Myles Harrington

Sleep Deprived Sightseeing In Saigon

In Vietnam on October 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

We left Saigon after a rather lazy, boozey and tourist sight filled few days. Saigon’s Reunification Palace was a tad boring but well preserved, exactly as it was when it was stormed by the liberation troops in 1975, as you might expect the carpet looks a bit dated. We endured the extremely bias 40-minute war documentary video in the military command basement and got photos of the cabinet rooms and a cheeky one of me in the president’s war room chair.

 

The boss

 

The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon’s official name) is excellent and it gives a shocking insight to the Vietnam War, albeit still very bias, but it’s as you’d expect considering the atrocities of the unprovoked war. We also managed to squeeze in a couple of visits to Saigon’s legendary nightclub; Apocalypse Now. The first time we visited we’d had a few too many Long island Ice Teas to notice the sleazy nature of the clientele. It was basically a meat market, the buyers being fat, ageing Western men and the prime cuts being Vietnam’s finest looking teenagers. It’s a shame this goes on, but I suppose it’s a mutually beneficial transaction. We also had our last two nights indulging in Vietnam’s best bargain purchase; bia hoi. I’ll miss that cheap stuff.

 

This poor bloke has been locked up since the summer of '75

 

The last few days have been spent on a tour around the Mekong delta, on which to fit in all the activities each day, we’ve had to wake up before 6am. I never thought I’d be doing that on my nine months off work. We visited the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi, a rice paper and wine factory, a handicapped handicrafts factory, a coconut candy and whisky factory, a honey factory, a rice noodle factory, two fruit farms and a fish farm. We’ve been on more separate boat rides than I can remember and cycled around a village, as well as visited four separate towns, Mytho, Ben Tre, Cantho and Chau Doc, we also spent one night at a local family’s house. It’s no wonder we want to go straight to bed when we reach Phnom Penh.

 

 

Our guide and the bees

 

The tour was much more to my liking than the Halong Bay trip we did at the beginning of our month in ‘Nam. This was speed tourism at its best. The guide sounded something like this for most of our three days: “My group come here, here’s the factory, here’s the product, eat the product, drink the tea, let’s go”. There wasn’t a chance to get bored or let the tiredness creep up on us and at US$46 for three days including all transport, accommodation, a boat to Phnom Penh at the end and three meals, it was an absolute bargain.

 

 

The start of one of the boat rides

 

One of the highlights of my time in Vietnam was the home stay in Cantho on the first night of our tour. We left the 30 or so fellow tourists who opted out of the family house option, at the rather cosy looking hotel in the centre of town and got a taxi, then a half an hour slow boat to the middle of nowhere and were welcomed in to the home by Mr Chi and his other six family members.

 

 

Mr Chi chilling at home

 

Mr Chi lives with his wife, mum and dad, three daughters and baby son. His wife was cooking upon our arrival and we sat down with the four other travellers to a feast of Vietnamese style wraps. We stuffed lettuce, elephant fish, green beans and fried cabbage into rice paper and dipped them into fish sauce, it was all washed down with shots of Mr Chi’s 30% rice wine and 333 beer. By 10pm we were knackered and needed an early night so we could hack the floating market at 7am the next morning.

 

 

Vietnamese wraps

 

With our visas expiring today it was sad to say goodbye to the beautiful country and its amazing people. We waved farewell to the children dotted along the river bank as we floated upstream along the rocky Mekong river towards the quaint Cambodia border post. I didn’t cry though, like I’d prophesied when I crossed the border in a dream a few days ago. On the 11 hour slow boat journey in the pouring rain, messing round we accidentally dropped our Lonely Planet book in to the river. I suppose it’s quite ironic how the worst travel guide ever written about Vietnam will get flushed out into the South China Sea along with all the other shit in the delta.

5k remaining: £1297.20

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