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Hanoi

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!
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^^ Fruit platter in the Ho Chi Minh Museum
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^^ Metaphors were everywhere
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^^ Kirby with Ho Chi Minh
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^^ 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!)

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^^ Burning incense at the temple
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^^ 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)

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)

Ho Chi Minh

sunny 34 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Before we knew it our time in Darwin had passed and we were at the airport. A few security checks and some teary farewells between Kirby and her mum and we were sitting on the plane ready to leave Australia behind.

We were on an international Jetstar flight and to my disgust there was neither a movie playing nor any entertainment available due to the entertainment system requiring “maintenance”. Thankfully my trusty laptop full of movies kept us going for a few hours :)

It was 9:15pm when we arrived at Ho Chi Minh airport and we were greeted with a long line from the visa collection desk. While we were waiting for our visa’s to be processed two old ladies sitting in front of us were approached by an airport official. I must add that everyone working in the airport looked like they were in the military (maybe they were), decked out in their green outfit covered with stars and medals and a face equally cold they were quite intimidating. The ladies were promptly told that the paperwork that they had provided the officials was actually not an official visa approval letter and that on the system there was no record of an approved visa for either of them. The ladies tried to argue that they had booked this trip through a travel agent and they were told by the agent that everything was arranged, but they were met with a pitiless stare and told that they had to leave the country before even entering it. Luckily though another option arose and they were able to stay at the airport hotel overnight and pay for a visa application to be processed the next morning (not sure how much that would cost but I’m guessing it’s not cheap). After witnessing this whole ordeal a slight feeling of impending doom encroached on my happy demeanour as I hoped that all of our paperwork was correct. Thankfully our names were called and we headed outside to breathe our first breath of fresh Vietnamese air – although with 5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City, it wasn’t that ‘fresh’.

Before we headed overseas we read plenty of books that talked about transport in Asia and one in particular suggested to use the metered taxi as they are regulated and far less likely to rip you off. We knew that the ride to our hotel should cost around 300,000 dong and the moment we exited the building we were confronted with a man who offered to take us to our hotel for 500,000 dong in his private car, we said no and headed over to the taxi rank. The taxi we took had a meter but it was obviously faulty because by the time we arrived at our hotel it was sitting at 1.3 million dong. It only took us 30 minutes within Vietnam to get ripped off – WooHoo :)

When we walked inside the hotel we were greeted by a smiling woman who promptly told us there was no vacancy. Luckily we had booked and payed a deposit already. After a quick search through her book she kindly informed us she had no such booking written down and there was not a bed for us. We showed her our receipt from the transaction and she called her boss, Mr. Kim. When he arrived he apologised profusely and took us to one of his other hotels and is letting us stay in an air-conditioned room with a private bathroom for the same price.

It is now midnight and fingers crossed our first day in Ho Chi Minh will be cheaper than our first 3 hours :)

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 04:20 Archived in Vietnam Tagged me taxi hotel vietnam ho-chi-minh ripoff Comments (1)

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