Saigon: the city that never sleeps, just exercises

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

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Where I stayed
Nhu 13

Flag of Vietnam  , Hồ Chí Minh,
Monday, May 21, 2012

Back in Saigon.... ahhh...i love the smell of Saigon in the morning.....smells like.....victory...well actually it usually smells like piss! but i love the place all the same....

Saigon, well where to start, its hard to say whats so great about this place (apart from that smell), i mean the backpacker area is the best i have been to yet, its lively, got good bars and is pretty big but you also get your usual hawkers trying to sell everything and all the time, and also thieves too as i found to my displeasure when i got my wallet nicked with 4 million Dong in.... and no, its not like Lira where that would equate to about 40p! it was about 140 quid but luckily i kept my bank card and passport separate otherwise it would have been a nightmare. but its just a friendly, lively interested place and i would recommend it to anyone.

OK, lets get the smell out of the way (if only i could). Basically all over Vietnam, if people gotta go they just go... anywhere really and at any time and so you often get a whiff of this! It is pretty dirty in places, i mean, there are rubbish collectors working all the time, every day they come round and it aint a good job, they are 
covered head to foot in illuminous orange protective clothing but have to pick up most rubbish with their hands, with gloves on, but picking up all kinds of waste left out, mainly where there are food stands, market stalls and cafes... but at night and in the day i have seen loads of rats scurrying around and in and out of food stands because overnight people just lock them up where they are and go home so you can imagine if there is any bit of food left on them and a rat can get up there...well, you can imagine but lets just say i haven;t had another ban mi kep (baguette) since seeing this just in case! I have mainly stuck to restaurants and cafe's and in building noodle bars since but i reckon this may be the case over most of Asia but here especially as its a big city with too much waste in parts and people just do not use bins it seems.

OK, i realise i am not painting a great picture of Saigon but you have to trust me, its ace! And the best thing, by far, is the park and people exercising!! You have never seen anything so bizarre as the parks here and all the people doing all different exercises - i am gutted i didn't take any videos but if i ever go back i will. Let me start by saying people exercise at every given moment. On my last day i had a very early bus and was at the park before sunrise and as it turned light around 6am the place just filled, no doubt all morning until work or probably just all morning, and then at around 5pm when many finish work the place is packed again and the variety is amazing; all ages from 3 to 300! There's crazy aerobics classes going on everywhere with some bizarre moves going on; elderly ladies bumping n a grindin!, there's loads of people playing badminton, most without a net or court!?, people playing football, playing a game which is a cross between volleyball and football, loads playing the shuttlecock game i told you about...what else, oh yeah, and the park has all kinds of strange fixed exercise machinary, like a metal skiing type machine which looks like your walking on skis, these twisting foot plates you twist your hips too but the moves and exercises people seem to come up with on these things is bizarre but not half as bizarre as the improvisers out there, mainly older people who just need them selves to do their own crazy exercises; they walk around doing weird walks, stretches, run backwards, kind of dance on their own.... you name it, and i bet you couldn't even make up half the things they do, but they do it and without a single bit of embarrassment too!!

But the park brought one more surprise to me other than the exercise, something that scared the ba-jesus out of me... i was in the park when it started to really lash it down so i stood under a tree and held this thin top i had in my bag over my head but it covered my side views and i could only see straight ahead.. anyway, after about 5 minutes i felt something touch my arm and thinking it was just another bug on my arm i just glanced to my side to see this big smiling mans face about 6 inches from mine!! I swear i nearly died with shock, but just started laughing loads because this guy was smiling and laughing too... he had down syndrome and was in running gear and had obviously seen me and just come and stood right next to me.... he started talking to me in Viet but i just kept saying Kom Hue, i dont understand, but he carried on so after a bit when the rain stopped i just had to say dambeut, goodbye, and go but i swear my heart was still going ten to the dozen but it was very funny and he had a great smile that just made me laugh about the whole thing....

Anyway, i finally found that i could not buy a motorbike and take it over the border in to Laos so i decided to leave here a little early, go back to Cambodia and Sihanoukville where i had seen some cheap bikes and bike up through Cambodia to Laos and Vientianne for the 9th, 11th latest to see my bro Jon and watch the Euro 2012 together and especially the England v France game on the 11th ... so i booked the ticket and set off on the long journey back to Cambodia but i was really gonna miss Vietnam and if i can i definitely want to come baack sometime soon...

Before i go there's something i forgot to write up which i keep remembering which happened back in Sihanoukville in Cambodia. I may have already mentioned it but i am far too lazy to try find it and check but it was about the crazy dogs i told you all about outside my apt. there. If you remember, the way to the room from the main street was through an outdoor restaurant which had 3 or 4 dogs which really went for me everytime i went through, now when the owners were there they would shout and warn them off but when it was late and dark it was just me, my poxy little mini torch which lit about 3 nano millimeters in front of me, and these crazy dogs....anyway, i never backed down and often carried stones to throw or a stick and they backed away when i threw a stone of wafted something but always came back stronger but i knew not to back down but still didn't always fancy my chances of not getting bitten.... anyway, one night the owners were there and the dogs went for me and one did got for my ankle but luckily i just turned and saw him try and swung my bag at him and he backed off but the owner ran over, shouted something and the backed right down but he spoke a little English and told me to shout this magical word at them and they would back down....well i thought, come on, one word isn't gonna work and who are you anyway, Mick Dundee?

 So anyway, he tells me the word - now do you wanna know this magical word too? It could save your life you know! well, its Cambodian but i am pretty sure dogs don't speak Cambodian and understand the word so maybe its partly the ring to the word or just the way you say a word that works, i don't know, but i know it did work and its worked outside Cambodia too...anyway the word is like this 'A-Toor' and you say it harshly and loud and in a kind of flamboyant, angry type of way?! Now for the interesting part; this word basically means 'small', so what your actually doing is belittling this dog in order to get him off your back.... and it makes sense, its the last thing he's expecting, he comes after you, snarling and foaming at the mouth and you come back at him by called him small, its the ultimate put down and in so many ways and in the dog world calling him a small dog must be a major put down, and it works for us in so many ways if you call someone small in whatever context!? its a real downer, but this magical secret is that if you call a dog small he won't like it and it will put him off his attack by denting his confidence...! great! Love it, not only the idea but the fact it works, so now every time i pass these dogs i am almost looking forward to the experience and i walk past and shout A-Toor if they come at me and after a while i start saying it like i am in a Shakespeare play of something, and every time it works i get worse, i must sound like an absolute nutcase but i am loving this new found power and after a while, in the daytime, the dogs see me and don't even get up to bother me, and no doubt because they don't want another dose of 'small'!!! 

So there you go, a little tip for you to try should a dog try and bite you, or maybe try it with anything or anyone; you get in an arguement with someone maybe and need a good line... try A-Toor'!! Or just shout 'small' at them really loud with big bugling eyes - i reckon that would stop anyone in their tracks... if you do try it, good luck though...!!

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Delly on

Hahaha loving the dog shinanigans... very funny!
Good luck on route to Cambodia and up to Laos - have fun with Jon and be
S A F E on that bike!!! Love you x

Paul on

Holy moly Lee ! seems that you have turned into some kind of dog whispering guru !

Carrie on

Oh no ..... not the BIKE, Yikes! Stay safe pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease

Love mum xxxxxxxxx

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