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Pomtie Tales Follow the adventures of a Pommie and a Soutie, travelling the world.

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

VIETNAM | Thursday, 11 September 2014 | Views [247]

Monday morning, 8 September, we woke up and were ready to go, bright and early. We headed off to the airport, and boarded our plane... Off we were for Vietnam.... Or so we thought. 

The flight was not the best we have ever had. Budget flights suck, and when it's a budget flight with two giants, and no TV in the back of the seats, and a big fatty in the adjacent seat, it makes for an uncomfortable ride. Even worse was that I had not accounted for travelling back in time (yeah I'm an idiot), so the 3-4 hour flight I thought we were embarking on was actually 6 hours. 

6 hours later, we arrived in Kualur Lampur for our connecting flight to Vietnam. Then came the sentence which knocked the wind from our sails: "Didn't they tell you in Incheon that the flight is cancelled?".... Nooooooooooooooooooooo! So after 4 hours waiting for our bags that got lost between non-existant connections, we were put in a taxi for an all-expenses paid night in a hotel. The airline did however manage to send us to the middle of nowhere, and with no way to exchange money, and surrounded by nothing but foot massage parlours advertised as physiotherapists (My bug bear - I am not a &*$#@^! masseuse) and creepy men who stared at my chest. But we were in KL... Does it count?? 

 

The next day we were back on our way to Vietnam, and arrived without incident (thank goodness) on Tuesday afternoon. Our hotel (Thien Vu Hotel) picked us up from the airport, and once we were all settled they advised us on a few nice restaurants around town. With our bellies full of Pho (Rice noodles, veggies and your choice of meat, in a yummy broth) and smoothies (I had banana&mango, Rob had Avocado {I know, right?? ~and it was quite yummy}). We passed out quite early and got ready for our sightseeing day.

 

On Wednesday we got up early and set out, armed with a faded google map of the area. Our hotel receptionist told us we should take a taxi, but we decided to walk the ~4km instead, so that we could see more. Along the way we stopped for lunch. We both got "Rice pancakes", thinking it was like the Korean "Pajeon" which are delicious and filling and MORE THAN sufficient as a main meal. Instead, we ended up with LITERALLY 2 pancakes rolled up, with a bit of filling. 4 bites and they were done, and we ended up leaving hungry. Trial and error, haha! 

We headed out towards the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. It is SO heavy-going. There are all of these photographs of victims of "Agent Orange", the Dioxin poison that was dumped on cities during the war. There are hundreds of children with no arms, legs, eyes, or ears, and kids with cerebral palsy and other deformations. I hadn't actually realised the extent of the ramifications of the chemical warfare. There were even children born as recently as 2008 showing signs of Dioxin contamination! I found myself wondering about volunteering opportunities in Vietnam. Who knows, I may end up doing some Physiotherapy in Vietnam in the not so distant future?..

I hadn't realised, but the tourist attractions close for lunch, so at 12 we were kicked out, and we headed for other nearby attractions. In hindsight, I am glad we had this break, because lord knows I was struggling. We headed over to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Nothing too fancy, and you can't go inside, but it's pretty and worth taking a picture of (it's so close to the museum, it would be a shame not to). We then headed across the street to the post office (I don't know why, but the receptionist recommended it). Turns out their post office is a huge souvenir store, with a couple of booths where you can actually post a letter. It's worth popping by. 

Next, we headed to Saigon Square. What a disappointment that was. Just modern shops and overpriced restaurants. We gave up pretty quickly, and headed back towards the War museum. On the way we found an awesome streetside food vendor. We ordered 2 of whatever she was making, and she brought out 2 baby stools and the tiniest table I have ever seen, and ran across the road to set up a place for us to eat our food on the sidewalk. It was DELICIOUS! noodles, veg, meat spring rolls and juicy meat. YUM!!!!!!! 

After lunch, we stopped off at the Reunification Palace. It was quite interesting, and cool to see everything, including the underground bunker for the president. 

Finally, we made it back to the War Museum to see the second half. After about 30 minutes though, we had had enough of seeing decapitated heads and deformed children. It is a pretty one-sided museum, but definitely a good one, even though it is mentally exhausting. We whizzed past the other pictures on the walls, and headed to the grounds, where there are tanks, aircraft and guns. Then a little room around the back caught my eye. Tiger cages for prisoners, which was literally coffin-sized barbed wire cages that the prisoners were kept in. What the hell. The POW were kept in TERRIBLE conditions. When I read about the torture methods, I actually felt physically sick. It was disgusting and deplorable. I don't really know how humans can do those sorts of things to each other.. No matter what war there is going on at the time! It was eye-opening, to say the least.

Feeling a bit deflated and depressed, we headed across town to a Bhuddist pagoda. It was prayer time, and it was quite calming. People were lighting incense, and praying, and there was a rhythmic ringing of a bell. It was quite relaxing. We sat for a while, and watched, before heading back to our hotel.

Dinner was an interesting experience. I had stir fried wild boar. It was in a yummy coconut milk sauce, with lots of veggies. It was REALLY fatty though, which was not the greatest, but the taste was amazing. Robin got a roasted pigeon. Yeah, A WHOLE PIGEON, beak and all! It was a little dry, but he enjoyed it. I found myself being put off by the thought of it, although I did try it. When I was in university, and any Witsies can attest to this, the pigeons are ferrel and fly for your head and all have half their toes missing and they are just SO gross! I guess Robin showed this one though! Haha!

 

On Thursday, we headed out for a tour of Cu Chi Tunnels. It was an experience. The people who lived in CuChi used this underground network of tunnels and burrows for their guerilla warfare against the USA. They would basically pop out of molehills out of nowhere and then shoot the soldiers, and then disappear down trap doors, leaving the US soldiers wondering what the heck happened. It was quite a feat of engineering, seeing their tunnels and air vents etc. They even bored their own water underground, in case the US dropped chemicals from above into their water supply. When we arrived we were taken to watch a video. It was crazy - it was anti-America propaganda, talking about how the soldier won awards like "American-killer hero". After the video, we saw a trap door, and were given a chance to climb in. Somehow Robin managed to fit??.... I'm not saying he is fat, but the hole was built for Viatnamese ~ it was tiny. We then saw a few other things, bunkers, uniforms and traps that were set, before being allowed into a tunnel. They had two different tunnels, one for Viatnamese people, and one for tourists, which they had made larger. Thank god we didn't have to try the original tunnels. The one we went through was miniscule. It was pitch black, and had us on our hands and knees. It didn't help that the guy in front of me was a Korean guy who seemed to think being trapped in a tunnel was a great time to take selfies, so I kept bumping into his bum. It was scary. Clautrophobia to the max. I don't know how those guys did absolutely everything down there. It makes me stress, just thinking about it!

That night we went to a restaurant on the street, and pointed at something in Viatnamese and were given a delicious bowl of noodles, veg, broth and seafood. The food has not disappointed us! It was not a bad way to end Ho Chi Minh. 

 

Robin and I didn't have the most amazing time in HCMC. The traffic was so crazy that at one point I started crying because I was too scared to cross the road. The part of town we were in was not very foreigner friendly, and we got laughed at a lot, even for eating with chopsticks, which I know we do well after 2.5 years in Korea. Honestly, I think we were still in Korea mindset and were missing our lifestyle and the ease of getting around with our Korean, and were thrown into Vietnam, with NO knowledge of Viatnamese, and no clue what to expect, and we were overwhelmed. We both agree that we wish we had a chance to go back again, because I think we would have enjoyed ourselves more. 

Tags: reunification palace, vietnam, war museum

 

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