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Vietnam - Saigon (mopeds and even more mopeds)

Written on: Tuesday April 7th, 2009

At around 9 o'clock in the evening our train pulled in. The 12 hour journey had been full of diverse sights from the window from golden rice paddies, the sea, shanty towns made completely from corrugated iron, and finally being able to peer into peoples houses at the waving locals for the final few kilometres.

Surprisingly it had been a freeeezing journey as the air con in our cabin was broken full on. We put jumpers, scarves and socks on and it was well over 30°C outside. Someone had obviously attempted to sellotape it up, but that had all come unstuck, and was just blowing about. We opened the window to let some warm air in but kept getting told off by conductor even though it was only affecting our cabin.

When we arrived we couldn't find the address of the guesthouse we had been recommended anywhere, so had to settle for a cheap hotel at the same price. Turns out we ended up in a great part of District 1 anyway as when we woke in the morning we were right in the middle of a morning market selling fruits, vegetables, fish and breakfasts (french bread roll sandwiches- French influence, or steamed dumplings- Chinese influence). At midday everything was clear except for one stall which sells soup, and then in the evening the whole place comes alive again with loads of different street foods for dinner.

We thought Ha Noi was full of mopeds. There are around three times as many in Saigon and dodging them in Ha Noi is a doddle compared to Saigon.

Sitting on the corner of a pavement watching their everyday life was so interesting. We could sit for hours just watching the bicycles, mopeds and cyclos go by with ladies in pyjamas, children being fed, three on a bike with two on the pedals etc. And while we were watching all this being approached by local masseurs, shoe cleaners, tissue sellers making sure you see their unbelievably cute child with them, young children selling all kinds of stuff, or begging. I had a conversation with a little four year old boy who was already bilingual because his mother sends him out selling chewing gum in the evenings. And these children are also crossing these absolutely manic roads. It was the first time in a long time we'd seen women with makeup on. Previously in Vietnam, if someone had makeup on, it was usually a ladyboy! 

We went to the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi tunnels to get a feel for how things must have been during the American War. Both were pretty harrowing, the photographs from fallen photographers from all sides at the museum and the conditions in which the locals lived at the Cu Chi tunnels were an eye opener, with some horrific booby traps designed by the Vietnamese. You get a chance at Cu Chi, which is 70km outside of Saigon, to actually go through one of the tunnels which has been slightly enlarged to fit Westerners, but you still have to crawl. The Vietnamese who built and used it not only were quite short (as they all are in comparison) but also many were malnourished and therefore skinny enough to fit through doors 20cm by 40cm, and passages 40cm by 60cm! Jon went down, but I got totally claustrophobic and had to escape before even entering (luckily before, because of the width if you're in there already you've not much choice but to carry on as there are people already coming in from behind).

We set off towards Cambodia, first by bus, then boat on the Mekong delta.

N.

(ViVi Hotel)