A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about ho chi minh


sunny 33 °C

We arrived in Hanoi this morning around 5am and were greeted with the usual thousand taxi drivers swarming around the bus to take us into the city centre (about 15 minutes drive). We knew the drive should only cost around $3 and we told the taxi driver who was gunning for us that we weren’t stupid and we knew how much it should cost to which he replied with a nod and a smile, so we hopped in.
Twenty metres later the illegal taxi meter was already at $2 so we hopped out onto the busy streets to find a more reputable source of transport. It wasn’t long before we found a more legit taxi to take us the entire way for $3.
The morning was made worse as I was suffering diarrhoea for the first time this trip, although I thought I would get it much sooner than day 22 which is a good thing I guess :).

We were only spending the day in Hanoi before taking the overnight train to Sapa, so we decided to check out the Ho Chi Minh museum.

The museum was not what either of us expected. It was more a trippy, artist’s version of the national heroes life. It is hard to describe, there were bits of factual information describing important key events in Ho Chi Minh’s life which were accompanied by various forms of art, whether it be a painting or sculpture or whatever. It was pretty cool. The best bit was walking around the room that contained all of the messages and presents that various governments had sent Vietnam after they won the war against the West, some interesting countries sent gifts!
^^ Fruit platter in the Ho Chi Minh Museum
^^ Metaphors were everywhere
^^ Kirby with Ho Chi Minh
^^ Beast in the museum

We also tried to visit the mausoleum to view Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body, but unfortunately it was closed, although still well guarded!

Instead we headed off to Jade Island in the middle of Hoan Kiem Lake. The Ngoc Son Temple on the island is small but still beautiful and it holds the remains of an ancient 200kg, 6 feet long giant soft-shell turtle that was once thought to be extinct, although a month before we arrived they had been rediscovered in the lake! (Didn't take photos of it for some unknown reason...doh!)

^^ Burning incense at the temple
^^ Lady selling face masks

Before we knew it time was up and we had to head to the train station to catch our locomotive high up into the mountains of North West Vietnam to visit the tribal peoples who call Sapa home.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:43 Archived in Vietnam Tagged taxi museum illegal hanoi turtle ho_chi_minh ripoff rip_off ngoc_son_temple jade_island Comments (0)

Mekong - Day 1

sunny 33 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip on KyleMac's travel map.

It is only fitting that while in South East Asia you visit the Mekong, and no place better than from Vietnam.

The delta region covers around 39,000 square kilometres of Vietnam and Cambodia and for only $30 each we have organised a 3 day, 2 night trip inclusive of accommodation, breakfast, and lunch. A special thanks to Kim from Kim’s Place in Ho Chi Minh for organising this trip for us at such a good price – especially after hearing what some of the other people on our tour paid.

^^ First Day of the Trip

The tour began with a bus and boat ride from Ho Chi Minh to Ben Tre where we were treated with a pony-carriage ride with the locals as well as a delicious visit to the coconut candy “factory”. I call it a “factory” but in reality it is just several women sitting around a thatched hut, husking coconuts, cooking them, and hand moulding/packing the candy.
After buying some delightfully delicious coconut candy and sampling some suspect snake wine we were on our way to Unicorn Island!

^^ Looking at the Mekong from Ben Tre jetty

^^ Ready for the boat trip

^^ Excited for Ben Tre

^^ Buffalo just hanging out

^^ Coconut Candy

^^ Yum

^^ Delicious Snake Wine

We entered Unicorn Island via local canoes - driven with extreme accuracy through the winding canals deep into the Island’s centre. No one spoke English and we were shuffled into a big bamboo pagoda and sat down at a few large tables. All of a sudden large fruit platters starting arriving and a traditional Vietnamese band played while we feasted.

^^ Loving it

^^ Winding through the tight canals

The island makes its money from honey and fruit and everyone seemed surprisingly calm while they were passing around a bee infested honey tray straight from the hive – no smoke or protective clothing was required.

^^ Bees!

^^ Some random guy just arrived with a snake, so we held it :)

After a quick boat ride back to the mainland and a bus ride further into the delta we found ourselves in Can Tho – where we would spend the night.

^^ Walking through Can Tho street markets

^^ Street vendors have everything

After such a long day we were ready to feast, and in true Vietnamese style we were not going to be disappointed. We sat ourselves down in a restaurant opposite a huge golden statue of Ho Chi Minh and were treated with a banquet! We had spring rolls, yellow noodle soup, Vietnamese pancakes, steamed wontons, garlic beans, and my favourite – chopped snake :). After gorging ourselves we sat outside and drank 40 cent beers – 750ml. We got slightly worried when a woman walked past the front of the restaurant and started projectile vomiting in the gutter, but I’m proud to report that we were 100% healthy the next day :). If you are ever in the area I must recommend that restaurant, it is called Quam Com Mekong – 38 Hai Ba Trung.

^^ Can Tho feast!

^^ The snake was the highlight

All over Vietnam there are people who work street stalls and little vendors that sell everything you can imagine. While we were sitting outside the restaurant having beers, all of the street sellers that line the street started screaming and running off with their little ‘stores on wheels’ down the street and into the alley ways. When we looked up the road we saw a Humvee full of military clad police driving along slowly. The thought crossed our minds that maybe we should run away like all the locals as well, but our beer induced confidence let us stay and watch as the street emptied of all local traders. The street was silent and we asked our host in the restaurant what was happening. He informed us that it is illegal in Vietnam to street-sell or do anything considered “dodgy” in front of Ho Chi Minh and only 15 meters away from us was a 10 meter tall golden Ho Chi Minh statue! After a sigh of relief we thought it was pretty funny, and the outlook of being executed in the street by some militant gang we didn’t know about dissipated! It wasn’t even 10 minutes after the cops had left that the street was bustling and full of vendors again :).

^^ Hanging out with Ho Chi Minh

This was the end of day 1 and I hope the next 2 days are just as good!!!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged statue vietnam feasting ho_chi_minh can_tho ben_tre coconut_candy Comments (3)

Saigon Adventure

sunny 32 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Wow... The last few days have been hectic to say the least. I’ll begin the story on the 29th, our first full day in Ho Chi Minh.

After waking up from a night’s sleep that was endlessly serenaded by the horns of a thousand motorbikes we headed off to Ben Thanh Markets. Surprisingly however they were shut early in the morning. The instant we realised that it was shut something must have changed on our faces that displayed uncertainty and like lambs to the slaughter we were approached by a pair of cyclo drivers that offered to take us on a day tour to see the sights of the city for only $3 each.

Our tour commenced with a quick stop at a little restaurant where we were treated to the delights of the famous Vietnamese dish Pho Bo. It is a beef and noodle soup and can be purchased at 10 meter intervals all along nearly every street in Ho Chi Minh. It was super delicious and I am certain it will not be the last time we have it.

The next stop was the war museum and with an entry fee around 80 cents it was well worth it. The museum itself contains 4 floors each with a different theme. Nothing in the museum is censored and when you enter expect to get bitch slapped with endless images of maimed soldiers and mutilated corpses. It is a real eye-opener and makes you realise that every American movie of the Vietnam war that you see back in Australia is a 100% toned down version of what really went on over here. The stories of grotesque massacres and pictures on the wall of American soldiers having a big laugh with the severed heads of Vietnamese farmers all around them is fairly disturbing and it is no wonder they came back from the war so fucked up.
One of the things you notice when you come to Vietnam is the high number of people with physical deformities and the Agent Orange floor of the museum explains exactly why. Even in present day Vietnam babies are still being born with congenital defects due to the defoliation missions launched by the Americans over most of the jungle areas. A huge tank containing the deformed foetuses of many babies is fairly unsettling and you don’t need to spend much time in the room to feel like you need a shower.
I would recommend the War Museum to everyone who has the pleasure of visiting Ho Chi Minh.

After leaving the museum we felt like we needed to cleanse ourselves and clear our minds, and what better place to do it than a local mosque. It was a calm, tranquil escape from the bustling streets and a perfect place to regather your thoughts after an intense morning – plus it only cost a small donation ~50 cents to the man who looked after our shoes while we were inside :)

It was now time to end our cyclo trip, however this was going to prove harder than we first anticipated. The drivers of the cyclo’s took us to a bus shelter and when we hopped out they pushed their bikes in behind us, effectively trapping us inside the bus shelter with no way to get out. We thought it was time to pay our $3 (50,000 dong) but instead they pulled out some random price list that said 500,000 dong per hour per person!! We were pissed off and argued with them that they quoted us 50,000 for the day but they told us that was the cost of the museum etc. They got really aggressive towards us and starting yelling that we owed them 2 million dong each. We didn’t even have that much cash. We thought we were about to get shanked and left for dead in some bus stop so we gave them around 1.5 million dong before we quickly escaped.

After getting burned like that we have learnt to be very firm and not budge, it was just the fact that it was our first day in Vietnam and they could sense the fresh blood and our insecurities. Oh well…gotta learn somehow!

After such an intense day we just chilled out and drank 50c tallys of beer and got an hour massage each for $6 :)

^^ I took this video while we crossed the road on the cyclo's. The road rules in Vietnam are give way to things bigger than you and cross the road slowly so things have time to go around you haha.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged mosque vietnam museum saigon war cyclo ho_chi_minh ripoff agent_orange Comments (0)

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