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Published: September 26th 2008
Over Hoan Kiem Lake.
Happy anniversary! In Vietnam we commemorate 3 years on the road
and 50 countries
Everyone had told us that the traffic in Vietnam was crazy. From the border to Saigon you will take 3 hours for 100km! - They said. But as we have been in India before we wondered how much worse it could be. From the border to Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh) we did took 3 hours but the traffic was a surprise. Although it was ultra crowded with motorbikes (a continuous line of motorbikes every road), nobody respected traffic lights or road signs and there is a million accidents per hour, there where roads build specially for motorbikes and the traffic run slow but continuously. The fact that there is 90%!m(MISSING)otorbikes and very few other vehicles helps the traffic.
The most important thing we had to do in Saigon, was apply for the Chinese visa. We tried it in Laos and Cambodia without success. Because of the Olympics the general rule was "The embassies will only issue visas for locals and residents." Vietnam was our last chance of getting it. If we can't get it here, the last part of our trip is
The unmistakable Vietnamese hat is everywhere
It was hard work, it took us more than a week and many excursions to the embassy to arrange all the papers and wait for the visa.
During the time we were providing the papers, we searched for a motorbike to Fernando, but with little success. Claudio and Lili decided that would be better if they sold Tzarina and went the 3 of us by bus. Selling Tzarina wasn't as easy as all the websites told us it would be. None of the local stores were interested in Minsks and no one let us put up a little add for the bike in their shops. After days struggling to advertise the motorbike, one night we were sitting in a BiaHoi (places that they brew their own beer). Claudio by chance had his back turned to the street. Joking, Lili said that he should stick the bike advertise on his back. At least there, nobody could complain. Two beers later, a guy from Canada approached us to read the add and bought the bike.
From Saigon (Ho Chi Mihn City) we did a few day trips in order to understand a bit more about the Vietnam war.
We visited the war museum and drove to Cuchi where Vietcong dig miles and miles of tunnels, secret passages, underground meeting rooms, plus a big variety of traps. All used against the Americans during the war. Seeing the simplicity and creativity of this people is easy to understand why they weren't defeated, even with all the effort from the Americans.
Still waiting for the visa, we went south to the Mekong delta to visit the floating markets. The delta is a big network of small rivers and water canals, natural and man made too, witch fishermen and farmers use to transport and sell their goods. Like the locals, we jumped on a boat at 5:00am and went to the market. There, all kinds of groceries are sold and transfered direct from one boat to the other. To show what each one has for sale, samples of the goods are hung on a pole on top of the boats. We had a nice breakfast of bread and coffee bought from the little boats that approached us. It was so cool to see this kind of market, still going on the same way as ages ago.
The trip to the
The women do all the hard work
Delta we made by local bus. Although we had the chance to chill on the hammocks on the roadside restaurants (witch was great!)
, it proved to be quite expensive to travel like this due to overpricing. Drivers and touts were very skilled in riping people off and turned very aggressive, yelling at us when we tried to bring the price down to something reasonable. Because of this we decided, to the north, we would take the tourist bus. It's better to pay a bit more but know that the price is correct and avoid the stress of fighting for a decent price. As we did it, we were amazed how many locals had the same thinking. The tourist buses, with fixed prices, much more comfort and costing a little more, attracts more locals than tourists!
Lili's was running out of time, she had to take her flight from Hanoi so we didn't want to delay so much our way north. We stopped in Mui Ne expecting to have a go on the kite surf (Fernando was waiting for it since South Africa, remember?)
but unfortunately there wasn't enough wind for kite-surfing. We had to improvise with renting a small
The Japanese covered bridge in Hoi An.
sailing boat. From there we jumped on the hop-on hop-off bus for Nha Trang. This is the diving hot spot from Vietnam, competing with the paradise islands of Thailand for the cheapest diving in the world. This time the two Dive Masters here, skipped the underwater world and hired a scooter to explore the salt fields, just a few kilometers out of town.
Nha Trang has a good night life but we didn't feel like staying any longer. We took the bus to Hoi An.
Hoi An is part of the UN world heritage. The city is beautiful, with lot of small streets and carefully cared buildings. At night is all illuminated with traditional lanterns. But the highlight are the tailors. One next to each other. Lili got a dress and Fernando got a wool coat designed by himself
tailor fit for 32 dollars.
Next city was Hue. The city was once the home of the emperor, and as heritage for the humankind he left the Forbidden Purple City, a beautiful citadel still very well preserved. From Hue we joined another War tour, this one to visit the former demilitarized one. The DMZ is a 10km gap that splits the
The Puple Forbiden City
... is not purple at all!
north and south Vietnam. In this area, during the war, nobody could set army bases or conduct military activity. To be honest there are not much left to see except more tunnels, and parts of the road used by the north to send supplies to the fighters in the south. This road has a big role on the Secret War, Laos carpet bombing and the use of agent orange. Because it was well hidden, they used the famous defoliant to uncover this road.
Another night bus and we arrived in Hanoi. The next few days were very active. Our embassies duties weren't over. Claudio had to make a new passport since the second one was full! Meanwhile we were kiked out of the hostel because we didn't want to buy any tour from them. We visited the mausoleum of Ho Chi Mihn, and the three of us agreed that his body, perfectly preserved, must have a touch of Madame Tussauds. From Hanoi we visited Halong Bai and Cat Ba Island on our own. We tough we could make it cheaper than the tours but in the end came to the same. We also had planned to visit Tam Coc
In Hue, the drums would announce the arrival of the emperor.
but after the bus driver using the opposite lane hit a motorbike, we knew it was over. We were dropped in the middle of nowhere at night fall. Just like that, with no explanation or help. Wasn't for a friendly local that spoke English we would be there until now.... hehehe. Next day Lili took her flight home.
The last night in Vietnam we spend in luxury. During the trip to Cat Ba we were invited by a French girl, to stay in her place and were served the best dinner in ages! Thank you Camille!
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