Good Morning Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Good morning from Saigon,
Once outside the glossy tiles, filtered aircon air, and large glass doors of the arrivals area of the airport, Saigon was noisy, dirty, chaotic and steamy. Throngs of anxious taxi drivers eagerly looked in our direction for a fare, only to be met by disappointment before scurrying off to harass the next group of wary tourists. Looking past the airport car park, large signs in Vietnamese selling everything ‘western’, honking horns, and thick plumming smog. It was good to be back in Asia. There was no time to be sentimental though as our 10 days in Vietnam had a tight schedule.
In the sticky crowd of a typical Vietnamese airport throng it wasn’t long before we were met by Linh, our Vietnamese translator, friend, colleague and unofficial tour guide we had a great reunion.
She took us to our little hotel in downtown Saigon and presented us with a welcome gift of the 2 international symbols of Western globalisation.... 2 large bottles of drinking water and a box of Oreo cookies.
Our hotel was right in the heart of downtown Saigon. Our hotel was just one block and a short stroll, from the central market area. Basic, but clean and air-conditioned. The email account on my computer doesn't seem to want to connect to the internet, so luckily there is internet in the hotel cafe.
Woke up at 2.30am due to jetlag and waited til dawn before heading off to explore the sleepy streets. It's probably the best of time day before the humidity really kicks in. The flower and fruit and vegetable markets were just setting up so no-one was terribly interested in a blue eyed western woman meandering through the lane-ways. I will make sure I take my camera on my morning stroll tomorrow.
We have a fairly busy day planned. Linh has arranged the loan of a motorbike, so Ingrid and I will be exploring on 2 wheels. We have a meeting with the lawyer at 2.00pm and will then visit some possible locations to lease. Linh has people waiting to start advanced English classes so we want to see if we can have a class running by the end of the week.
At 11.00am (Vietnamese Lunch Time) we were met by friends of our travel partners and taken to lunch.
On the streets outside the noise never rests. Motorbikes are the main mode of transport and compete and weave around the few cars and vans. The traffic flows like water - noisy water. We were given the loan of 3 motorbikes and for the next 3 days we traversed every street of Saigon. The pollution burned my eyes, throat and lungs. The compulsory helmet, cotton mask and sunglasses, offered little protection. What I really needed was safety goggles and an oxygen mask!
Despite the dust, noise and carbon monoxide, Saigon was surprisingly easy to get around and navigate.
The Vietnamese are immediately endearing. Smiling, helpful, friendly. The market sellers speak enough English to negotiate any price. Shopping was plentiful, bartering is a game - whoever lasts the longest, smiles the most, and sticks to their price always wins. Over the next few days we ate our way through a hefty pile of spring rolls, rice noodles and fish sauce, all washed down with either Tiger Beer or Iced Lemon Tea.
Finally had a 90 minute full body massage late last night which was an absolute adventure but blissful by the end.
Saigon highlights included visiting an orphanage on the outskirts of Saigon and delivering food and items which had been donated through several fundraisers in Australia by our travel partners, dining on a floating restaurant in the Mekong River, attending an underground church, riding on a rickshaw through the shiny streets of Saigon after heavy rain, and enjoying icecream at the Majestic Hotel’s rooftop restaurant. Too quickly it was time to head north.