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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City
November 21st 2010
Published: May 21st 2013
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21st - 26th Nov: The bus from Mui Ne dropped me in the backpacker ghetto of De Tham street, around seven in the evening. There were the usual touts about. I asked one which direction I needed to go in, and he wouldn't tell me the bastard. Either he was bring a dick coz I wouldn't stay at his hotel or he was illiterate and could'nt read the street names in my guidebook. Anyway I managed to get myself headed in the right direction. Headed to find one of the two hostels that I had looked up online. Found one of them and Nick was sitting ther eon one of the computers. I got checked in and lugged all my stuff up to the 5th floor. It was a bugger, as it wasn't just straight up, but there were lots of walking along random corridors. I went out for some dinner and then came back and spent the night drinking and chatting with Nick.

I ended up spending about a week in Saigon. I went on a day trip to Cao Dai temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels. I alos got my visa extended. It was expensive $55 but that was for the express service. I handed my passport to Hanh one day and got it back with my visa extended for another month, the next day. The actual cost for the extension was only $10, and the service normally takes a week, but the extra $45 obviously greased a few palms into getting it back quicker. Gotta love a bit of bribery! Most of my days were spent chilling out. Reading in cafes, wandering about, and then meeting up with the others in the evenings for dinner and drinks. We had a great time enjoying the backpacker area, with lots of drinking!

One day I did the city day tour. I'm too lazy to do it all by myself, so I booked on the tour, so I could see the main sights, and then I could always go back to any I wanted to spend longer at, which I did. Our first stop on the tour was, I think, the War Remenants Museum. We had about an hour, maybe a bit less here, but it wasn't enough time. You need a good few hours to read and absorb everything. I had a quick look at the exhibitions trying to cover all the floors, andlooked at the planes and tanks in front of the museum. I also had a quick look around the 'tiger cages', where political prisoners were held.

Chinatown and Thien Hau temple were our next stops. The temple was quite small, with an inner courtyard and pretty. The temple is dedicated to Thien Hau, who is the Lady of the Sea, and worshipped by seafaring Chinese comunities. After some time in the temple, we headed over to Ben Thanh Market. The marketplace is huge, and is situated in the downtown area of District 1. It is seen as one of the symbols of Ho Chi Minh City. The French colonial powers established the market, formally, after taking contol of Gia Dinh citadel in 1859. This original market was destroyed by fire in 1870and then rebuilt to become the largest market in Saigon. It moved to a new building in 1912 and was named the New Ben Thanh Maret, so it wouldn't get confused with its predecessor. The market was huge and very crowded with people and merchandise. You could probably find anything you wanted in there. Since I didn't want to do any shopping, I had a quick look around and then retreated to the courtyard at the back of the building, i sat there soaking up the sun for a bit until it was time to return to the bus.

We had about an hour's break for lunch. We were dropped in the backpacker area and left to our own devices. I had met two really funny English blokes in their sixties and they invited me to join them for lunch. There lunc hwas included in th tour, and the guide was a bit arsey about me joining them, saying I would have to pay, which was fine, and that I should go and eat some where cheaper. It was only $5, and the food was delicious, we were given three huge main dishes with plenty of rice and fruit for dessert.

Back on the bus we headed to the Reunification Palace. Workers began building the palace in 1962 and it was completed in 1966. It was the former presidential palace and was the home amd workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. An iconic image of the palace is when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through the palace's gates during the Fall of Saigon on the 30th of April, 1975. We had plenty of time to wander around the palace. It was cool in all its 1960s grandeur. I loved the living room with its own cool barrel shaped bar. I wandered up to the roof and saw the nice views onto the grounds. I also went down to the basement, which was used as the war rooms during the Vietnam War. Very interesting and slightly eerie. Then it was time for a cold drink in the shade.

Our last stop on the tour was Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. The cathedral was built by the French and completed in 1880. The church was pretty to look at. We also stopped in at the post office, I don't know why this is included on the tour. But it's very big. There is a gorgeous old school map of South East Asia painted on the wall. Love it! Also Uncle Ho's porttrait is high up on the wall looking down over everyone.

29th Nov - 1st Dec: I was shattered when I arrived back from the Mekong Delta. I had a quick lie down before showering and heading out to meet up with Tom, Mandy, and Nick. We ended up going to a really nice restaurant for dinner, proper posh, not what I'm used to being a backpacker and then had a few cocktails at a posh bar next door. It was lovely and a nice chage. Later we headed back to the backpacker ghetto and had a few beers there. We said our goodbyes as I would be heading to Dalat in two days time, a nd the otheres were all heading off to different countries around the globe. The next day I didn't do much. I read, wandered the streets, and drank lots of coffee. Then it was an early start for Dalat.

5th - 7th Dec: Arrived back from Dalat in the evening, it was kind of sad going back to the hostel, knowing all the others had left Saigon. Had a bit of a chill the next day, and went back to the War Remnants Museum, as I didn't have long enough there when I went on the day tour. I spent a good few hours there, reading all the literature, and looking at the pictures and exhibits. It's a huge propaganda show, but still very interesting. I alos got my travel sorted for ging down to Phu Quoc. I could of taken a flight from Saigon, I think it would of only taken an hour. But as I was in no rush I decided to take the overnight bus and then the ferry. Well it'll be a bit more of an adventure.

17th Dec: Arrived back in Saigon around 5 or 6 after the boring bus ride. Hanh had a bed waiting at the hostel for me, but the room wasn't ready yet. So I went for some dinner. Ceasar salad and Bruschetta, dead Vietnamese I know. Came back to the hostel and booked a flight for the next day to Bangkok. My Asian adventure was coming to an end. I was pretty tired so headed to bed quite early.

18th Dec: A lazy day today. My flight wasn't until about five or six in the evening. Lazed around the hostel and got a moto to the airport. Hanh was laughing when I asked for a moto and she asled why not a taxi, and I said because I didn't have enough money left for a taxi. Anyway it was the canny bloke, who was the security guard at the hostel, who took me to the airport. Funny, he couldn't drive all the way up to the airport as he would have to pay some entrance fee, so he dropped me at the start of the ramp, and I had to lug my bag up the ramp to the arrivals section.

Check-in was easy and my bag was well underweight. Shame I can't say the same about me. Although the wife at the check-in desk did say something I didn't understand, got her to repeat it, still didn't have a clue, so just ignored it and went to immigration to be stamped out of Vietnam. I joined a random queue that was quite short, butthe bloke at the desk was taking an age. The people in front of me left to join another queue. This meant I could see what was happening at the desk. It was hilarious! The immigration guy obviously didn't want the bloke to leave Vietnam for whatever reason, however this bloke was adamant that he was leaving. So anyway, the bloke with no subtlety what so ever got his wallet out and a big wad of Vietnamese Dong, he proceeded to put a few bills in the passport and then handed his passport over to the immigration guy. Well the immigration guy kind of laughed at him, and gave him his passport, with the money still in it back. Well this didn't out the fella off, instead he put the rest of the wad of money in the passport and handed it back to the official. This time the official accepted it, and the guy was stamped out of Vietnam!

The flight to Bangkok was about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. The queues at immigration were huge, but got chatting to a nice Canadian bloke so that passed the time. After getting stamped into Thailand, and getting major hassle because I hadn't filled out where I was staying, because I don't know, the bloke made me write Khao San Road, but really it's not lie I even hada hotel name on there. Don't know why they are so anal. I got on the airport bus to the Khao San Road area. When the bus arrived at the stop, I just got a room at the hotel right next to the stop. It was a rip-of fprice wise, but I couldn't be arsed to lug my bags anywhere.

Got checked in and then went for a mooch down Khao San Road and had a Burger King for my tea. Dead authentic Thai food right? Then got a couple of cans and headed back to the hotel to chill out in front of the tv.

19th Dec: I didn't have a great night's sleep as there was loads of music playing from the bars and clubs surrounding the hotel. Got showered and went for breakfast, was canny nice. Checked out of the room at the last possible second. I had the whole day to kill, but didn't really want to do anything. I think in my head my trip had finished when I left Vietnam, and I didn't really want to see or do anything in Bangkok. I spent most of the day mooching around, drinking coffee, using the internet, wandering Khao San and the surrounding sois. Bangkok is expensive. I wanted to buy a book for the plane, but the books were a rip-off, they were photocopies, and were close in price to the original retail prices in England.

So after pottering about the whole, ate a subway for lunch, and had a gorgeous chicken kebab at an Israeli restaurant for dinner, I went back tothe hotel to pick up my bags and headed to the airport. Got changed, put me slap on, and binned some clothes and other bits of crap. Got checked in and then went to immigration. The queue at immigration was horrendous. I must of waited for well over an hour. In fact I started to queue on the 19th, but by the time it was my turn to get seen, it had turned midnight. So I was stamped out on the 20th.

20th Dec: Spent most of my time inthe smoking room. There were lots of people heading back to Europe for Christmas. There had been a tonne of snow in Europe and lots of airports were closed. Schipol wasn't open when we boarded our flight. However twelve hours is a long time. I noticed one of our pilots in the smoking room, he was keeping his mouth well and truly closed, about possible delays and having to land elsewhere.

The flight was boring, and I was hungry for a bit of it, as the evening meal was crap, and when I asked for a snack later on I was told to wait for breakfast as it would be served in an hour. Charming! I was bloody starving, it's not like I was asking for something just for the fun of it. Bitch hostess.

Anyway we landed in Amsterdam, and it was carnage. Loads of UK airports were still shut, so they were trying to move people around onto different flight. Luckily my flight was unaffected, and I made it home pretty much on time, minus my backpack. But that followed me the next day.


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