Ho Chi Minh: Peculiar characters

Rushed.Hectic.Diverse

After our encounter with the mental Vietnamese woman on our last night in Cambodia we weren’t expecting to be greeted with open arms as we crossed the Cambodia-Vietnam border. As was the case. There was a group of dodgy men gathering round us eager to rip us off with a motorbike ride to the town of Loc Ninh where we’d get a bus to Ho Chi Minh. We told them we weren’t paying their ridiculous prices and we’d find our own way there. They didn’t seem to like this, yelling and gesturing towards Chris and trying to handle my bag onto their bike. There were lots of lorries crossing the border and a kind lorry driver said he would take us to Loc Ninh for free as he was going that way. Only the scumbag moto men started to shout at the lorry driver until he said he couldn’t take us. Left with little choice we got the motorbikes to Loc Ninh but for our price not theirs and it became apparent then that the moto drivers get commission off the bus company’s for bringing tourists to them. So a fraction of the money we paid for our bus ticket to Ho Chi Minh went towards those horrible men. Good morning Vietnam!

Despite a man carrying a cockerel in a bag on the bus, the journey to Ho Chi Minh was fine and we began our walk to the backpacker area. On the way our faith in the Vietnamese was restored as a nice man went out of his way to take us to the bus stop and make sure we got on the right bus to the area we wanted to be in. Before we attempted to find a room for the night we tasted some local treats of pineapple soup, mango salad and trusty noodles.

The following day we had a wander around the city to get ourselves acquainted. The day started with a breakfast baguette in our local park. As we left to explore a group of girls approached us and handed us a little piece of card that they’d made which wished us a happy new year and they wished us happy travels in Vietnam. It was so lovely! Chris was especially chuffed as he’d learnt how to say happy new year in Vietnamese and got to test it out, much to the amusement of the girls. In complete contrast to the nice girls we had just met we bumped into a not nice man on our way to the museum. This man was carrying round a wooden plank device that they use here which balances things on either end, his particular device had coconuts on one end and a cool box full of ice on the other. He plonked this device on Chris’ shoulder and when he eventually took it off he handed us a coconut in a jokey way for Chris’ shoulder from carrying the load. Only this was a scam and he tried to charge us the equivalent of five pounds for this coconut (we’ve never paid more than about 60p for a coconut out here.) The general theme of people we’ve encountered so far seem to be either those who will go out of their way to be nice to you or will go out of their way to try and completely rip you off. All-in-all it wasn’t a very good start to Vietnam. We made it to the museum, which was shut for lunch.. so we found another park to relax in for a while.

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We found the French style Cathedral, the old post office and the Bitexco Tower which towers over all of Ho Chi Minh. All pretty impressive buildings, with the former more characterful and beautiful than the latter. I found the best thing about the Bitexco Tower was the pool of water that surrounds it as it was a nice place to dip my feet. People must not do this very much as one security guard walky-talkied to his colleague to look at my wet feet as we walked past as they both chuckled to each other. They should try it, very refreshing! For even more refreshment we grabbed a beer and admired more French style architecture in the form of some shabby-chic city apartments. We tested some more local dishes, tomato-tofu and some BBQ pork. That night we went out for some drinks, we took our seat in the street-side bar as you do but found the woman wouldn’t serve us until we’d moved into the seats that she wanted us to sit in. We must of been looking good that night as we were sat right on the street, front of house! Had we been in a different country we might not have moved but if we’ve learnt anything from our time in the country so far its not to argue with the Vietnamese..

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The next day we went on an organised tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, a place where the Vietnamese hid during the war. Our tour-guide was a very peculiar character, he’d talked to us like he was hosting a game show and his mannerisms soon became irritating. However, the tunnels were interesting and it was fun to crawl around them for a little bit to experience what it was like for those who lived down there during the war. Although most of the tour involved us getting dragged around by our strange guide and it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable day. When we arrived back to the city we headed out for tea and bumped into our tour guide who recognised us and invited us to sit with him. He was a completely different person! We found out he’s studying English at university and that like a few other tour guides we encountered they get taught strange “entertainment” techniques that they must think Westerners find amusing. It was nice to eat with him when he was being himself.

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For the next two days we went on a trip to the Mekong Delta. This trip taught us that we won’t be going on any organised tours again and that all the tour guides are peculiar characters when they’re on the job. First stop was a Chinese temple which was very pretty. When we arrived at the delta we got on a boat across the Mekong which took us to a coconut candy making place, not that interesting but pretty tasty! We strayed from the tour group as we’d tired of getting dragged around and found a gigantic buffalo grazing around and a woman making banana rice papers. After lunch we saw a crocodile farm which wasn’t very nice, there were about 25 crocodiles in a tiny enclosure with stupid tourists swinging meat on strings above their faces. The animals were fascinating to be so close to but it wasn’t nice to be near them under those conditions. Back on the boat we got taken to a honey farm where we drank some nice honey and lemon tea and from here we went on a little backwater canal trip in a little boat with some locals. These locals told us many times to ‘tip them’ and it seemed like we weren’t getting off the boat without doing. From here we got some free fruit and coconut tea whilst listening to a very strange and awkward Vietnamese music performance. It was a very rushed and strange day. The delta wasn’t very impressive, it wasn’t at all like the Mekong we had seen in Cambodia.

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The day ended with a three hour bus journey to the town where we’d be staying for the night. The town was pretty with lots of flower and food markets. The tour continued from here the next day where we got on another boat down to the largest floating market in Vietnam. It seemed like a brill place to be if you wanted to buy tonnes of watermelon but as our tour guide explained to us, it was a wholesale market for locals and not for tourists. Although there was the odd boat that came over, riding alongside ours trying to sell us everything from coffee to fruit to cakes. This got very amusing when a large boat zoomed past creating a huge ripple in the water, their little boats swayed all over the show and they clung on to their fruit and cake or else it would have been flung into the Mekong. This seemed to amuse them as much as it did us, it was all fun and games. From the market we got taken to a noodle making factory and then to a rice factory which sounded a lot more interesting than they actually were. The tour ended here and we went back to Ho Chi Minh.

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Our final night in Ho Chi Minh was spent in a bar where Chris could watch the Saturday football from back home. I wasn’t as excited about this as he was so decided to splash out on a haircut as my hair has suffered whilst travelling. For 3 pounds you get a shampoo and cut which i thought for that price you couldn’t really go wrong with… only my hair is now about 6 inches shorter and very square looking. Language barrier was a slight problem this time. The shampoo was very relaxing and my hair is in much better condition, we’ll stick with the positives from this experience!

Our plan for the following day was to head to a place called Vung Tao were we were told daily ferries left from to the Con Dao Islands. Although this didn’t quite go to plan. Blog to come!

Until then Tạm biệt!

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/127744759@N08/x7YL5R

One thought on “Ho Chi Minh: Peculiar characters

  1. Hi, eager to see the new haircut Sarah but the photo link isn’t working. Vietnam sounds as though it will need some getting used to, glad you are taking in it your stride
    Mum x

    Like

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