Ho Chi Minh City
14 November 2004
"Hello from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)! Last night was our first Splurge Night and we stayed in the five star Renaissance, Riverside Saigon Hotel. We were pampered with so many luxuries including air-con, TV, bath, pool, sauna and mega soft cushions and duvets, did'nt want to leave at all, well worth the near twenty pounds! (bargain) We've been on basics for the pass couple of months, this was our well-deserved treat! So here we are in Vietnam, that's another new currency and language! You won't believe how many 'hellos' I know aswell as the exchange rates which is mind bobbling. It's a very busy city, alot more built up than I imagined. My main concern is crossing the roads. Each morning I pray that I can cross the road safely to the other side! There are lots of motorbikes, trillions and they are barely any pedestrianised crossing, so its a matter of crossing the road slowly on oncoming traffic (look at this photo background, imagine crossing this road... that's exactly what we did)! Lonely Planet quotes, "Ho Chi Minh is a good city for walking around, with one drawback - the traffic. Learn to cross roads by observing locals: they don't sprint towards the other side for a very, very good reason. Take it slowly, avoiding any sudden movements or panic, and you'll probably survive for at least a day or two." Today we went to a Wartime Museum on which it housed hundreds of photos taken during the Vietnam - American war, these photos left everyone humble, they even have tiger cages (for human torture), jar of dead babies affected by 'agent orange' disease from the war. It's very hard to bare after half-an-hour there, but educating! Tomorrow we go to the Cu Chu tunnels where it was heavily used during the war. I have lots of Laos money which banks here don't accept... which I am very upset about... it's like ten pounds worth but that's alot of money:-("
We arrived here at night and all we could see was motorbikes and neon lights everywhere! Our first impressions were quite overwhelming. After our first class treatment, it was back to basics. We stayed in Pham Ngu Lao, the Khao San Road of Bangkok. Nightlife here is big but more restrictive. It is ideally you book the tours here, we recommend a company I think is called Smile (will get back to you on that). Vietnam is amazing, it is building rapidly, lets you see what the side effects were by the war from the Americans and gives you a perspective from their point of view. I have nothing against the Americans apart from their president but you learn alot from the humbling history. We were unable to visit Hanoi due to timing difficulties. Like all the countries I've visited, you just have to see each and everyone of them as they all are very different and special from one another. And you won't find a McDonalds here!!!