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Published: October 12th 2010
4th - 6th October 2010 (Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City)
So... we landed in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh to you non-locals) at about 9:20pm local time. We exited the plane and walked into the customs area. Barely any security - just a normal metal detector thing and then we were outside. As soon as we stepped out of the doors of the airport, we were surrounded by taxi drivers. Being very naive and not really having a clue as to what to expect, we jumped in a cab with some crazy dude. It turns out we were over charged by an extortionate amount however it was our own fault for not being more alert to the system. As soon as we jumped in the cab, the driver started reversing the wrong way through the carpark until he found an exit. Then we hit the streets of Saigon... Oh my god we were not prepared at all! There were cars, buses and most of all, motorbikes going in every direction. Horns are tooted every couple of seconds to alert other drivers to either get out of the way or just to let them know that you're there. No one obeys
any road rules and it is chaos!
We arrived at our mini hotel (mini due to the narrow building) and were pretty happy with our accommodation. We left our things in the room and walked out onto the street. Luckily it was pretty late on a Monday night so the traffic wasn't too bad. We only had to cross one side road and thank god for that as it was a mission in itself. We made it to a bar for a Saigon Beer - local beer that cost us about a dollar for 450mL bottle. It tasted a little different to the beer at home and they started to go down ok. We realised that we needed to get out some cash from the ATM and so the trial of the cash passport began. Turns out there was nothing to worry about and we managed to withdraw 200,000 Vietnamese dong. After seeing all the zeros, it felt like a lot of money but it turns out we only withdrew $10! Anyway, that was enough for a few more beers and dinner for both of us. We didn't last too long in the party scene and went off to
bed to prepare for the next day.
We woke early the next morning and had dinner at the hotel's restaurant on the top floor. Beef noodle soup and chicken noodle soup were on the menu (pho ba and pho ga) and we thought that we'd better give it a go. They weren't too bad and were accompanined with ice coffee and hot coffee. We left the hotel and stepped out onto the street. We walked a few hundred metres before having to cross a major road. We stood on the side of the road for a few minutes until we watched a local older lady zip in and out of the traffic that was travelling in all directions. We thought that we'd give it a go and realised it wasn't as bad as it first looks! Our aim for the morning was to find the biggest street markets in Saigon - sounds easy enough so off we set with our dodgy little map. After a few hours of walking around completely lost, we accepted a ride from some cyclos who were determined to take us further than the Ben Tanh Markets and suggested that we go to the Saigon
markets instead. By this time, we were grateful to be sitting down so agreed. We arrived at the Saigon markets to be quite disappointed as they were so commercialised and contained within a two storey building. We jumped off the cyclos and had an argument about the price. We did some bad negotiating and got it down a little. After a stroll around the markets, we jumped into a taxi and went to the botanical gardens which doubles as the zoo. We were grateful for the peace and quiet and walked around for a while until we got up the confidence to face the streets again.
We managed to find where we were on our map and headed in the general direction of the markets that we had set out for first thing in the morning. We arrived at the markets and they were just what we had hoped for. There was fresh produce on display, ladies chopping up meat and descaling fish right onto the footpath. We walked around for a while and decided to have lunch - a Vietnamese pancake with shrimp and some rice paper rolls. We also ordered two beers that came out hot with
a glass of ice to pour into. We accepted the challenge and drank beer on ice - not the preferred way to drink but still ok after a long day!
We walked back to the hotel and had a quick shower to freshen up. Now for a spot of shopping! There were quite a few little shops in our street so we stuck to them and grabbed a few bargains. We stopped at a few bars which turned into many bars and had a few too many beers and other drinks. Chris made friends with a local girl who gave him her bracelet that she was wearing. He loved it and gave her a generous tip! After way too many drinks, we arrived back at the hotel and had to be up early the next morning for a plane trip to Phu Quoc Island (south of mainland Vietnam). Our first full day in Saigon was interesting - scarily crazy in the morning but excellent as the day went on!
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