our Christmas eve sat on some plastic chairs on a busy road drinking beer with lots of people. We chatted to a Swedish couple, Irish and a Singaporean men till 2am. Vietnamese rode by with the kids wearing Santa outfits all of them watching us, while we all watched them. When the bar got full out came more plastic chairs this time starting a row on the road. Although there was a lot of decorations and flashing lights, it didn't really feel like Xmas with it being warm weather and having a pizza hut for Christmas dinner as we couldn't find any proper Christmas lunch was a bit disappointing.
War museum and Independence Palace.
Around the corner is a museum explaining the devastating American War that took place in the 60s/70s and is very anti American. We have never seen such graphic photographs displayed to the public before and was a very depressing way to spend Christmas. The horrible thing is is that it is all true and even now the Vietnamese are still suffering badly from the Agent Orange gas that infiltrated soil and fresh water supplies. We are glad we took time to learn about the history of Vietnam as it has shaped the country to what it is today.
One of the highlights to see outside Saigon is the Cu Chi tunnels so we paid only $6 each to do a tour.
The main reason for this tour being a lowlight for us was because we were with 100 other tourists (on the same tour with one guide??) we couldnt see anything until the crowd had moved so we couldnt see what the guy was talking about. Also it was very rushed, it took 2 and half hours to get there and we only spent about 1 hour 30 actually at the sight. The guide although he was passionate he said he hated his job over and over again saying there is no money for him and he should have claimed his pension from the Americans but would never go back there as he hates the food and they use a lazy mans toilet. Quite humorous but not when its all he speaks about.