Good Morning Vietnam!
Trip Start May 20, 2010
195Trip End Sep 05, 2011
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Day : 154
Temperature : 32 degrees
Weather : Cloudy with intermittent rain
OK, so it's a corny title, and probably everybody who comes to Vietnam writes this as their first blog entry..but hey, it has to be done. There were some other options for this blog title based on our experience over the past 48 hours, for example, "How Much Can You Carry on a Motorcycle?" - Based on some of the sights we've seen on the roads, or "Would You Like to Buy Some Books or Marijuana?" - Based on the fact that we've been asked this no less than half a dozen times already, or "Which Bar Can Play the Loudest Music?" - Based on the fact that our hearing is now slightly muffled
So here we are in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon. It's a chaotic, heaving and noisy place. We've never seen so many motorcyclists on the roads before. There seems to be absolutely no order or logic to the road rules here....other than "why drive on one side of the road when you can also use the other side??!" Vehicles and motorbikes fly past from all directions weaving inbetween one another as high speeds. Try crossing the road and you are literally taking your life in your hands! We are staying in the Pham Ngu Lao (pronounced Fam New Lao) region of Saigon, which is the main tourist / backpacker region. It's full of hotels and restaurants and bars with big neon signs and loud music. The people we have met so far seem to be very friendly, except the Taxi drivers who, like elsewhere in Asia, seem intent on asking the tourists for 10 times the local price.
Bearing this in mind we decided to walk to the War Remnants Museum since we couldn't be bothered to haggle with another taxi driver. Needless to say we got lost, had several arguments about where we thought we were and what we were going to do, spent an hour wandering around aimlessly, then eventually relented and hailed down a taxi, by now not really caring how much it cost. By the time we'd arrived at the museum we had spent so much time getting there that the museum was now shut for lunch
We found the museum both interesting and horrifying at the same time. There was a very somber atmosphere inside as people walked around in silence looking at the guillotines, cages and torturing equipment that was on display and reading the descriptions by each piece. On the walls were many, many awful photographs of torture victims, dead Vietnamese people including women, children and infants, as well as photographs of children born deformed as a result of the toxic chemicals which were sprayed by American aircraft. I found the whole experience rather upsetting and we actually left without seeing all that was on offer.
We did manage to walk back to our hotel although we got caught in a torrential downpour in the process and got absolutely soaking wet. We took shelter by the side of the road and this did give us an opportunity to have a wee practice with our new camera.
In the evening we ventured out to a local Vietnamese restaurant which was recommended in our Lonely Planet book. Would you believe it, we bumped into Francesca and Guy, an English couple who we me in the Togean Islands in Sulawesi several weeks ago
Today we visited the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a vast network of underground tunnels which were the used by the Viet Cong during combat against American troops. Our tour guide was called "Mr Bean" who told of his experiences during the Vietnam war and as a prisoner in the north of the country, then informed the men in our group that they could leave their "fat ass wives" to get stuck in the tunnels, then they will be free to get a new Vietnamese one....they make the best wives in the world because they are great cooks and babymakers!! As well as squeezing into and almost crawling through some of the incredibly small tunnels, we also saw some examples of home made weapons and traps which were used against the troops...pretty gruesome. Our trip was finished off by some target practice with an AK47...what else.....and I nearly managed to dislocate my shoulder in the process..I have the bruise to show it!
What a crazy couple of days it's been...