From Top to Bottom - We are in Saigon

Trip Start Mar 21, 2010
Trip End Mar 16, 2011

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Friday, April 9, 2010

9 APRIL 2010 - Our taxi took us from the Greenfield Hotel to the Da Nang Airport this morning which was about 40 kms away - a 1/2 hr drive.  On our way to the airport we pass through Da Nang town and couldn't believe the km's and km's of new 5 star beachfront resorts that are under construction.  Da Nang is going to look so different in a few years.  Our driver drops us off at the International airport and I am wondering why here and then to be told domestic and international fly from here.  OK, silly me, we hop out and wait for our flight. The airport is very shabby and hot and its April and they still had Christmas trees around the place. Our flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City with Jetstar Pacific was only 1 hr.  It was a pleasant flight, no overtaking, no bad roads, no beeping, no bad drivers, no fumes and no bloody pushy pushy touts.  What more could we want? We got the exit seats which were fabulous, more leg room. The steward says to us "do not open the emergency door", Mmmmm I thought it was funny and thought I ain't no fruit loop. 

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.  Dinner again was pretty average, the food here is very ordinary. The food here in Ho Chi Minh has been the worse of all.   

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.  Troy bought some cashews, for sure he got ripped off and they tasted ok but didn't look clean.  Stocktaking here would not be a great job, it would never end.  There was so much stuff, it was jam packed and if you couldn't decide on what fabric to buy or what pair of thongs you must be the fussiest person in the world but the most of the stuff is poor quality.  

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?".  Well Mary tried very hard to bite her tongue and not say anything or he would of got a mouthful of choice words and it wouldn't of sounded pretty. Mary tried very hard to be strong but after a while the tears flowed.  I couldn't help it. I couldn't believe it, with all the people on our tour why did he have to ask ME. It wasn't so much the question about children it was his response after that upset me. After this I turned to Troy and said "I just want to get to Cambodia".  Vietnamese people can be very rude and its hard as a tourist at times to just ignore it, most of the time you do but sometimes its tempting to be rude back. Mary was asked the same question about weight earlier on in the trip from a young girl at a temple, she was trying to guess how much I weighed.  I just got up and left.  

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.  We were picked up early to commence our Mekong Delta (My Tho - Ben Tre) tour.  For US$8 each its pretty cheap, most of tours are very cheap.  We head for a 2 hr drive through rice fields and thru lots of the countryside.  We stop for a short break at this Handicapped Souvenir shop (same type we stopped at yesterday).  This type of handicraft shop they stop at on tours is overpriced like 4 times more than you would buy anywhere else. Its very expensive and we haven't seen anyone buy anything.  The handicrafts are beautiful but you can get much cheaper elsewhere.  We drive thru Mekong town and get to the wharf.  We hop on our boat and go to an island to try some local honey tea, it was very sweet.  We then were given some local fruits and listened to some ladies singing some traditional love songs.  We went for a boat trip down the Mekong and wore Vietnamese hats, it was fun sailing down the river. We stopped at another island and then were transported to another part of the island on a cart pulled by the most tiniest horses and there was six of us on one cart.  Before we were told to hop on I thought "No way, the poor bloody horse", they looked more like donkeys but felt very sorry for them, they looked malnourished.  We saw the locals make rice paper and also coconut candy.  The coconut candy wasn't bad, we actually bought some.  We had lunch at a restaurant on the Mekong, once again very average.  If you wanted more food they had a menu, like snake, squirrel, eel, turtle, iguana, pigeon and so on.  Well after seeing that menu it turned me right off lunch, so when the waiter came around and asked if we wanted anything off the menu, Mary says "No I am vegetarian".  Lunch comes out and we all start eating it, rice, spring rolls, bit of pork and some morning glory vegetable (this vegetable is nice). The waiter then comes running up to me with another plate and says "You already eating", I was like what the hell -- I was just joking about been vegetarian but obviously he took me seriously. 

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.  Vietnam done.  1246 photos, I'm proud, fantastic! 

One thing Mary will remember about Vietnam - the gorgeous genuine smiles and hellos you get mainly from young kids and the elderly. 



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Jeff on

Hi Troy and Mary if You are still in Ho Chi Minh go to the Rex hotel in the middle of the city take the lift to the roof enjoy the view great beer and food.

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