Hey, what happened to Saigon?

Trip Start Oct 05, 2010
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Trip End Nov 24, 2010


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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Way down south

Took a 9:10 flight from Hanoi to HCMC (formerly Saigon), and got to a hotel that was recommended in my guide book (hoping that it was still there). Went to look at the room (in SE Asia, it’s common to look at a room before you decide on getting it or not), and I was convinced right when he opened the door – A/C! It’s not like it’s awful in the rooms, but A/C is very nice to at least cool it down a bit. Plus it’s so cheap anywhere, so really A/C or not is a matter of less than a dollar.

Rain on my parade

We noticed immediately that the rain is much more prevalent in the south than it was in the north. Rain will be a recurring theme throughout this blog, I think (we are coming right at the end of the rainy season). Also, I started to get somewhat sick here (Matt and Joel as well). It isn’t that bad (I can still get around fine, just don’t feel great), but the sooner it’s over the better. The combo of rain and sickness can really put a damper on the mood.

But we really liked HCMC – much more spread out, and a lot of parks, so we decided to stay longer than the planned one day. And because of the rain, we’re taking taxis a lot more and not walking around and seeing random things as much. But taxis are so cheap – usually just $1 – $2 total.

War Remnants Museum

Went to the War Remnants Museum, which contained all sorts of remnants (imagine that) from the Vietnam War. A lot of the museum, and much of the interesting parts to me, were all of the photos taken during the war, showing many of the completely awful things that happened in the war. Although the museum did seem to have a very biased opinion (against the US), I would like to read a lot more about the war, and see how much of what they said at the museum was true.

When we were leaving the museum, it was raining pretty hard, and I didn’t have a poncho. They were selling them out front (for inflated prices of course), and I got the guy down to 100,000 dong, which was 40% of his asking price. I was bragging about this to Joel and Matt, until I realized that 100,000 dong was $5, for a little crappy poncho. It became more apparent that I got ripped off when Joel walked about 100 feet out in the rain to a guy and bought one for his asking price – $1.00. Joel and Matt are still laughing at me about that one, if for no other reason than because I had bragged about it so much.

I was feeling bad, and they were tired (we still had some jet lag I think), so we went back to the hotel. Ending up falling asleep at 4:00 p.m. Woke up 5:30 the next morning.

Independence Palace and the last day in HCMC

Walked around the city, seeing things we hadn’t seen, like the Notre Dame church the French built here, and we also tried to find the former U.S. embassy, where the famous shot of the helicopter evacuating people was taken.

We’ve had a lot of pho here, and it’s a lot different from the stuff in Hanoi, with a lot more to it. Herbs, meatballs, other different meats (like beef tendon), bean sprouts, even quail egg. I think that most of the Vietnamese restaurants in Denver are more of the southern-style Vietnamese food. Pho in Hanoi is pretty much beef and noodles, and in Saigon it’s more like in the US.

We then went to Independence Palace, where the tanks rolled into in 1975, at the end of the war and the reunification of Vietnam. We went around, and for the most part there were just a lot of rooms with props in them, but the palace itself was cool, and the grounds around it were beautiful, with a lot of trees, grass, etc. Were there for a number of hours, but eventually we were ready to leave. Matt and I got separated from Joel, but after a bit of searching, we found him exactly where I thought he would be (knowing Joel) – in the air conditioned room. We left on foot, because the rain had stopped.

Excuse me…

At the park right by our hotel, on the walk back, some people were playing badminton, and Joel and wanted to watch so we sat down. Matt wasn’t feeling great, so he went back to the hotel. We sat for a few minutes and were about to leave, when a couple Vietnamese girls walked up to us and asked if we had a minute. Of course, me being me, the first thing that went through my mind is “what are you trying to sell?”

They were actually students who were studying English, and were having trouble pronouncing some of the consonants in English, sounds which are never used in Vietnamese. I was certainly willing to help, as I have always liked teaching people things and helping them to understand. These were things that I had never really thought about before – subtleties in the English language that had really just never occurred to me, because I just spoke. For example, they had trouble distinguishing between the “j” (soft g) and “ch” sounds, as they really are very similar. Also, pronouncing some of the soft sounds, like “th” and “s.”

After about 2 minutes of helping them with this, I realized that I would love to teach English. I had always considered going overseas to teach English, but it had always been more of an excuse to travel. But now, I think there is a lot more meaning to it. So that may be happening in the next few years. I would love to help people learn about English and our culture.
Especially these Vietnamese kids. They were clearly so hardworking and so willing to learn. It made me feel lazy, seeing how hard they were working towards something. It was obviously difficult for them to learn some of this (because Vietnamese is so different from English), but they were putting so much effort into figuring it out.

As time went on, more and more people came up to us and were talking to us, and eventually we had a crowd of about 15 of them around us. I would have liked to stay longer, but it was dark, and the mosquitoes were out in full force. We were getting eaten alive, and so we had to leave.

Bussing it to Cambodia

We had bought our tickets to Cambodia, and so the next morning, we would be off on a 6-hour bus ride to Phnom Penh, and then to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat.
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Comments

Mary Manthe on

I like your blog Nate. Why haven't you added anything lately?

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