Our 5th country in South East Asia, Vietnam! And one that we both were really looking forward to from the stories of other travellers but also one that was making us nervous. We had heard a lot of things going wrong for people in Vietnam from bags being ripped off shoulders, moped accidents and being scammed for a lot of money. So we made sure we were extra vigilant in prioritising safety. Neither of us took small bags out in evenings putting money in pockets or bras. We locked our belongings. If something sounded too good to be true it probably was. We looked out for each other when crossing roads. Cos by god those roads in Saigon were unimaginably busy with seemingly few road rules. Bangkok has nothing on Saigon. At one point we were stuck trying to cross a road for what seemed like 10 minutes and then this little lady who must have been in her eighties marched up to us and took us across the road seemingly not noticing the traffic. One stare from this adorable Vietnamese lady made them all stop.
Saigon was where I had a few money problems. Somehow my online bank account was blocked and so was my card. So I needed to ring my bank in New Zealand to sort it out. All I needed was a phone to make international calls. This turned out to be a lot trickier to find than one might expect in a huge bustling metropolis. Eventually we made it to the main, central post office which is actually in the Lonely Planet ‘cos of its architecture (after being directed to two different ones). There the phone call was made and my account unlocked. Easy.
Our first afternoon and evening we spent in a street restaurant chatting to an interesting french couple for about 5 hours. Many beers and cigarettes (only for them) later we parted ways never to know their names but having gained an enjoyable time filled with stories, debates and opinions on life. As such travel life is.
It was first here in Saigon that we discovered Vietnamese coffee. Oh my goodness. It is divine. And that’s coming from someone who has never so much as had a cup of coffee in her life before. Especially when it’s iced and you’ve been out sightseeing and your hot and it’s cold and it’s so delicious. It’s down to the excellent coffee they grow here. But also down to the condensed sweet milk they use. I’m converted. I’m officially a coffee drinker now. Vietnam what have you done to me?
We visited the American War museum which is a three storey building filled with one sided information about the Vietnam war from the side of the Vietnamese. It was interesting to visit such a biased museum. But as I knew so little about the Vietnam war previously it was hard to differentiate the truth from the propaganda. One of the most shocking exhibitions was about the Agent Orange atrocity. In their haste to acquire toxins that wipe out huge swathes of land so their army could advance, the Americans didn’t test the chemicals enough or properly. The results were appalling. The chemicals wiped out whole ecosystems including the people. Soldiers and civilians suffered enormously at the hands of the agent and are still visible to this day. The exhibition showed graphic images of children born with deformities and even had still born foetuses in jars. The worst is the Americans not accepting responsibility and giving these people the compensation they deserve when the few Americans who suffered got. But then this museum is so anti-American I never researched properly if this were still true.
Another appalling section was about the prison held on a group of islands off the south east coast. More photos of the scale of the camp and the torture atrocities they performed. Another eye opening museum filled with heart breaking stories
We went to the huge indoor market and I bought a belt which I was in desperate need of and a big floppy hat too (which is also a necessity). Two days later my belt started breaking and I lost the hat on a bus a few weeks later. Good one.
Next stop Mui Ne on the coast. We were so eager to get out of the cities again.