Saigon: scene to many a great film...

Trip Start Feb 28, 2012
Trip End Nov 22, 2012

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The bus journey in was a long one via two ferries but eventually made it in and, similarly to Bangkok and to some degree Phnom Penh, this place is pretty big and once you enter the city boundary it still takes ages just to get to the centre but in trying to describe the place, in development terms it looks half way between the ultra modern Bangkok and the only just starting to get off its feet Phnom Penh, but like both, very busy and with loads of mopeds everywhere!!
the backpacker area isn't bad here, its only a very small part of Saigon (so remember Ho Chi Min City used to be called Saigon but everyone seems to still call it Saigon and i prefer the name so from now on its Saigon for this blog)... it's got the usual hawkers selling and pushing to sell you everything, moto taxi's who ask you every two minutes, loads of food stands, bars and just a pretty good vibe all round... the rooms i have had have been hit and miss but i started in a $10 room, found one that was $7 but woke up one morning itching all over and so think the bed was riddled with god knows what and since moved and am now at a tucked away $8 room but its clean, has hot water, 2 good fans (godsend) and its quiet too... i have been taking these back street routes whenever i can to go places just to explore a bit and they are great - all the locals and workers live in these tight, tenement type buildings and almost everyone has there front room doors wide open all the time and they are always either sprawled on a chair, a hammock or the floor and 99% watching TV and some real crap TV too! But it's very chilled and feels like a real community, it feels safe and friendly too.... i have a photo from the last guesthouse of a little girl who was just constantly asleep on the sofa in the reception room, over 3 days every time i cam in day or night she was asleep! They had this bizarre room too which i couldn't get a photo of because there was always someone in, but on my first day trying to book i heard a voice from somewhere in the room and this woman started talking to the voice but it took me about 20 seconds to see a face behind a net curtain and window only about 2ft high in the ceiling and then when i went to go upstairs i could see that it was like a false ceiling, but solid and about 3ft high and about 7ft7ft and people were always sleeping in their..!? bizarre and a nightmare if you forget and woke up with a shock upright in the middle of the night - serious headache if you did... but my room was up top and when i hung my washing out on the top floor you could see all these apartments, hotels, living quarters and all so tightly packed in but with every inch being used either for hanging out washed clothes or shrines to Buddha but also in nearly every window that was open you could also see someone in a hammock watching TV! love it...!
Met an English guy from Milton Keynes and we went out on 2 nights and in between i met a friend of a friend here, Dan and his mates; Dan being Hayley boyfriends who is mates with Kate who is engaged to Niall, a friend of mine who is in Oz now...OK, so now you all know! But on that night we met up and i spent a fortune, inadvertently because they all worked here and were very generous to buy me quite a few drinks all night, rum and cokes and sambucca's mainly... ahhh sambucca's, i swear if i ever needed a blood transfusion and the had no blood they could use this stuff and i would be more than OK.... but later i demanded i buy a round in as i had bought 1 beer all night and so they all had rum and cokes and think it was about $40!! with all these extra charges i noticed on the receipts for buying drinks first after 1am, then after 3am etc adding 10 or 20 per cent each time - i think they timed my round well! We went to a sport bar to watch the FA cup final and then on to the club Apocalypse now which i was dying to try anyway but it wasn;t half as good as it sounds - no theme around the movie and the music was shabba hip hop but still it was OK.... the other nights were with Alex from Milton Keynes, recently graduated in Economics but now approaching the end of a 9 month trip including working in Oz or 6 months... he was a good guy and we had a couple of good nights d best of all i 7 balled him in front of a crowd in a pool bar on one night... still got it!!
I have been going to a cafe for 'cafe sua ngon' which is the coffee i love here... this translated as hot coffee with milk.... but she speaks good English and so has been teaching me some Vietnamese and really helping with the pronunci ation, so much so i am now sometimes being understood! but learning the Lingo is still tough as its all about tone and looking out for all the accents, cedilla's and many more little squiggly symbols they use to differentiate words... its very easy to say the wrong thing here especially the word for you; basically one the word is 'ban' but one with a cedilla over the 'a' i think which makes it sound more like 'barn' but only slightly and if you get it wrong your saying 'cake' so your either calling people 'you' or 'cake'..!!
I had a couple of days sickness here either from a coffee and a local stand or the baguette i got with a fried egg in... i went to this gym i found after and on route i felt my stomach cramp a bit but i have had this quite a bit throughout my trip so thought nothing of it but in the gym, standing out like a sore thumb, especially when doing my Gil-esque sit ups in between stations on the floor!, but about 40 mins in an about 2 stone lighter from perspiring so much i had to rush to the toilet and throw up and that was it, i knew it wasn;t good and made the walk back but in red hot heat and feeling like passing out at any moment but anyway it went after couple of days so i was lucky in the end really.
After this i had been in Saigon about 5 days and was kind of feeling in limbo on what to do next, where to go and how to tackle Vietnam for the rest of the trip as my overstay on Phu Quoc and long stay in Saigon had taken up a third of my visa already and the biggest mind screwer was the whole motorbike situation... basically you cannot get insurance here, i would have to be back in the UK to be able to take the CBT bike test, then get insured and then come here...crazy! why i cant take the CBT here and then get insured is beyond me but after seeing the manic traffic here in Saigon i was questioning whether it was worth the risk to buy and ride a bike knowing i wouldn't be insured and any accident wouldn't be covered on my current travel insurance so i decided that i would test the water and throw myself in the deep end and just hire a bike for the day and bike around Saigon!! I know, but there is something about the driving system here - it works for me, it makes sense, there are rules but they just look extremely dangerous but if you drive as everyone does it's really not that bad. Oh yeah, before this i had found a number of an English guy selling bikes here so i went to see his bikes but called him t o ask how to get there and he said if i got a car taxi it would be 2.50 and if i passed the phone to the driver he would give him the address and make sure he didn't take the scenic tour and rip me off. Anyway, $4 in on the meter i call the guy and say i think he is lost as its well over 2.50 already, to which the guy replies "No, its 250,000 Dong for the taxi"!! What!! that's about $12!! more than half my daily budget, and when i get there it ends up 320,000!! great start...anyway, he shows me the bikes and explains that i will probably struggle with many of the border crossings so i go away to think about whether its worth buying one but for the route back i agree a 80,000VND (Vietnamese Dong) fee on a motorbike taxi and Jesus... what a journey, it took about 30 mins and was way scarier than any rollercoaster or passenger journey in my mums car i had ever been on and i got a couple of video's showing it which show pretty well how mental it is. Anyway, this journey was what made me wanna take a bike out for a day and try this mentalness and so i did...
I was out for about 5 hours, sometimes following my map and at others just driving in a general direction and then either finding where i was or just asking Burton route i needed a few bits and found markets and shops and found everything and even managed to speak some Vietnamese and be understood sometimes too but just being out in the metropolis, driving on the biggest main roads and roundabouts in the world but also loads of little backstreets even a small car couldn't fit through, was great and i only had two minor scrapes, once hitting someones wing mirror but from his lack of reaction i am guessing its a common clash, and the other just before i got to my hotel there was a tight gap me and a guy both went for and we kinda went into the side of each other but really it was my fault but again he just drove off without blinking an eye - i love it all, every aspect right down to just shrugging off anything like that... but anyway by the end of the day i felt back on track with the trip a bit, i knew i could quite easily get a back whenever i wanted and hire one to go explore and i would be fine and in the meantime look in to the insurance thing a bit more as i know in Thailand you can get extra cover but just not sure about Laos which will probably be my next stop...
So i decided it was time to move on though i loved Saigon and only really saw small part of it but could quite easily come back and live here for a while but for now i decided that as i wasn't biking i would go up towards Hue which is about half way up Vietnam and the point where i would have biked up to and then taken the train up to Hanoi as the bit in between Hue and Hanoi is long but there is nothing to see at all. So on the way to Hue i have now just stopped at Mua Ni, a beautiful beach resort and i am staying in a bungalow about 20 yards from the sea underneath theses amazing palm trees and i am on a tight timeline now so as i am only staying tomorrow night too i have set the alarm to see if the sun rises opposite me and watch it in the morning and then go for a run on the beach i think before having just one day to explore this place (scooter has been booked from this guesthouse already!). Then its up to Nha Trang which is not only beautiful but also the party town here in Vietnam, and their answer to Southern Thailand so ill be there a couple of days then up to Hue and then probably back down inland to a mountain hill station called Dalat and back towards Saigon where will probably go on a day stop on the Mekong delta, do a homestay on the river and then be about ready to go to Loas on the southern border and work my way up and round but after that i have a choice between going back to Vietnam to do the north which i really wanna do as it has Hanoi, the 2nd biggest place here, halong Bay which is meant to be the most naturally and beautiful place here and also Sapa and the rest of the norths mountainous region which is also meant be be amazing to travel through. The other option is to go to Cambodia again  as i loved it there, or go back direct to Thailand and continue my trip down to Malaysia and Indonesia but i have a week or two to decide before booking my visa and travel arrangements...
I hope you are all well, looking after yourselves and each other and i know i always say it but i do miss you all loads... thanks everyone for the comments you have been posting, they really perk me up and its just good to know your reading and enjoying my blog and great to hear your thoughts.... ill blog again in a week or so when i know what i am doing next. Ill try take and upload more pics for you too. I did manage one video upload to the youtube channel which is of the lizard/chameleons i told you about which you gotta see but i bet half of you cant remember how to get on and view them, well, i cant either so next time i log in i will get my username and post it at the end of this post for you..!
Love to you all...xx
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Delly on

Hahaha I just love the inadvertant flippant comment about Mums driving - classic lee! Loving the updates... can't keep up with you, you're moving at quite a pace out there! Be careful with dodgy eggs... dont like the sound of that 2 day tummy trouble, but at least you gupped it out and now feel all good :)

Love you and miss you too... everyone is reading your updates, we LOVE em and LOVE YOU xxxxxxxxx (ahhh Im such a softy with my big bro aint I!) x

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