Hello Vietnam! Saigon… You’re mental!

So here we are! Hello Vietnam… After leaving all the mixed up feelings behind we arrived with an open mind and looking forward to experiencing the madness of Saigon everyone has been preparing us for over the last few days. How right they were is unreal… The 2 days we spent here were nothing short of awesome! The first night was focused on learning the ropes of how to get across the street in the city of 5million motorbikes and yes, you do it like the locals do – very very SLOWLY! They won’t stop, they may just slow down a little and that is they’re looking. Anyway, after withdrawing a couple of million from a local ATM (we’re millionaires for once!) and booking a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, we hit the sack and tried, well at least me, to have a good night sleep which unfortunately did not happen. Insomniac, frustrated and home sick I stared at the ceiling and after not much more than 3 hours sleep we ventured out to check out the Vietnamese War remnants aka Cu Chi tunnels and the Museum. It is incredible how little the Vietnamese had available i.e. some their weapons were nothing more than tools they used to use to hunt animals, yet they still managed to build over 200km of 3 level tunnels, some as deep as 12m (that had kitchens, hospital rooms and fighting bunkers) and kick the American’s assess! We went underground to crawl only about a 100m distance and was just a little bit in awe of the Vietnamese soldiers doing some 5-6k crawls with nothing more than a flashlight… FYI… being as diddy as we are we still found it hard and nearly got stuck at one point and they said they widened the tunnels for tourists… Incredible! After visiting Cu Chi we went to the War Remnants Museum and stared at the American tanks and helicopters, especially the giant chinook for ages. We then went to see the incredible ‘Requiem’ photography exhibition that Tim Page managed to put together in remembrance of the war. I just hope I can get a book with them all in somewhere for my dad as I know he’d love that! What we saw is just hard to describe so I won’t even try. Look up some of the photos online to see what I mean. The most disturbing was the last part of the exhibition showing and talking about the victims of chemical weapons aka ‘agent orange’ of which one of the major suppliers was Monsanto… Yes, that Monsanto that is responsible for most of the genetically modified food these days. We see the victims of agent orange here on the streets everyday and some of the views are pretty horrifying so I’ll leave the judgement up to you… We also saw some of these guys working on traditional handicrafts in local workshops dotted around the main tourist trails and some of the work they do is just incredible but I still don’t really know what to make of it as no one really knows how much of the profits actually go to the people that spend days carving a plate or a vase that we then buy as a souvenir and forget about quickly after our return to the homeland… Anyway, on a more positive note the next day proved to be rather joyful as we set off on another tour to the mighty Mekong Delta that me being a bit of a geographical geek I was super excited about. And super exciting it was! Our tour guide aka Mr Buffalo did not disappoint and kept us entertained throughout the day. We hopped on an off a rather comfy boat and travelled between some of the Mekong Delta islands visiting coconut candy workshop (made of only 3 natural I gradients this stuff is to die for!), tasting some honey tea on a bee farm and banana wine (a killer drink not so tasty!) we proceeded on to having a pork and rice lunch – rather simple followed by tasting something called a dinosaur egg and an elephant fish (straight from the Mekong) spring roll. We then walked around the local market, raced horse and donkey carts and saw some giant snakes and lizards followed by about a dozed massive crocodiles and monkeys. My (and C’s) favourite part of the day was definitely the rowing boat trip. A small rowing boat on which 4 of us hopped on with two tiny Vietnamese ladies paddling away off we went on a jungle covered narrow leg of the Mekong to taste some fruit and listen to some local music. As the poor ladies have been doing their job all day they got C to help them out and paddle away which turned into his daily workout… Clearly an arm and shoulder day ;)! Once we jumped back on the big boat Mr Buffalo announced it was ‘game over’ so we went all the way back to Saigon to have some MSG free dinner (really hard to come by) and a family like treatment from our host lady who not only let us keep our bags in the hostel after we checked out but also use her own bathroom to shower after a long day only to then treat us to some local specialities and an ice tea. What a legend! Now it’s time to say good bye to the mad Ho Chi Minh city and head into the night (hope we survive the 300km bus ride) to arrive in apparently beautiful Dalat tomorrow morning. Stay tuned for more news :)! M xxx

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