December 28th, 2008 – by: Traveller_Gin
Chaos in the streets with literally hundreds of motorbikes clad in Vietnamese flags celebrating the soccer win - very loud!
Having the morning to spare before we were going to head off to our next destination, Ho Chi Minh, VB and I had a leisurely morning and visited the famous Jim Thompson House. We toured the traditional Thai housing and viewed where this American silk merchant (who would later become famous for introducing Thai silk to the western world and to then mysteriously disappear without a trace) lived and worked. Beautiful Thai architecture and traditional artefacts still remain in the various housing areas. It was a very pleasant way to spend the morning before heading off to the airport for our flight to Ho Chi Minh.
Having arrived at the airport for our flight to HCM, we were lucky to have arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare as our Jetstar flight ceased to exist on the departures board.
We checked every variation on a theme and checked for any similar carriers flying to HCM at the same time, but none existed. Once we realised this, we began to panic just a little bit. We then resorted to asking any information desks and security guards for some help on where to find the Jetstar counter only to be told that it was not open on Sundays. Great......finally we found somebody who was willing to help. It turns out that we were to be booked in by a "partner airline" - nice to be told that after we had already been to probably close to half a dozen airline counters for assistance. Anyways, crisis averted, and we were finally on our way to HCM. Beware those of you looking for the cheaper Jetstar option - there's probably a reason why it's cheaper.
Following a fairly uneventful short flight after the dramas to actually check in for the flight, we arrived in one piece and in tact in HCM city. We were met by another of our friends, Anne (who was quite helpfully of Vietnamese background) at the airport and transported to quickly to stay with her for the night before our next (motor-biking) adventure. We travelled by car to the city centre where we were staying and immediately we noticed the MASSIVE (this cannot be understated!) amount of traffic which comprised 99% of motorbike/scooters. It was seriously an eye-opener and even just sitting in the extremely congested traffic was nerve racking marvelling at the minute amount of space between cars/bodies/bikes/scooters that woud exisit within moving (albeit at a snail's pace).
Having seen many multiple passenger motorbikes in other Asian countries, it appeared that almost every second motorbike was ferrying around multiple persons - more often than not, it appeared that it would be families with children - the children often were not wearing helmets - although the adults riding the bikes were - go figure! Perhaps the stringent safety policies of Australia requiring compulsory helmets to be worn, doesn't seem so ridiculous.... I still haven't managed to figure out how many young women manage to ride on the sides of motobikes in a side saddle style - they don't need to hold onto the driver, the bike or anything - not sure how they do it!!!
We finally reached our overnight accomodation which was surely going to be absolute luxury compared to our next few evenings that we would be on the road on our motorbike tour.
We quickly settled in and stepped out to grab some dinner with our hosts - and immediately found that we were in the midst of a HUGE celebration and what can only be described as a plague of extremely excited motorbikes complete with banging drums and patriotic passengers and riders waving vigorously their Vietnamese flags as they drove by and honked their horns. It took us a while to figure out that something quite big was happening - this turned out to be that there was a fairly major soccer match on that evening that had just been completed in which Vietnam was competing against Thailand and, you guessed it, Vietnam had won the match. The celebrating Vietnamese continued on for hours into the evening riding their motorbikes, yahoo-ing, waving their flags and banging their drums.
We had our dinner at a lovely restaurant and followed it up with a uniquely Vietnamese dessert at another popular cafe (it helps to know some locals!) and all the while, had the soundtrack of the cheering soccer fans in the background. By the time we got back to our hosts place, we could still hear the commotion going on into the night whilst we were trying to catch some shut-eye before our motorcylcle trip in the morning.