Museum of US War Crimes
Daniel and I crossed the border from Cambodia on March 1st and quickly found a hotel on a back alley of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). We were able to find some decent places to eat, as well as some interesting museums, but all in all, we found Saigon to be quite ordinary. So I had to question whether it was Saigon that was ordinary, or have I become so used to exotic places that a city that resembles that of the West is unexciting? As travellers, we oftentimes get caught by creating expectations and having the reality fall short, thereby tarnishing the image we had drawn. I try not to do that, but when you come to a place like Saigon, with its allure and rich history, how can you not have an expectation?
We had to stay a bit longer than we wanted because we decided to extend our visas for another 30 days, so we could spend 2 months in Vietnam.
Too Close for Comfort
The process took 3 working days, so we had to stay over the weekend as well. Then, as has been the norm during my 4 months in Asia, my phantom stomach ailment reared its ugly head once again, and this time it had me a bit worried, so I went to see a doctor. My doctor was French and had travelled extensively thru northern Vietnam, so I had him give me some advice and draw a map so Daniel and I could have some ideas for our long-awaited motorbike trip thru the north to see seldom-visited villages and hill tribes. It turned out to be one doctor's visit worth paying for...
Saigon had decent hotels, reasonable prices, and generally an outstanding infrastructure for travellers. That being said, everything relating to travel is far too commercialized.
The locals cater to tourism in a way that can make it a 'no-brainer' if you let it. You can get out of a bus, have someone walk or taxi you to a hotel, book all your adventures from the hotel, use the internet and phone in the lobby, eat and drink there, and book the transfer to your next destination. In fact, this is how many 'travellers' make their way thru Vietnam. Although convenient, it can make for a watered-down experience. In order to combat the tourist world, you really need to work for your adventure. Its best to find hotels where there are no foreigners staying and eat at street stalls. You can find great value for money if you know where and how to look for it, and if you're willing to live more humbly.
world's largest post office...
Like they say, 'when in rome'...
I don't really have too much to say about Saigon other than I suppose I've left there a bit disappointed. Sure the food was great and the accommodation good value, but in the evenings even the most 'happening' part of the city was quieting down after 10pm, as the vast majority of businesses in Vietnam are family-run. The only other option for late night action is to go to a club, where as soon as you sit down you are confronted with a menu of brandies and cognacs priced upwards to $10 per glass. We did attempt to visit a night club but quickly decided against it as they wanted a $6 cover charge.
Finally you have the people of Vietnam. If you've read my other blogs or know me, you will often hear me singing the praises of the people's I've visited and met around the world.
i finally got a wedding photo (look behind the bride and groom)
In many places, people have a genuine interest in you, where you come from, and in your lifestyle. I found the people of Vietnam (in general) to be more interested in my wallet than anything else. Sure, its fair and they have every right to make a buck and I applaud them for working hard and running sucessful business. But I have the right to say that they are some of the least friendly people I've visited. I've had isolated experiences with people who were friendly and outgoing. But they have been certainly more the exception than the rule. I wish I could report otherwise, but facts are facts and I have no bias nor an agenda, only my experiences from which to reflect.