Hard to see, but the wall of pictures of Agent Orange victims.
I dedicate the title of this entry to Denis, without whom I would have gotten this song out of my head in one day, but instead, got stuck for 5.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City
, I found a guesthouse with a hostel room and met Kate, an 18 year old British girl. We wined and dined, or rather had lunch, then returned to the room where I met Ryan, an American who had lived in Vail for the past few years. Talking about it a bit really made me miss Colorado. Sad. Anyways, we were soon joined by Denis, yet another American, and ventured out for some dinner and drinks at the exciting Go2 bar. There we met a Dutch guy who bartered way too hard with a poor Vietnamese teenage girl who had the skill of looking on the verge of tears if you did not want to buy one of her copied books.
Kate and I, we're on a boat! Apparently there's some song about being on a boat.
I didn't feel too bad for her, especially since every time she turned away from us she had to fight from laughing, but the American guys fell for it and so they harassed the Dutch guy into compromising. After awhile you become sort of immune to the locals selling you stuff all the time. Like all the guys trying to sell marijuana to Denis (but not me, I was offended). Say no and they offer you cocaine.. like, YES! I don't do pot, but I do cocaine.
The next day I had breakfast where a wise, and probably still drunk, Vietnamese man carrying a bible told me "someday you kick the bucket, go to heaven" which was a nice way to start the day. He had a point though, so I decided to make the day productive. I ventured to the local market where I was overwhelmed by questions of "well what DO you want to buy?!" when I said I was just looking.
Coconut candy goodness.
Makes them angry when you say that. I headed to a few museums, in particular the War Remnants Museum depicting the horrors of the Vietnam/American War. While it was quite skewed on some aspects, you couldn't get away from the fact that Agent Orange eff'ed them over big time. There were dozens of pictures of severely crippled children being born, even as late as the late 90's, due to the chemical. Really touching and made me pretty upset and angry that our so-called civilized
country could do such a thing to others. Chemical warfare is brutal and lasting. BUT it was educational to see and I'm glad that I was able to learn more about the aftermath of the war.
OK time to lighten things up a bit.
Bike ride through the countryside.
The following day the four of us went on a one day tour of the Mekong Delta. Our tour guide was interesting.. one of those trying too hard to be funny but instead is really annoying types. We took a boat to a coconut candy making place, can't really call it a factory since it consisted of one pot and two tables, where we got to sample some candy (yum) and I was reminded of my confectionery class back at AIC. Slightly different hygenic standards.. same same, but different. Haha everything in SE Asia is described as "same same, but different." It's a bit of a running joke pretty much everywhere, I love it. Next we took the boat another 30 feet to the neighboring dock (apparently Westerners can't walk more than that) where we went on a nice little bike ride and had some lunch.
Looking sexy in our conical hats.
The coolest part of the trip was taking the Vietnamese version of a gondola ride on one of the canals and wearing the traditional conical hats. We were urged, of course, by all the passing boats to "give money, give money" aka tip. A stop at a honey making place included tea and snake holding to round off the tour. All in all an ok trip.
Denis and I were both planning on heading to the island of Phu Quoc
next so we booked the next night bus and spent our extra day in HCMC
renting motorbikes. Somehow Denis convinced me that one of the most hectic and dangerous cities in Asia was the best place for me to learn how to drive a motorbike.
Denis holding the snake.
Most terrifying 20 minutes of my life! I seriously thought I was going to kill myself, or worse, someone else. I had a couple close calls too, but after getting the jist of it, it was so freakin' awesome!! I think I'm obsessed. We headed to the History Museum, but it was closed by the time we got there so we went to the adjacent Botanical Garden/Zoo instead. I had a beer to recover from my life flashing before my eyes a hundred times in the past 30 min ride, and realized at the petting zoo portion that perhaps having a beer around children at a zoo wasn't portraying me in the classiest view. Oh well, the hell with it. We then just toured around the city at night, which was really cool and had dinner before heading off on our night bus to Rach Gia
Badass in the making, fo' sho.
Where we continued to drink to make the trip more fun. Haha almost forgot the funny t-shirt I saw on the way there.. a girl wearing a shirt that said "sorry girls, I'm gay." I love how they wear lots of clothes with English on them, most of them not having any idea what it says, and usually they don't make any sense at all.
We arrived in Rach Gia, the port town, at 3:45am and were conned into taking a 200,000d each motorbike taxi (about $10) for a 5 min ride to the ferry port. Should have cost no more than $1. But it was early, we were tired, and there weren't a lot of choices. Arriving at the ferry we were told the 8am boat was full and would have to wait until 1pm. We found a nice little spot along the water and lay out on a mat leaning against our packs, waiting for sunrise and the eventual ferry.
Ryan happy with his coconut juice.
"Luckily" 2 spots just happened to open up on the 8am tour if we each paid an additional 50,000d. Fine, whatever. Just get us there. The ferry was comfortable enough and we had the pleasure of listening to traditional Vietnamese music at the loudest possible volume for 2.5 hours.
Once we got to the hotel in Phu Quoc it was all downhill from there. Denis had booked a really nice hotel which had a pool and was right on the beach. We lounged around most the day then biked to the "city" and had dinner. We got some, ok a lot, of wine and drank on the beach and swam in the ocean at night. There were almost no other people around, it was great. The following day we rented motorbikes again and headed out to tour the island and visit some other beaches.
The gnome in front of the Presidential Palace.
We ended up getting pretty lost and I was a dumbass and scraped my knee when my bike (parked) fell over on me. They're heavy! But eventually we made it to a little port town with no white people and a small hidden beach, Ba Sao, with a few other white people, but it was definitely worth it. Beautiful water. The rest of the time on the island we hung out, walked around the city and local markets, ate some awesome ice cream, and swam in the ocean. Overall it was a very relaxing, low key 3 day beach vacation. Just what the doctor ordered.
We then took the slowest boat ever back to mainland Vietnam. BUT, thank goodness, we got to watch a loud Vietnamese comedy sketch the whole way there while sitting on wooden benches. Yay!
Ra ra ra-ra raa. Still stuck in my head one week later. Guess I can't blame Denis anymore..