Ho Chi Minh City, the land of a thousand motorbikes!......every square metre...
Well the taxi ride to the hostel was a good start to the learning curve which is south east Asian traffic. On numerous occasions I turned thinking to see a mess of bikes from the taxi just going where he pleased. He beeped his horn of course warning that he would be coming, you see the horn is a second language here! I managed to get a picture from the car as we crossed a major roundabout, a picture is worth a thousand words...
So I'm dropped off on the side of the street to a kid and told to go with him, he casually strolls across the torrent of motorbikes. Not wanting to lose him I follow jumping this way and that causeing more havoc than I wish to avoid. Once across he enters a small alleyway and that voice chirps in for a quick "You have no idea who this kid is". As quick as it comes it goes away, the alleys are not barren but bustling with shops and homes with kids playing hopscotch. People laze about in doorways watching as you pass, scooters beep you from behind weaving between people. I try to take it all in going ever deeper, finally reaching the hostel I check in and start the five floor climb with my backpack Everything checks out with the dorm plus a balcony overlooking the alley is a bonus. The view.
Soon introductions are made and we are all out drinking that night.
Where I stayed was district 1, which is the tourist district. I had not seen so many tourists for a long time and had a kind of culture shock on that aspect which was strange. The district is full of bars, hostels and hawkers trying to sell you there wares. To give you an idea of what was on offer you had smokes (50c a pack! Even people that don't smoke are smoking), sunglasses of all brands (Same same but different!), a little marijuana and an assortment of random crap. Here is a picture of one, the stall behind was my local mango smoothie maker...that was untill I saw that the lady right behind her sold the same thing cheaper...I'm talking about 2 steps to the right saves me a quarter of the price....anyhow here is it is.. and to show you how close the cheaper place is, it's that sign to the right
I got given a small map to use and all the local sights pointed out, the places all seemed fairly close so I thought I'd do a circuit. The circuit involved the war muesum, reunification building, Tham Market and Notre Dame!(Bet you did'nt see that one coming). First I went to see the war muesum thinking that it would be quite interesting/educational, that I should learn a bit about the places I'm going to see.
Expecting the politics of the Vietnam war and timelines and such I was taken a bit off guard by what we got. You see the original name of the muesum I found out was the "war crimes muesum". Basically once you enter you get barraged with horrible stories of torture, massacres and really REALLY disturbing photo's. Here are some photo's of the torture stuff, I must say I was quite suprised by what Americans did to the North Vietnamese...these photo's really do not show half of what was done, truly horrible stuff.
This picture just looked good because, well because..
After going through the torture area you head into the everybody protested against the war level showing old propaganda posters from nations such as Russia supporting the North Vietnamese, here are a couple of pictures. Oh, there was also a band playing that seemed like they were unfortunately deformed by what I presume to be agent orange, I could not help but donate and to be honest were not to bad. They were perhaps my favorite part. So anyhow the next floor was the warcrimes part I think, it depicted events when U.S. troops massacred villages and such. The finger firmly pointed at John Kerry a senator in the U.S. who was in charge of troops that did horrible things, he ended up publicly admitting to his crimes.
The next floor was about agent orange and the generations it has affected. Shocking pictures of deformed people was the majority of it, though I was a bit disturbed by the liquid preserved fetuses deformed in birth. So that was it for me! I was dragging my heels by that stage, certain I could not take the next two floors, I left.
Next was the reunification palace. This is where the war ended by a north Vietnamese tank breaking through the gates of the palace, I can't help but feel it ended like a computer game (command and conquer perhaps) where if get into the main base of the enemy you win. I was with some other people from the hostel coming here with me. I had high hopes for this place, thinking that it being a place of command there would be alot of interesting facts on the descision making in times of crisis such as the war buuutt no : / There was on the otherhand alot of rooms but I had no idea what they were for as there was no information signs. Here are some pictures of rooms...actually...check them out in the gallery if your keen. I'll not put them in just for the sake of it, but here is some outside pics (Oh by the way there is my travel bud at the moment, she's just in frame on the left, Mallory from Canada). For those that may go, take a free guide to walk you around which I heard makes it alot better. Once again I left after two levels but I thought that was all there was and waited for the others I had traveled here with, I waited for 40 minutes or so and still they did not come out so I assumed they had ditched me (Later I was to find out that it was me that ditched them, oops!) and moved on heading down the riverside to check out the rest of the city.
On the way, I go to the Notre Dame knock off and see what I'm missing in europe.. I'm not that impressed. The post office is opposite which is known for it's european architecture also.. I go in to try and get some information on sending a package, this is how the conversation goes.
Me - Hi, I was wondering if you might have a slip/form to fill out to mail a package?"
Information Lady - *Blank stare*
Me - "Is this a real post office?"
Information Lady - "Yes"
Me - "Can I have a slip to fill for a package?"
Information Lady - "No"
Me - "So you don't send mail here?"
Information Lady - *Blank stare* "No"
This kind of service I must say is quite a common occurance in Vietnam. I don't think they have yet perfected the customer service experience, most of the time you feel like your putting them out in some way and they don't hide it.
Moving on I head to the riverside passing through the Tham Market (pretty sure that's right)..
Along the river I find people netting fish that stay in the shade of the water lillies that crowd the rivers edge.
Travelling around I take random pictures but it may give you a feel for the place
It's quite normal to see a chicken clucking about, even in the city and people napping (can you spot him?) or a relaxing dog or a penguin bin...don't ask me..
Oh, this is the alleyway for my hostel
Amongst all this there is an awesome building that looms above with a crazy looking helipad
Ok, So there is more to tell but I'm gonna break it up a bit. The Mekong Delta and war tunnels to come, then to Mui Ne and Nha Trang. Currently I am in Han Noi deciding on whether I should get some pimped out silk robes made...I'm thinking red and black with gold dragons! Bringing sexy back! haha