Back to Ho Chi Minh! We decided to spend a while in Dalat to explore the surrounds and see as much as we could, which worked out well but it did seem a bit of a shame that we ran out of time and weren’t able to visit nearby Mui Ne, Hoi An or Nha Trang but hopefully we will be back some day.
So back into the swelter for a couple of days and again hitting the town with Thom, some gift shopping and a little sightseeing. This time though we had booked a cool little hostel just off Pham Ngu Lao st (the main backpacker street), where a pokey little alcove near the hostel was filled with local food markets every morning. Wandering through and seeing poor old toads being decapitated and gutted with scissors, fish squirming around in shallow damp bowls, lots of fresh veg and plenty of haggling was the norm. The atmosphere at this, and most other SE Asian food markets is always vibrant, gritty and in-your-face.
Asian food markets also really emphasise how detached most people are from their food in the developed world and may prove a challenge for the stomachs of some travellers ;). Our two days back in HCMC was really cool though, we spent a couple of late nights hanging out at some great bars (check out the exposed Chill skybar if you are in HCMC), playing pool with some friends of Thom’s, who he had met during his time living in HCMC and seeing the band play one last time (and of course dancing along no matter how bad we looked :)). In amongst the attempted catch up on sleep, last minute shopping and washing we took a look at the war remnants museum, which was an interesting and disturbing photographic view into the Vietnam war and the affects it had and still has on many Vietnamese and military people alike.
One of the more unique experiences we had after dinner one night was to visit the blind association, where blind people are trained and paid to give massages, thereby giving them a meaningful job, which are few and far between for disabled people in Vietnam. So, of course we had to give it a try and it was a damn good massage, even if the building and rooms felt like some kind of asylum…
Sitting here in our hostel room though, having just packed our bags, we dont know how to feel just yet, as we are flying off home in a few hours. What an amazing trip it has been, 3 months, 6 countries and so many awesome experiences! We will put up a highlights post soon, but for now Bon voyage!
Tips for Ho Chi Minh aka Saigon
– District 1 is the place to stay near the city centre, Check out Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien st (near each other) if you want cheap accomodation, food and drinks
– Only catch Vinasun taxies. The rest are dodgy (before we found this out we took a trip in a non-Vinasun taxi and it cost 3 times as much for the same trip as with Vinasun, even while using the meter)
– Cash and dress yourself up if you want to drink at one of the sky rise bars like Bitexco building, Sheraton, Chill Skybar, etc as drinks are not cheap and dress codes usually apply
– If you are into live music then there is plenty in the backpacker area or you might like to dance to some well rehearsed international bands and mix it with the billionaires at the 5 star Caravelle or the Sheraton
– WATCH YOUR VALUABLES!! – This mainly applies to footpath walking, but keep your camera slung ACROSS your body and make sure you have a good camera strap. It is common for motorcycle riders to ride up to tourists and snatch cameras and mobile phones from the hands of pedestrians. On our visit this happened on 2 occasions and we heard of one other occasion while we were visiting. One rider even pulled on a camera hard so that the strap broke. BUT, don’t take this as a “OMG Saigon is so dangerous” because we didn’t feel in danger once, its a cool city that feels very safe, just keep valuables out of sight on the street and remain vigilant.