Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Saigon (Sorry Ho Chi Minh City)

Last post was finished with just a couple of hours in Dalat to go but these should be just briefly mentioned. Went to a restaurant we had been before and were invited to try his artichoke wine on the house – a fiery brew. Had a couple of glasses of wine then back to the hotel where Tien and Viet (our landlords) threw a small soiree of guests to celebrate Tiens birthday. As promised would happen when drinking beer – her cheeks went like the sun! Very nice evening again with cakes and beer to fill us up.

Saigon. Whoa!? A bit lively but in a good way. Same noise as Hanoi, same obligatory profusion of bikes everywhere, same food but buzzy and vibrant. Much more happening feel.  Nearest we  can compare to is Bangkok. The road we are just off is even a bit like Khoa San Road without the market in the middle but same Bars, restaurants and prostitutes. Its full of back packers and hawkers and everyone is out to make a buck so it only seems to sleep for about 2 hours in every 24. Its in your face but we like it and even stay up till 10pm on the first night after travelling all day and go to bed with milk and cookies.

Day two and we walk our little legs off. Notre dame style cathedral but with big Vietnamese star over the round glass window;  The recently renamed ‘War Remnants Museum’ (previously the American War Atrocities Museum) – Basically a complete propaganda smear on the yanks that sort of warps the reality of what and how stuff happened. OK they did shitty things and used chemicals on civilians but the war had raged for years prior and after and the communist forces were no angels. Still very interesting if not somewhat gory in its pictoral portrayal of the American years of involvement; Independence place. A large, 1960’s built building of little interest filled with boring conference rooms where the seat of government was or is (can’t remember) run from. Anyway we walked in, scratched our arses and walked out; we saw the post office – nice, various markets and squares – some good some not and generally drank coffee and walked. Would happily spend time hear again just people watching as the sights are not that many but the place is interesting.

Day three we went to the Cu Chi tunnels. Now I thought this would be interesting but the constant monologue given by our group guide and former Vietnamese born, US serving Naval captain bored the shit out of us. This self congratulatory man told us of his war exploits in which he was always the hero and the various friends he made along the way – all now famous (guess we wouldn’t be impressed if they weren’t). Anyway, the droning voice and fact this was an organised tour took its toll on us. With un scheduled ‘authentic handicrafts’ stops and piss breaks it was almost 5 hours before we saw anything of the tunnels. What a disappointment. First a political film with chirpy music where happy viet cong cheerfully kill Americans. Next another monologue to an extended group about our guides involvement in the war, then a slow tour of a bomb crater, various traps involving spikes, a hole to hide in, an air vent and a tank all of which were either to tedious to actually take pics of or, if you wanted to, they had to include images of a German and Australian family’s kids who were the first at any attraction and the last to leave. There was an opportunity to shoot real ammo in a gun but the thrill seemed somewhat limited since you shot a pile of dirt at the cost of £1.20 per bullet. Finally you got to go in the tunnel – 100 metres of bending over and sweating in a area under 1 metre high and 600mm wide. Plainly this would have been a horrible way to fight your war so begs the question why not make life easier and make the tunnels  a bit taller!!! All in all we and several others on the trip were dissatisfied with it and had to drink at least two beers on return to Saigon to cheer us up.

Tomorrow we are on a bus to take us to Chau Doc (via a floating market) and then the following day up the Mekong Delta to Phnom Penh on a slow boat. We are a little bit afraid but will report on that once its finished

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