Easily the best city in Vietnam

Trip Start Aug 14, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, November 17, 2012

We arrived in Saigon at about 8pm and we found somewhere to stay quite easily and quickly. It was a small room but we figured we would be out most of the time and breakfast was included, which was a bonus. We went and found dinner just down the street. The restaurant did local and western food, and it was cheap. Kate had some really nice pho (noodle soup) but my eye was caught by baked potato with chili con carne and cheese. I should've had the pho, my meal consisted of two boiled potatoes, dry meat and some cheese!

The next day we went to check out the Notre Dame cathedral (but it was closed), it was a much nicer looking building than the one in Hue. We headed across the street to what, from the outside looked like an old train station, but was on fact the main post office. It wasn't that interesting but it was an really nice old colonial building. We had a drink before heading to the Royal Palace.  It has to be one of the ugliest buildings we have seen - very seventies Soviet style! The original Palace was destroyed during the war; it was a beautiful colonial building. What remained then got torn down and had the Soviet looking Palace built at the same site.  The tour inside wasn't very interesting either. On the way back to our hotel we shopped around for the best prices on tours. We found a good place who did us a very good offer for tours to the Mekong Delta, the Cu Chi Tunnels and our bus into Cambodia.

The next day we headed to the Mekong Delta. We didn't spend much time on the river because the main activities were on the islands. The delta looked similar to the backwaters in Kerala, but the backwaters were more scenic. On the islands we got shown how the locals make coconut sweets, I tried some snake wine, also got to hold and kiss a python and Kate got to hold a sheet off honey, with loads of bees on it from a live bee hive! After lunch I did some crocodile fishing, even though it should be called crocodile feeding. A bit of meat gets tied to a bamboo rod and you just dangle it in for them.  The crocs weren't that fussed for it though; they would've been happier just lying in the sun. We then cycled around the island before heading off to our last island, where we had some local tropical fruit, heard some local Vietnamese music and got to try fresh honey tea. The delta may not have been as attractive as the backwaters in India but the activities were definitely better and we were both glad that we had done the tour.

The next day we just spent in the city. We headed to the local market which was hectic and made you feel a bit claustrophobic! As soon as we walked in, we had stall sellers in front of us trying to get us to buy from them and then they started touching our arms and trying to pull us to their stall - we left five minutes later! We then headed to the War Remnants Museum (all about the Vietnam War). Outside the museum were a few U.S planes, helicopters and tanks. The first floor was showing countries protesting about America being there and support for the Vietnamese. The second floor was about the effects and after effects of napalm, this floor had some horrific images. It was mainly pictures of children born after the war, but because their parents were fighting in it and had been in contact with the chemicals that America had used, the children were born disabled. The third floor was photos and stories from and after the war. The museum was very insightful but we both believed that it purposefully painted America in a bad light and may have been a bit one sided, but it did make us feel very sorry for the Vietnamese.

Our last full day in Saigon was spent at the Cu Chi Tunnels. The area of Cu Chi is about an hours drive from Saigon. The tunnels here stretch for about 250km and had taken from the end of the Second World War, fighting the French, and continued being built during the Vietnam War. Our guide for our trip was born during the war and his mother died from a napalm attack whilst protecting him from it, but the burning napalm left him with burns to his right arm and torso. He was a very lighthearted man and very funny considering what the war had done to him and his family. We had a brief introduction about the tunnels, guerrillas and double agents before we went and saw the tunnels for ourselves. We had the option of going into an original tunnel used by the Vietnamese during the war. Only six of our group from a possible eighteen did and we made up two of the the six. I went in first and Kate was behind me, for some reason I wasn't given a torch but Kate was! You had to crawl on your hands and knees (even short people like Kate) through dead leaves and God knows what else and it was quite a weird feeling crawling about in the pitch black. I felt something hit my shoulder so I decided to wait for Kate so I could get the torch.  When she had caught up with me, she was in a state of panic telling me she had also been hit by a bat and that there were several more in the tunnel and then I realised that one had probably hit my shoulder a few moments before!   After taking the torch, we both made it out safely, we were just sweating loads because the tunnels didn't have much air in them! We were shown all sorts from weapons, bomb sites, booby traps and even their footwear. All in all it was a good tour and we learnt a lot from it.

That evening we met up with some people from the tour and had arranged to go to a sky bar (a bar on a high floor in a skyscraper) to see the sunset. We asked some tour offices and they all said that the starting price for a drink would be $20, so we decided to stay on the ground, go get something to eat and have a few drinks.

Our last day in Saigon and all we had to do was catch a bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I know this entry was a bit long winded, sorry for that but we had done and seen a lot!
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