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Published: August 6th 2007
A huge part of the day is spent just waiting for business. We didn't give this guy any!
We flew to Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, from Danang (30mins from Hoi An)
It seemed funny sitting in an airport in Vietnam with Lord of the Rings playing on a big screen in the waiting room, belgian and swiss chocolate being sold in the snack shops and signs saying “we use New Zealand butter and Ice Cream” in the restaurants. Then there are the menus at cafes, which advertise lots of Western food along with pages dedicated to Bird, Snake & Frog. The place we’re at now sells 'rooted pigeon' and 'grilled pork cartilage.' Sour fish soup, boiled spinach, rabbit fillets & snake wine are also on the menu. Needless to say, we’ve only been ordering fresh fruit juices.
Saigon is huge (over 12 million) & the traffic here is even crazier than in Hanoi! Taxi drivers either charge you four times as much as what “normal price” should be or they use a taxi meter, often one that doesn’t work properly so you still end up paying more…there are even taxis where they can increase the price on the meter by pressing buttons on their steering wheels…& even if they use a working taxi meter,
War remnants museum
The museum was amazing, but sobering. There were lots of pictures taken by photographers of all nationalities - many of whom were killed in the war. The images were so disturbing I had nightmares that night & leapt out of bed calling for help! (I can't remember it but Janine told me)
they’ll just take you the long long long way to make more money (on the way back from a train station last week they set off in the complete opposite direction, so we just sat back & laughed, then only paid one third of what they wanted at the end) I thought one guy we met from the UK put it very well. He said that there are four prices in Vietnam (& most asian countries). First there’s the tourist price which is around 4 times too much. Then there’s the “tourist can speak a little Vietnamese” price. Then there’s the “foreigner who lives in Vietnam & speaks fluent Vietnamese” price. And lastly; there’s the “Vietnamese price” - in other words, the normal price. He said it was the same in Thailand. He used to live in Bangkok with his Thai girlfriend, & even after living there for years & being able to speak Thai fluently, he could never get the “local price” & his girlfriend wouldn't shop with him because she'd always be charged more!
There are hardly any policemen around, & when there are, they don’t seem to make much effort to reinforce the law. Most of
Many of the cyclo men in Saigon used to be doctors, teachers etc. before the war but were stripped of their rights for supporting the Americans & could no longer work in their profession or own land or houses. Most never married. You can see them sleeping on street corners in their cyclos.
them are stuck at busy intersections trying to make the traffic run smoothly. On the way back to the airport we waited 30 minutes (no exaggeration) inside a taxi at an intersection - waiting for a policeman to make a gap in the constant line of scooters buzzing past. The pace of life here never slows down, & will gobble up anyone who doesn’t keep up with it. I’ve almost been hit by scooters every time I’ve left the hotel. Sometimes you wonder how it’s possible to have so many close calls but always come away fine. Having said that, the road death toll is one of the highest in the world here. There are no real road laws - the basic rule of thumb seems to be ‘beep your way through the traffic and dodge people crossing the road when you see them’. Green lights are ignored & if you waited for a clean break in the traffic to cross the road, you’d be waiting all day. You need to just step out into the road & wait while people dodge you, then walk a bit more & wait, until you get to the other side.
place you can have some peace & quiet in Saigon is at your hotel or guesthouse. Even while you’re in restaurants eating dinner you get hassled. Locals come in trying to sell you things. You can see 3 or 4 year old children walking around the streets late at night trying to sell things - they’ve got the cute puppy-dog eyes down to a T and rely on tourists to feel sorry for them. Teenagers walk around with big stacks of books; saying “you want to buy book?” & when you say “no” they reply “marijuana?” softly. Others just come straight out & say “you want to buy hash?” or “marijuana?”. People constantly try to sell you prostitutes, marijuana, cyclo rides, motorbike rides, massages, food, postcards, photocopied lonely planet books & everything else under the sun. Sometimes when you say no they leave you alone. And sometimes they follow you down the road for another 20 minutes.
We've left Saigon & are now relaxing on the beach in Thailand. I'll put some pics on soon.
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