Motorcycle Madness

Trip Start Nov 14, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, March 19, 2007

A bit of a farce at the border crossing into Vietnam. Stamp this, stamp that, pay for this and pay for that, however we did have a laugh. The ten or so immigration officials were certainly over jovial about something, possibly how much money they had skanked from us for their so called administration costs, when one offered to have an arm wrestle with me. Not one to shirk a challenge I accepted but was beaten. He hadn't seen Ben so I called after him . Then the gloating official changed his smug face and then the rest of them laughed at him. Ben duly demolished him and we walked away to join another cue happy with whatever kind of victory it was.
We arrived in Saigon with apprehensions such as we would be scammed or have things stolen from us. We didn't find it as bad as we were told at all and if you can stand all of the hawkers trying to sell you sunglasses and copy books then Saigon can be a relatively easy on the stress levels kind of a place. Another warning that we had to take heed of was how to cross the road. Vietnam is chocca with motorcycles. It feels like everyone must have one. The only way to cross the road is to step onto it and keep walking and never stop. If you stop the flood of motorbikes will not know which way you are going, which can result in finding out just how good our rudimentary 'backpacker' insurance is. Just take a deep breath, walk and they will easily dodge around you.
On the first day we wandered the streets, had a cheeky KFC, bumped into a lad we met in Malaysia and visited the theme park. This was an interesting insight into how Saigonese people spend their weekends. Young couples holding hands (unusual in Asia), not very good rides and Japanese style gardens. There was also a zoo, but I use the term zoo in the Victorian, archaic, are those really two huge bears in a tiny cage with nothing but a log to create it's natural habitat sense of the word. I wouldn't go if you have any feeling about animal welfare. There were various kinds of monkey in various levels of distress, a demented porcupine and a panther that also had a log to keep it entertained. Also, the public obviously did not share the feeling of disillusionment that Ben, Amy and I had. They laughed, taunted and teased all the animals with food and sweets. We felt like throwing one mischievous torturers hat into the monkey cage but when we noticed that the other kids and parents found it as hilarious as he did, we thought better of it . After growing tired from giving as many black looks to people as we could Amy and I found Ben sat waiting outside as he couldn't take it any more. Saying that though, I was really up for seeing the dancing bears but we had missed the start of the show.
We visited the Cu Chi Tunnels where the Viet Cong hid in a network of tunnels while fighting the Americans. This was an excellent trip and crawling about the small tunnels, too small for fat American soldiers and seeing the traps they used was really interesting. The highlight was getting to fire an AK47 (aka Kalashnikov). They are unbelievably loud. We visited the war museum which was pretty horrific, especially learning about how the Americans used defoliants (Agent Orange) to kill and completely destroy acres of land where still, nothing can grow and has thus created thousands of deformed children.
We had a good night out and ended up in a nightclub called Apocalypse Now where we met a couple of girls from Denmark. We spent the night dancing like idiots much to the amusement of the middle aged Vietnamese men in the club.   
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