Published: January 8th 2011January 7th 2011
Two and a half weeks, 18 days, 432 hrs, however you write it, these past few weeks have flown by. I came to Vietnam buoyed by tales of a country abound with friendliness and charm. I found nothing less.
Melissa had left a few days ago and I had some time before I flew out to Phuket to meet her. I had two choices, either stay in Saigon and meet up with Mike who I'd met in Hanoi or head North again to see some of the country we had bypassed. I opted to stay put, and it proved the right choice.
Mike arrived early the next morning and we wasted no time in exploring the city. We headed to Ben Thanh Market and spent some time buying some delicious weasel coffee and watching the market move around us. If you come to Vietnam, then as with most Asian countries bartering is essential. The key i've found isn't in the tactical negotiations, its all in the smile. Keep smiling, keep the banter light hearted and you'll eventually get the price you want. Just remember that they will probably try and sell you a cheaper alternative. Same, Same, but different!
Both of us fancied a night out on the town and we'd picked up a flyer which promised jugs of spirits for $2. It sounded too good to be true... and it was. We got to the bar only to be told it was now tomorrow nights offer. So we headed off in search of somewhere else and came across the Thi Cafe. A fantastic little oasis tucked between the larger bars, which offered live music and great drinks. So we settled in and were lucky to meet the Angi the owner, who joked with us that she was actually the cleaner. She told us that if we'd brought our girlfriends the night before, they would have got free drinks all night. We asked her when the men get free drinks and she said if we come dressed as girls tomorrow night then we could drink for free all night! Special!
The next day we headed out to the Mekong delta on an organised tour. It was okay, especially as we only paid $7 for the day. We headed through the water ways on the rickety wooden boats. I was convinced we might actually collapse at one
point! We got to see another part of Vietnam and witness several of the local industries in action.
When we got back we headed to Ben Thanh market to pick up our outfits for the night. We didn't want to spend too much as it would have been pointless to spend more than the drinks would have cost us to buy. In the end we opted for a couple of colourful dresses. I picked hello kitty!! Buying them proved a little tricky a) because trying on a dress in the middle of a crowded market attracts plenty of attention and b) none of the stall owners seemed to grasp the idea that we actually wanted to wear them ourselves. So the conversations went something like this:
Us: "We want to buy two dresses"
Stall Owner: "Ok were you looking for?"
Us: "Something cheap"
Stall Owner: "You no want beautiful dress for your lady?"
Us: "Actually they're for us!"
Stall Owner: "Yes, what size is she?"
Us: "No we are going to wear them, do you have our size?"
Stall Owner: "You wear them?""
Us: "Yes, we get free drinks!"
Stall Owner: "We no sell drinks..."
escaped alive from our admirers and headed back to the hotel to get changed. Both of us questioned the sanity of our bet more than once and the two Dutch girls next door must have thought the English had (finally) gone mad! They offered to escort us to the bar, but scared that would attract more attention we headed out alone only to be greeted by a hail of camera flashes and wolf whistles!
We got to the bar and were greeted by Angi to a round of applause. Luckily Angi had explained to a few of the regulars what the hell we were doing, so everyone knew we were a completely mad!! After one to many cocktails, I decided to head out into the street and drum up some business. I got loads of funny reactions, but everyone took it in good humour and I managed to convince a few people into the bar. Then Angi suggested that it would be funny for me to ride the cycle they had down the road. So off I went, once round the block on my own and then with one of the bar girls on the back. By this time
I'd decided I was pregnant and had stuffed a pillow up the front of my dress. So with cries of "Milk for the baby" we set off to get some more custom. Everyone thought it was hilarious and even the old ladies manning their food stalls waived and smiled at us.
Mike and I had offers from other bar owners to come to their joints and get more free drinks. I think we could have spent the week touring as a double act! By about 5am we were completely wasted and hungry, so Angi ordered us some street food of fresh shell fish. Outside one of the local police officers was hanging around curious why there were two ugly girls still in a bar which was meant to close at 2am. True to her word, we never paid for a single drink all night, even the food we ordered. It had been a great night. Angi had been a fantastic host and a good sport.
The next day I met up with her as she had offered to take me around Saigon to some locations where I could get some great shots of the city. So we grabbed
Mike and Angi
Close your legs Mike :)
a cab and headed out to district 8 in time for the sun to set over the river. I could have sat there for hours grabbing shots of the hustle and bustle going on around us.
So tomorrow I'm off back to Phuket, Thailand. A little earlier than I'd originally planned and I'll be sad to leave Vietnam. Its been a fantastic place and in terms of the people, I don't think i will find a finer country. I would have loved to spend more time here, but I have something much more precious to see tomorrow and with that in my dreams I will say good night Vietnam.
There are more photos below