Ho Chi Minh City Slickers
Trip Start Feb 02, 2009
47Trip End Dec 24, 2009
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We all had a great night down Koh San road catching up and the the next morning bid our fond farewells. For the next leg of the journey it will just be Ben and me going through Vietnam. So it is goodbye to a group i've travelled with for around two months. It's a pity and it just won't be the same. But all change is beneficial so the next chapter should be just as interesting and unpredictable as the last. As if to prove this theory as soon as Ben and I arrived in Saigon the next evening who should we bump into? None other than NMB himself. In all his glory, stood in the middle of the road eating a kebab and smiling his million dollar smile. Or should that be million bucks? I digress. NMB is one of those fellows who even after a short time in a place - forty eight hours in Saigon for instance - knows all the ins and outs. He took me and Ben to the cheapest roadside restaurant, the cheapest roadside bar and then showed us a place to get a cheap bottle of whisky and play '21'. He also regailed us with an anecdote about the time he went to the American Ambassadors mansion in Dublin and did a rude dance with the Ambassador's wife. Good times.
Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City if you insist) is a beautiful city and we both took to it almost immediately. We had heard indifferent things about Vietnam but so far, so very good
The day after arriving we decided to get some culture into us and visited the Re-unification palace and the War Museum. The re-unification palace has been left exactly as it was when it was taken by the North in 1975 as a monument to their victory. Good grief, the seventies was not a good year for interior design. Everything was green and massive. But that's not really what your supposed to visit the place for. The War Museum on the other hand does exactly what it says on the tin. Well it would if it were called the Unashamedly Biased and Gruesome War Museum. But it's a fascinating place regardless
That night we met up with a group of girls from a guesthouse roud the corner from ours. It was one of their birthdays - Rachel's - and so we went for a meal, had a few drinks and what have you and did the obligatory thing of introducing them to the beauty of a little game i like to call '21'. Outside the first bar we went to a young Vietnamese kid - surely not older than five - was going round the place challenging people to play Paper, Scissors, Rock for cold, hard cash. It was a peach of a scam because nobody had the heart to take money from him if he lost so he won either way. See the video for footage of Ben, to use the parlance of our times, "handing his ass to him". Figuretively speaking.
On our night out for Rachel's birthday I got talking to an Italian girl; Kiara, who was staying at the same guest house. Her name is a wonderful mix of a posh hair clip and the nineteen nineties fruit drink that is, apparently, too orangey for crows. We decided that it would be a good idea to travel to the - much talked about - nearby Cuchi underground tunnels on scooters instead of a stuffy old bus early the very next morning. This proved to be a terrible idea
To give you a verbal taste of the experience - and the photo i've enclosed doesn't get close - it's like unorganized chaos. Tens of thousands of scooters, motorbikes, cars, trucks and buses and NO rules. There are ten million people living in Saigon and you get the impression they all own scooters. People will come at you from the pavement, in the wrong direction and without looking. Incredibly frequently. Traffic lights are just there to confuse and mean absolutely nothing. I actually found myself praying at times and singing Bob Dylan's 'God On Our Side' for comfort. The incredibly bumpy roads did not help, nor did Kiara reading the guide book whilst riding at fifty kilometres per hour to try and find the correct road to go down
To add to the excitement whenever i screamed - and this was not uncommon - the excessive chin movement loosened my helmet and it began to slip from my head. It was almost like a very complex device invented to stop the pillion passenger draining confidence from the driver. If you scream "Mother of Mercy!" at the top of your lungs when a bicycle with four people on it just appears in front of you from nowhere and you skim the back of it you are punished by your safety being compromised in a hat based way. In the end I had to calmly repeat my mantra "excude confidence, excude confidene" which must have sounded strange to the poor Italian girl. Although a thirty-two year old guy screaming like a little girl every thirty seconds had probably already sealed that. Needless to say we didn't find the Cuchi tunnels and after a couple of hours of fruitless searching I convinced Kiara to take us back and I went and had a lie down to recover. She did say "Are you sure you want to head back?" initially but my response "I have never been more sure of anything in my entire life" was enough to convince her i wasn't kidding.
Next up; Ben and I travel to Da Lat and further North to "mountain paradises". I wonder if we'll be lucky enough to bump into a certain NMB again on our travels? We shall see...
Lots of Love, Dan. x.