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Brian Thom’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

MapSo we hopped into our baby carriages in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon before American hippies across American campuses in the 70's rallied to force the American withdrawal of forces... subsequently abandoning the southern Vietnamese and creating a situation for which the North would take over the country and pursue a name change of the major southern city... woo! long bracket story).

Our bus ride from Nha Trang was, you guessed it, terrible. I give it an F-. It took 11 hours to drive approximately 300 kilometers. I've bitched often on here about the busing situation, and believe me, you will read more because Andrew and I just determined that we are unable to purchase flights from Ho Chi Minh to Vientienne (Laos) because it is out of our price range. Instead we discovered we will need to take a bus, and by doing so travel through Cambodia, then to Laos on our way back to Thailand. We need to get back to Thailand sooner rather than later (like 10 days-ish) so I am assuming there will be lots of time spent on a bus. I also heard from a girl from Montana that the buses in Laos and Cambodia are much much worse than those in Vietnam and as she described them to me stated that there was sometimes motorcycles in the aisles and 'have fun'. Sweet.

ANYways so we made it to Ho Chi Minh and its a pretty gigantic place. Home to about 10 million people (in greater Saigon) and of course about 4 million motorcycles, it is similar to Hanoi in terms of craziness. It definitely has way more lights, more American companies, serves more American foods, more people seem to know English... I would think it's more western. We arrived yesterday and got led by a Vietnamese guy down some sketchy alley (that's where all the hotels seem to be unless you wanna pay over $30/night). Also as per usual, we were led up a tall staircase to the top floor. This is because they are simply just 'showing' the room off and that by the time you walk up 4 or 5 levels and carrying all your crap you will be too tired to say no and mosey on away. By the time we get to the top, the drill is... screw it we'll stay for now. But we usually stay the whole time... and for the price the quality is pretty good I must say- air conditioning, television, hot water (sometimes but it doesn't matter too much).

Today we got up and grabbed some food. We decided to walk around and check out the city when a local vendor approached us and offered to bike us around in his ridiculous contraption. This thing is 110% ridiculous. It is a bicycle fastened behind a two wheel baby carriage...thing... so the Vietnamese guy (who affirms he is poor and we need to help him) rides the bike and you sit in the front, in the baby carriage. Like a prince. Or something like that. It makes you feel like an idiot, and really, you probably are, but Andrew and I agreed to do it anyway. It was supposed to be a city tour, and we started out at a couple of pagodas. A pagoda (I think...?) is a Buddhist temple, where people come to pray. We were in shorts, and I mentioned to Andrew that hmmm... nobody else seems to be walking in with shorts... are we sure we should go in? But our guide confirmed... yes yes of course you can! So in we went, and watched people pray and saw the amazing detailed carvings all over the place. The incense (sp?) candles started to get to us by the second pagoda so we left to a massive 'market' (shopping mall). This was also interesting because it was filled with people and the hallways where you walk were about 1 person wide. Andrew and I were the ONLY tourist lookin' folks in the joint which led me to believe that theft could have been a concern. Fortunately it wasn't. The mall held clothing mostly, and enough clothes to give every damn person in southeast asia some cover (exaggeration... butthe most clothes I've ever seen at one spot).

We ended up back at our hotel after some more baby carriaging. Traffic on the way back had picked up, and when we made a turn down a major street, you can try to picture a Vietnamese guy riding this contraption across 3 or 4 lanes of motorbikes all weaving around (damn near into) us. There of course were some close calls, that's the norm around these parts, but luckily we were with professionals. Anyways this is getting mighty lengthy, I think I should wrap it up. Will post later on when I know what we are doing or where we are going (90% Phnom Penh, Cambodia).