February 24th, 2007 – by: megalomanic
If anyone tells you that Vietnam is a nice place to go, don't believe them for a second.
we've had nothing but trouble from the majority of Vietnamese people since we've come here. They have absolutely no qualms in lying, cheating, abusing each other and being generally rotten faced and grumpy. They are so unlike the Cambodians and Thais it's quite difficult to imagine they were once all the same territory and people. I can honestly say that there has been very little of my time so far in Vietnam that I have enjoyed. We have been screwed over by bus companys, taxi drivers, cyclo drivers, restaurant staff you name it. It's getting to the point where I just can't wait to leave this country and never come back. I don't think I have EVER felt this much dislike for a country I've visited before.
anyhow.. I'm going to start where my last post left off..
we spent our last day in Phnom Penh working at the New Cambodian Children's Life Association (NCCLA), a NGO Orphanage near the riverside. The kids were fantastic and the owners were overjoyed with our donation. We've got heaps of photos and the kids are delightful. All the boys are named after Football players (Viduka, Beckham, Seedane (Zidane), Sine etc.. ) and the girls after popstars and sports stars(Jessica, Anna, Rebecca etc..).. They all choose their own "Famous" English names so that they all can aspire to greatness.. I had a young runaway named Allen attach himself to me.. He's 9 and was working in the town dump sorting through trash so that he could find food for himself when they "adopted" him. He then ran away again a few weeks later (back to the dumps).. he's doing really well now though. He doesn't speak much English at all like the other kids, so hedidn't really understand me, but we sat and coloured together, played rooftop soccer against James and Viduka and made me a beaded bracelet.. :) He was a sweet kid.. Viduka was is a little scamp of a 5 year old and is vicious with his slingshot, and the girls were a barrel of laughs! At one point I looked up from my colouring and drawing to see two of them tying up one of the boys with a couple of skipping ropes and dragging him around the room.. hehe!
anyhow.. after we said goodbye (the kids were rehearsing their Apsara dancing after lunch), we went to visit Kantha Bhopa IV NGO hospital where James donated his extra insulin and whit gave blood, which was pretty awesome.. when we get home, we're planning on organising a charity quiz night to raise money for both NCCLA and Kantha Bhopa so they can continue their work.. So please come along when it happens. The condition of the country is truly shocking. After KB, we visited the Royal Palace, which I wasn't too impressed by. Okay, so the architecture was magnificent and it was decorated beautifully, but after seeing so much poverty and personal and national suffering it seems beyond my how the Royal family can justify that kind of opulence when 65% of their population lives below the poverty line and have to sell their young daughters into prostitution so that the rest of the family can eat. It's just ridiculous!
The next day we travelled to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), to that was a dud day. took about hours to get there. Pretty enough visually, but the people are generally sourfaced, unfriendly, unhelpful, dishonest and a bit odd. There are exceptions of course an d we've similarly met some very lovely Vietnamese, but unfortunately they've been in the minority. the countryside is very pretty though.
Saturday we wandered the city trying to find something that was open,but being Tet (New Year)nearly everything was closed and the traffic was only marginally less chaotic that it's going to be when we get back to Saigon. We hired a couple of Cyclos around the city which was great fun until the drivers tried to rip us off something chronic (pushing the price up to something like US$30, about 300% the price should have been). We also met up with mum and dad that evening and the next day.. Oh, and James got offered a massage complete with a free blow job whilst Moto'ing back into the city to cash some cheques! some dodgy little backstreet joint whose businesscards were all handwritten.
We also visited the noodlehouse where the Tet Offensive of 1968 was being planned. The guy who runs the joint was a Viet Cong sympathiser and let them plan it in his back room.. apparently US troops and some enemy general entered the store whilst the offensive was being planned and they were all shitting themselves out back. Turns out they just wanted soup and buggered off, completely oblivious to the fact that the offensive that changed the face of the war was being planned only meters above them! The Noodle soup (Peace soup) was fabulous! best food we've had whilst in Vietnam (which isn't a stretch as they keep serving us badly cooked western bastardisations of Vietnamese food).
WE're now in Da Lat which is a Highland French Colonial town, and again, visually quite lovely, though the people are often making me want to punch them in the face. James had an interesting experience on the bus coming over here.. it was overcrowded (and very late) and one of the two bus drivers developed a partiality to James who had to sit at the front next to the driver. the whole 9.5 hour trip over here he was patting J's knee and face and at around 4pm actually sat on his lap for a particularly bumpy//windy stretch of road. Needless to say James was livid and ready to push this guy off the bus. And they guy seemed to completely ignore James' frequent bouts of angry. I managed to score a bruised wrist from this guy who tried to grab me and wrapt my hands around J's neck.. And then he nicked off with Whit's camera and attempted to take photos of my err.. midsection.. I ran away very quickly. The man was just a fucking creep and we were glad to be shot of him. Unfortunately, this is the same bus companywe're having to put up with again this afternoon.. fuckers, the lot of them. The worst thing about it is that I'm starting to get the thought that perhaps the Americans were right to not trust the Vietnamese. We've only met a very few very genuinely helpful and nice locals whilst here, and sadly the bad far outweight the good in terms ofwhat we're going to remember of this place..
so yeah.. Da Lat is visually nice enough. We took a tour of the place yesterday.. basically a meditiation centre, a waterfall with a taboggan-type mini rollercoaster down to the bottom of the waterfall (so much fun!), a dragon temple, a very uninspiring Summer Palace of the last Emperor, a Crazy house (not a psyche place.. one with whacky architecture) and an embroidery gallery.
We're not impressed at all with anyone here. We confirmed our tickets yesterday with the bus company to go back to Saigon but they apparently didn't have any room on the 7am bus and didn't tell us until 10 minutes before we're meant to leave. So we walked to the company and had a huge fight with the manager about it who made all sorts of excuses ("My man has only been working for 3 days, he didn't remember what I told himblah blah"), and got incredibly angry at us (apparently for the sheer nerve of getting angry with him it seems). I told him that as manager he is responsible for his employees and with a new staff member, he is responsible for that staff member's mistakes. We missed the bus, and were told that we could get on the 1pm bus. So here we are, after waiting for another 5 hours for the 1pm bus, only to be told at 12.55 that the bus won't be here until 3pm. needless to say weare not impressed at all, and are planning on making a huge complaint at the Saigon office, as well as writing to LP about them.
Today we're supposedly meant to get back to Saigon (Though at this rate we might not get there until after midnight). Then to Cu chi caves, the shooting range (we're dead set on shooting AK-47s and lobbing hand grenades!) negotiating the markets, buying more coffee (OMG! SO much awesome coffee!! :D) and jetsetting back to Perth before we all end up with a permanent hatred for thiswrteched place.