From Top to Bottom - We are in Saigon
Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
144Trip End Mar 16, 2011
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We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City and our driver picks us up, it was nice to see him holding the sign up with our names since we booked it very last minute. We had several attempts trying to make reservations at a few hotels without success due to either language barrier or they just didn't want to help. Our drive into the city took at least 1/2 hr and we our first impression of the place was its much cleaner than Hanoi. The traffic is crazy but there seems to be a feeling of more space here even though there is heaps of tall buildings.
We check into our hotel and our reservation was processed. Great. For US$17 per night the room is basic but comfortable, no breakfast. We are in an alley way away from main streets and that is good as its a noisy city. We settled in for a while and went for a walk. We had a late lunch which was really very ordinary. We should just go back to Hoi An just for the great food.
Oh my god the traffic is crazy. Trying to cross the roads here is worse than Hanoi. You tend to become experts in crossing the road, you walk quickly in front of the traffic when you have a gap and just keep walking and somehow the drivers tend to go around you but you have to have eyes in the back, front and sides of your head. Another way to cross the road is walk behind or beside a local, we have done that several times and they just look at you and laugh, its funny. Believe me we wouldn't do this at home but if you don't do it here you will NEVER be able to cross the road, so you just DO it. Most of the time its OK, sometimes its a bit scary. When the roads are full the scooter riders decide to jump the kerb and ride on the footpaths, we couldn't believe it
When we got back to our hotel we decided we want to book a city tour, easier than trying to dodge the traffic here, Troy thinks the traffic here is worse than Hanoi. The photos don't really show you how bad it really is here. We stopped at a Piaggio shop here that sell brand new Vespas and I asked them how much does it cost for a 125 cc scooter, its US$6,000 so they aren't cheap here. If you buy an imported scooter from China they are only a couple of hundred bucks so that why everyone has one. What a business to have here, you would never go broke.
Tonight after an another average meal we walk around for a while. We came across a great bakery and bought some pastries for breakfast tomorrow. We spot all these multi-coloured lights and stalls and decide to check it out. There was singing and people packed everywhere. We worked it out, it was just a "travel show" with wall to wall stalls selling travel products. All this hooha for a travel show. As we were walking along Mary was stopped by the tourist police. A lovely young police woman told me to be careful and told me to take off my gold necklace. I thanked her for the warning and took it off and we ended up going home, it wasn't exciting. I think that walking around here is becoming tiring
10 APRIL 2010 - We got up early for a day tour of Saigon. We went to the War Remnants Museum where we saw a lot of disturbing photos of the Vietnam War. As it says in the Lonely Planet Guide it's not for the faint hearted. After this we went to the Thien Hau Chinese Temple (in the Cholon area) where we saw a lot of lanterns burning incence. We paid 10,000 dong and were given a small piece of red piece of paper with writing in on. We were told to write our names on it. I was given the coil to burn and then I gave it to the guy who placed it on the ceiling for us with all the other coils. Doing this is meant to bring you good luck, we need all the luck in the world. Our coil will burn for about 3 days.
We then went to a shop where they served free tea which was horrible. We went to the Binhtay Markets where there was so much stuff, mostly crap really. We walked around and saw some very interesting food, not sure if we would eat it but interesting, dried mushrooms of all descriptions, dried squid which looked disgusting, dried fish, dried tiny prawns, black stuff of some sort of description, wall to wall stalls of fabrics, clothes, shoes, loads of plastic crap, nuts, bags of different types of sugar which had bees over all it and much more
We were taken to have lunch at a restaurant near our hotel. It was a tiny chicken drumstick and a bit of rice and it was horrible. We went back to our room to cool down for a while. After lunch we went to Reunification Palace which was built in 1966. This is where the communist tank crashed the gate on 30 April 1975, the day Saigon surrendered. Our tour guide was pretty good and spoke English quite well which hasn't always been the case with our guides.
We have found that the majority of Vietnamese people are friendly and helpful but also very pushy and after you have been here a while its a bit like Borat says "pain in the arseholes". We know they are trying to make a living but.....
Our tour guide was good for a while but became very rude. Firstly he asked Troy how much he weighed and then later on in the day he asks Mary "Have you got any children?', Mary says "No", he says "Why not, its easy?"
Our last stop was at the Notre Dame Cathedral which was built between 1877 and 1883. As we walked around there was a wedding in the cathedral. We then went to the Post Office across the road, a nice old building with a huge picture of Ho Chi Minh on the wall and a clock telling us what time it was in Canberra. We then got back to our hotel and cooled down, it was a very hot day. If we didn't have such a rude tour guide I think we would of enjoyed the day even more.
11 APRIL 2010 - Its our last day in Vietnam
As we were waiting for the people in our group that went for a short bike ride we heard screams and laughs from a group of people nearby. So we head off to investigate and there is a bunch of people covered in mud and water in the river fishing for catfish. The screams and laughs they did when they caught a fish in their hands or net was really funny. We have never seen such excitment at catching fish. I wouldn't eat out of the river, the Mekong Delta is absolutely filthy. After this we head out for another short cruise and then get our bus back to Saigon.
Another hot hot day so we got back to our hotel and chilled out for a while.
We are looking forward to our next country - Cambodia
One thing Mary will remember about Vietnam - the gorgeous genuine smiles and hellos you get mainly from young kids and the elderly.