Monday, July 28, 2008

When I was in Vietnam


Photo by Lupiote

It was a public holiday a few weeks ago so Alex took a few extra days off and we crossed the border to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. I was pretty excited because Vietnam has always been on my list of places to go. Mr A had already been to Hanoi so that's why we chose Ho Chi Minh.

Our holiday started off most excellently. We booked the cheapest of cheap flights on Jetstar so were pleasantly surprised when we got to the airport and found we were actually on Bangkok Air. Slightly bigger seats and free drinks! Wooo! Our flight was only an hour so we couldn't really take advantage of it but it was still awesome! We got to Vietnam and had to get our Visas. We could have got them beforehand but Alex needed his passport so we couldn't. Although we were one of the first people at the visa office, the lady processing them was just picking them out of the pile at random so we were the last people out. Our driver for our hotel pick up was left waiting the poor guy.

Our hotel was right in the middle of the backpacker area. It was really nice for only $30 a night. The bed was two singles so we had to push them together like a naughty 50's couple. We got free breakfast as well that you picked off a menu, not just 2 pieces of shitty dry toast and orange juice from concentrate. There were pancakes!!! (which I possibly had for breakfast every morning with lime).
Ho Chi Minh is not the most exciting city in the world. It's just another city. I found it quite similar to Bangkok. There are way more scooters than cars and way more street hawkers. You have to say no to sunglasses and shoe shines all day long. We even had one lady chase us down the street after we asked her how much a Lonely Planet book was she was selling. We decided we didn't want it but she chased after us for a whole block yelling at us to buy it. There was also a hilarious beggar on our corner who just yelled "GIVE ME MONEY!!" at people. The markets aren't as good as Bangkok but it is cheaper. It does make a great base however, to explore the surrounding area. And eat.

We spent most of our time just relaxing and walking around the city. But the second day we were there we went on a tour out to the Cao Dai temple and the Chu Chi Tunnels. It was only $7 for the whole day so we thought "Why not!". We crammed into a mini bus with about 12 other people and we were off. Our tour guides name was Slim Jim (his Aussie nickname apparently). He had reasonable English and fought for the North in the American war (which is what they call the Vietnam war in Vietnam) so he sounded like he might have some interesting stories. At first I thought he was going to be awesome. But as the day progressed, it turned out he was actually an arsehole.
This is him here. He repeated everything he said. By that I mean, he'd tell us something and then say "so basically..." and repeat it all again. And again. And again. Nothing basic about it. He was so irritating. If you asked him a simple question he'd either yell at you that he didn't know or give you an answer that didn't relate to the question at all. And we couldn't stay to look at anything for very long. He'd be all like "Here is this blah blah blah thing" wait 5 seconds "Okay next!". We seriously couldn't stop to look at anything. He was just so rude!!! I don't know what he was hurrying for. We got back to the city 2 hours earlier than he said we would. Maybe he just needed to get back and get his drink on or something.

But the up shot was, it was still an interesting day. We had a couple of friendly people on our tour so that was nice. There were these two super arrogant dutch guys who were kinda annoying. But that's pretty par for the course (for the record, I'm half dutch so therefor have a lot of dutch family. I am yet to meet a dutch man who isn't a jerk). We drove for 2 hours out to the Cao Dai temple. Cao Dai is an odd religion. They worship elements Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Islam and possibly some Hindi thrown is for good measure. It has only been around since 1920 after some guy had a vision. They go to temple 4 times a day or so, similar to Islam and the call to prayer. They usually wear white robes in the traditional Vietnamese style or, depending on their high official rank (like bishops and stuff), either red, yellow or blue. The temple itself is really gaudy. I wasn't a fan, especially because it was brand new and made of concrete. I have to say the visit was interesting, but not a extra 4 hours out of my day interesting. We were only at the temple for 1 hour and it took an extra 3 hours there and back. I would recommend only doing the half day just to Chu Chi. And to top it off, two German tourists were 10 minutes late back to the bus and Slim Jim went ape shit at them.



Chu Chi was much more interesting. The are these crazy tiny tunnels in a forest that the Chu Chi Viet Cong used to get around below ground to avoid enemy troops. They are sooooo small.

They had to widen one out for tourists to go in, and even then I was still bent double the whole way through. There is tonnes of other interesting stuff there, like all the booby traps the VC used to set for American troops. Some of them were seriously vicious.


We also watched a video when we first got there that was told more from the VC side of things. It talked about the evil Americans and how they were defeated by the brave Viet Cong. There were some bits that were like "School girl Tan Nguyen took up a gun to avenge her parents and killed 24 Americans. She was awarded a medal as top American killer!!". I found it really interesting because talking to some of my American friends, the fact that the US lost the Vietnam war is really played down. But in Vietnam, they are so proud and basically yell it from the roof tops. The contrast really makes you think. There are tonnes of war relics still within in the forest, like old tanks and bomb craters. Very very interesting. I would definitely have it on my list if you go to HCM.


After that, we didn't go on any more tours. We wanted to relax, the complete opposite of the disaster that was Slim Jim. So we just did the walking tour, went to markets and museums and ate. Holy craps we ate so much food. Vietnamese cuisine is DELICIOUS! The #1 thing everyone eats there is Pho. It's clear rice noodle soup with some vegies and sometimes meat. It's a complete meal in a bowl and super yummy. We went to this great restaurant as well, where they cook every thing at different stations which is really interesting. The staff are fantastic as well. If you are unsure what to dip in what or how to roll your own rice paper rolls, they will come over and help you. And they always have great recommendations. We went there twice!!! The other great meal we had was in this little french bistro. The food was amazing and soooo cheap. The dessert was mind blowing. I had creme brulee and almost died it was so good!




At the end of the 4 days, we were ready to go home. We made our way to the airport and checked in, on a Bangkok airways flight again mind you (yay!). I definitely had a good time. We achieved what we wanted with our little holiday and had a nice relaxing time. If you are going to Vietnam, I would recommend going to HCM for 2-3 days max and then head to Hanoi. That is definitely somewhere I want to go soon. Halong bay looks wonderful!!!

Oh and I almost forgot! Beauty stuff is really cheap there! I got eyelash extensions done! It only cost $20 and took about 2 1/2 hours. I was about ready to scream at the end of it. Lying there with your eyes closed for that long while someone pokes them with tweezers is not fun. But the results were amazing! It looked like I was wearing false eyelashes all the time. They are pretty much all gone now but they lasted for about 3 weeks! My camera couldn't get a good closer up though so no picture. I also got my arms and legs waxed for $15. I had four girls doing a limb each all at the same time. I now know the true meaning of pain!

1 comment:

Julie said...

I'm not surprised about the creme brulee. Everyone says that Vietnam does French foods prefectly. It makes sense because of the French colonia ties, for the same reason that Eritrea is famous for good espresso.

I am so jealous... I want to go to Vietname so much. Cute striped shirt, by the way.