Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
98Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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Where I stayed
The border between Phnom Penh and HCMC is an official crossing. What I mean is, there are no extra costs, no-one running any scams. Exit stamp out of Cambodia, entry stamp and visa check for Vietnam.
We were soon at the outskirts of HCMC and the sight can only be described as motorcycle madness! Hanoi is far worse as there are very few cars in Hanoi but watching the motorbikes and different personalities driving them is just fascinating! It took a long time for the bus to wind into the city and it dropped us off at the back packer area of Pham Ngu Lao. Our guesthouse was minutes away and my brother takes great pleasure in hearing how ill I was!! Glad I can entertain him!
That night we ate Pho on the street and had a good wander around. Sadly, I couldn't manage any beers so we chilled the evening away. Vietnam, like China, is not so keen on social media! It took 50 attempts to send one email!! Agh!!
Saigon, like Phnom Penh is a mix of charming chaos. Move past the motorcycles and one can witness a city on the move and full of energy! From timeless alleys to sleek skyscrapprs, strap yourself in and enjoy the ride! We stayed in an area full of hostels, hotels, street vendors and sadly massage parlours, happy hairdressers, happy bars and anything else you can think of where you might leave happy! I've not yet seen a happy launderette!!
Our only full day in Saigon took us to the Cu Chi tunnels. The tunnel network at Cu Chi was the stuff of legend during the 1960s for it's role in facilitating Viet Cong control of a large rural area 30km from Saigon. At it's height, the tunnel system stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. In the district of Cu Chi alone, there were over 200km of tunnels. After ineffective ground operations targeting the tunnels claimed large numbers of casualties, the USA turned their artillery and bombers on the area.
The tour was great but with an anti USA edge to it, which is pretty fair. I believe if JFK was not assassinated then the USA would have not got involved. JFK believed it was up to Vietnam to sort the issues out. Well, those heading the military and those who profit from war didn't quite agree. The rest is history. It makes me sick reading about things like agent orange. The tour let us observe many traps intended to harm USA soldiers. Pretty brutal ones, if you've seen the film Hamburger Hill, near the end a soldier falls into a ditch of spikes. There were similar camouflaged ditches like this everywhere. I'm sad for the USA soldiers too, fighting in an unpopular war but having to do their job, on the other side if the world!
At one point we were shown a tiny hatch like entrance to the tunnel networks. Amazingly, the network consisted of three layers, a well, small holes to vent smoke from the kitchen, toilets, escape hatches near a river, bedrooms, strategy rooms and tunnels that were very narrow so fat US soldiers were unable to squeeze through if they found the tunnel.
Our guide jumped in the hatch and dropped down and replaced the lid, she was gone! Others got a go infront of a group of thirty people. One Filipino lady got into the hole but was unable to get out. Poor thing, she was helped out by a couple other guys. When we moved on, Dave boy and I stayed back to grab some pictures without all the tourists. I was relieved to fit in, but the hole became very dark when replacing the hatch lid. Unbelievable how they survived and fought like this!! It was a struggle to get out, but I did!!
We saw more traps and saw a demonstration on how all wasted bombs and equipment from the USA was reused. For example, tyres made great flip flops, though they were designed to look backwards, so when leaving tracks in the dirt it looks like you're walking the other way. Unexplored bombs were reused! I think the USA clearly underestimated their enemy on this occasion, and on most occasions!!
We also got the opportunity to crawl through an actual tunnel system. A stretch of 100 meters has been slightly altered to fit in fat Westerners! At regular intervals there are stairs to leave the system but Dave and I continued to the end, finishing on hands and knees. So unreal, good job it only lasted a few minutes. No one freaked out, most didn't finish the course.
Near the end of the tour, you can shoot AK47s, and shout yeeha! No thanks, I've expressed my view on this from my bloh in the Ukraine.
I was still feeling pretty delicate and a cornetto ice cream, although delicious, was not the answer!! Back in Saigon, I chilled in the room while Dave boy went to explore a little. I had a pizza that evening to try help out.
The evenings in Saigon are quite something! Neon lights with thousands of motorbikes whizzing by! Excitement and danger all in one go. From my experience in Hanoi, you learn to cross the road slowly, bikes will try avoid you, but if you run, they have no chance of avoiding you!
We took an early sleeper bus next morning.
Next stop, Nha Trang.