Nha Trang and Saigon ( Ho Chi Minh City)

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December 24th 2017
Published: December 24th 2017
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Nha Trang and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

After another bumpier overnight train (no late night party drinking this time)we arrived at the coastal town of Nha Trang. Duc had said Nha Trang is full of Russian tourists and he wasn't wrong. Shops and tourist agencies had Russian translations on everything, there were even Russian tour agencies. As we got there early in the morning we went for coffee at Cong Caphe (which was communist themed) which was delicious and had croissants from the bakery next door. Afterward a group of us took a taxi to the Po Nahar temple which is a temple of the Cham people, an ethnic minority in Vietnam. This sandstone series of temples is inspired by Hinduism and has reliefs of different gods. It was interesting to see, as well as the live music and dance performances (dancers weren't overly enthusiastic) but it was tourist central. Afterward, most of us opted to walk back with Bill's directions which took us along the beach. And it was very very windy!! Almost as if a storm was coming but it didn't. We took a brief stop at the local shopping centre for a look at the department store and a light lunch. This is where I imagine the plethora of Russian and Chinese tourist shop! After going to the hotel and checking in, we just relaxed at the hotel for a few hours for dinner. I did take a brief walk around the street to buy souvenirs. Nha Trang definitely reminds me of Pattaya in Thailand. Full of tourists and tourist money, no real ‘cultural feel' to the place. As we went down to meet everyone for dinner, a older drunk Russian guy got into the lift with us and pointed at his Vladimir Putin T-Shirt saying ‘Russia Russia Putin'. Oh dear! There was kinda a seedy feel to the hotel and our shower didn’t even work properly! We had dinner and drinks, and afterward we went for a walk to the night market and then Duc took the group to find a nice bar to sit and have a few drinks. We finally settled on the Why Not bar for cocktails (some of the boys got cocktails in coconuts) and shisha! I only had a few puffs 😉 Then half of us called it a night while the party animals kept partying.

The next morning I went with Tina, Tanya (the Canadian sisters), Celine (Swiss) and Andy (South Africa) for a massage from blind people. It was a really good massage – us girls where in one room and Andy in another. The blind masseuse was really good, and a fantastic initiative to help them with employment. After going back and packing up my bags and checking out, me and Celine went for lunch and a long walk back to the shopping centre. On the way we saw some tourists (most likely Russians) have an accident on their scooter! But they weren't injured. As the other half of the group went to see Star wars, we had some time to kill so we got a fish spa massage (tiny fish in a tank eat the dead skin off your feet!) Ticklish and exfoliating, it really does feel like a spa for your feet! We also did a tiny bit of shopping- not as much as the Chinese tourists that we saw though. Crocodile skin seemed to be popular there with crocodile handbags and crocodile skin everywhere. There was a handbag we saw for 24 million dong – 1000€!! So the Star Wars fans came put (not a fan myself never seen any of the movies) then a couple more went it to see it. A few of us walked back to the hotel and had a walk the though the night market which was starting to open. After we met my dad at the hotel ( he just went walking around to take photos all day) our gang of 4 went for coffee and then reconvened with the group again for dinner at a funky burger pub with craft beer! Me and Bill were having a dry day so no beer for us  But they had a great concept store and I bought a print and magnet, and Bill got a Saigon inspired card game of monopoly. The store also had the cutest dog lazing around on the counter! So a walk back to the hotel, and a quick drive to Nha Trang station we were ready to board the last Reunification Express train to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)!

It was a hellish kind of ride, much bumpier and shakier than the last two and the air con wasn't working!! Mark got a few of the windows open but the lady in charge kept closing them – eventually he got them open again. Me and Bill stayed up playing a few hands of Monopoly cards (he won all hands boo!) Then young Devlin gate crashed and started playing and then HE won a game! Eventually, I won a game (yessss!!) But we then tried to forcibly remove Dev from our room (he reminds us so much of Bill's brother in looks and personality, just a younger South African version!) So then to get about 4 hours sleep would be hard – and after lying there all sweaty the aircon came on blasting and it was freezing 10 or so degrees all night! So bizarre, an experience but yes the worst of the 3 overnight trains!

At 4.30am we arrived in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city). Saigon was the former name before the war and Duc told us most people refer to it still as Saigon particularly those frim the north such as Hanoi. Its a massive city of 13 million people a 9 million scooters – 20% if the country's GDP along comes from Saigon. We all had signed up go on an Urban Adventures (Intrepid’s day trips) to either the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi tunnels. 7 us wen to the Cu Chi tunnels including Bill and my dad. As we arrived to the hotel at 5am ( still dark but partygoers still out at the bars in the street drinking beer!) We had only 3 dayrooms available so a quickly shower and a nap we were off to our various day excursions). We had to catch a cab to the general post office to meet our day tour (there were 3 other people from another trip joining us). We were desperate for coffee and got takeaway Maccas (I know right!) It only took around 2 hours to get there and along he way we stopped at a nearby village to watch a lady make traditional rice paper which was made similarly to the rice noodles by cooking the rice flour mixture but then rolling it and laying it to try on weaved bamboo drying tray (which is now we discover how the rice paper gets imprinted design!) We also saw her pig who gave birth 2 days ago. As the owner and Andy were feeding it starfruit and rice paper, the little piglets ran out and started feeding off the mum! So onward to Cu Chi tunnels. Built as a network of tunnels during the Vietnam war, the Cu Chi tunnels are about 250km long having several layers and alleyways. The tunnels had places dining, living, cooking, making weapons and fighting. We started off watching a short documentary about the war and the Cu Chi tunnels, and then we took a walk to see various camouflaged openings into the tunnels (both Mark, who is also from Australia, and I took turns getting in and posing for photos) as well as innovative booby-traps catch and/or kill American soldiers. Made out of bamboo and steel, most involved the victim stepping in it and getting impaled. There was even a door one when they open the door it drops in front of them with the spikes and when they kick it away a second layer comes at their lower body! Break time and people could go to the very LOUD shooting rage and shoot 10 rounds of an AK-47 which Mark did of course. We then walked and crawled in a tunnel system. 100 metres long, it got to as low as 60cm high in some parts. There were lots of exits along the way so my dad gave it a go for a bit but soon exited as it got quite squeezy for those with broader shoulders. Me, Bill and Mark completed it along another traveller. Then we had tea and steamed cassava – yum! Then it was time to head back to Saigon. I must say I learnt a lot – the USA really were the aggressors this unnecessary war and still to this day stick their nose in other countries affairs and create more conflict. You could really tell by the documentary it was very accusatory toward to US. Our guide told us the Cu Chi province was subject to Agent Orange – a powerful dioxin used in chemical warfare, its consequences including physical deformation is still present generations later. Thankfully the area recently got cleared of the chemical in the soil. Sadly, our guide told us a family of 6 recently got killed when they stepped on an unexploded land mine.

Back at the hotel, we checked in and had a shower and met my dad (and then the other 4) down the bar for drinks and dome food. The waitress was so excited to learn I was half Thai! Later we went for a walk down the road to a covered market – lots and lots of yummy foods and clothes! We saw Duc and chatted to him for awhile while I sampled his lunch! We then went to the underground market where there are clothes and a large foodcourt. Me and Bill each bought clothes! A brief stop and freshen up at the hotel we reconvened with the whole group (the other half that did the Mekong Delta didn't get back until after 4pm). We had nice last supper as this part of the tour Vietnam – was finishing. Sadly, Matt, Mark and South African Andy and Devlin won't be joining us in Cambodia. We all gave a combined tip for Duc, so passing around the card and writing in it was difficult as he was right there! Tina gave a lively speech. Afterwards, we ventured back to our street (party street thousands if people reminds me if Kao San rd. or Patpong in Bangkok). They all had a drink then half if us headed back through the sea of people – a huge Range Rover monstrosity was trying to drive through and was a whisper of hair away from us. Insane!!

The next day half of us went to breakfast and to the war remnants museum – with our guide Bill we got there successfully on foot. The front of the museum was filled with helicopters’, planes and tanks from the war. There was also an exhibition of photos of prisoners and torture techniques used during the French rule. Inside the building was a mixture of exhibitions and shops. The first exhibition was propaganda posters and posters of solidarity from around the world for the people of Vietnam during the war and anti -USA. And rightly so!! The next floor were photographs of victims of Agent Orange and other chemicals. It was really heartbreaking to see all the deformities and unnecessary suffering at the hands of the USA. I quickly look around at the other exhibits and then were rounded up to walk back to the underground markets where we had lunch and saw Duc again! We headed back to the hotel to say farewell to Matt as he was flying home to the UK – a great witty and intelligent 21 year old, him and Bill got on great, he got on a great with everyone a real pity he's not continuing on to Cambodia. Afterward we set forth again by foot to the Saigon East West brewing company- owned by a guy from Portland. Same beer that was at the funky pup at Nha Trang. It was really good I gad a summer hefeweizen and 2 Saigon rose beers which were light. Tina, Tanya and Andy eventually found us and we spent a good part of the afternoon there relaxing.

We had to get back to the hotel to meet our new Cambodia Intrepid leader. A female leader this time which is fantastic (first female Intrepid leader I've had) different personality to Duc but very nice. Mark (who's not coming) gate crashed our dinner and then Andy and Devlin and Mark came to our dinner too. I wasn't feeling well as I was coming down with a cold. After dinner, we went back to the hotel, said goodbye to Mark and packed and went to bed. Well tried to as we were on party street!!


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