Published: November 12th 2009October 2nd 2009 Video Playlist:
Well, as usual, I've waited much too long to update the ol' blog. But moving along, last month I took a weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with new-ish good friend, Malcolm. Malcolm is here from England teaching English with his girlfriend, Louise, who happened to be off on a girls' trip to Hong Kong, so Mal and I planned a boys weekend. It also happened to be Mal's birthday, an extra cause for celebration. I was fortunate to have Mal with me, since he and Lu have been traveling the world together for a couple of years now so he is used to dealing with foreign places. (Strangely, I no longer consider Korea "foreign".)
We went with no set plans. Mal and I like to travel the same way, luckily, just "rolling with it". My mother would have freaked, but I thought it was great. When we arrived we headed to the "backpacker district" of Ho Chi Minh. It was littered with tiny little hotels, restaurants, bars, and other tourists. We had no prior hotel bookings or anything, we just wandered around searching for a good hotel. The first night we got "robbed" by our hotel: $40 USD
for both of us for a night. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, the rest of the trip the average rate was about $10 for both of us, so we got hosed a bit. No biggie. As expected, everything was really cheap there. Meals and beers were always less than a dollar, unless you went to a "touristy" bar (although we did spend one night at an expensive place to celebrate Mal's bday). The food was awesome. Usually very simple, like stir fries and noodle bowls, etc, but the seafood was beautiful and whatever spices they were using suited me just fine.
I can't really describe what we did for sightseeing in Vietnam. It's not a place where you would tell a friend to go see "this, this and that". The best way to spend the time is to just wander and explore, taking in the culture. It was similar to China, I thought, with a different language and maybe a *few* less people (although it was still super busy). And believe it or not, the traffic was probably even crazier than China. The majority of the city gets around on little 100cc scooters, and it's a hell of a
sight when you see one of the traffic circles fill up with those things. You can use the scooters as taxis, too. Mal and I ofter jumped on the back of a couple of them to get around, it was a blast (even if a bit dangerous). Crossing the street was ridiculous! It was like playing that old video game "Frogger". There usually weren't any lights, and the cars don't stop, so you just have to inch out on the road a bit at a time and the traffic just parts around you until you're on the other side. Scooters aren't that intimidating, but when a city bus is brushing past your toes, you're definitely paying close attention!
After a day or two of Ho Chi Minh, we took a ferry south to the coast. We rented a couple of scooters and just drove along the coast to wherever we felt like. It was good to get out of the busy city. We saw a few beaches, as well as some smaller communities. We got lost for a bit in this one area, and every time we stopped to discuss where to go next, there would be local kids
Hey dad, are these cable to spec?? :P
going nuts because they had probably never seen a white person before. Around there, "hello" was the extent of the English language, and sometimes that was a stretch. My scooter ran out of gas (duh) nearby a small community, so I waited there while Mal went to find me some gas. Although I was nervous at first for being alone in a strange town, I eventually settled down once I saw what people were doing. There were a dozen people watching an old movie under a tented restaurant (which I was promptly invited to), people having dinner, selling vegetables, just normal everyday stuff. A few guys tried to come help me with my bike, but there was ZERO communication. Very nice people, however. Mal had next to no trouble finding gas, they sold it to him in an old plastic container like you'd probably find bleach in. Then we were on our way to find a beach hotel to stay in for the night and just hung out on the sand. That was fun too, there were loads of young people hanging out, driving motorbikes along the beach, doing whatever.
We headed back to the city the next morning
in preparation to grab our flight home. We had time to stop at the war museum there, which was super depressing. There were lots of old American planes, tanks, and artillery set up on display. There were many old photos. Probably the saddest thing for me was the evidence of the agent orange chemical attacks. The chemicals mutated people genetically, so even now there are many children being born with genetic defects and mutations. They even had some real deformed fetuses on display in formaldehyde. The whole museum was quite biased and anti-American. In hindsight, I saw many people on the streets that had been affected by the war, usually begging.
All in all, it was an awesome trip. I don't have anything else in my upcoming travel plans besides Christmas, so I'll hopefully see you all at home!
There are more photos below