“There are nine million mopeds in Saigon…”
Well, probably not nine million, but that’s what Abbie’s been singing for the last two days. Credit where due and all!
Day 298 – Thursday 16th March 2017
This morning we caught a bus to country number sixteen – Vietnam. After leaving Phnom Penh at just gone midday we headed South East towards the Cambodia/Vietnam border, which took us maybe three hours to reach. Upon arrival the bus attendant made sure that everybody had a visa, and tried to charged $5 to those who didn’t (including us). It was clearly another scam – we had a similar situation when crossing the Thai/Cambodia border, but it was a government official running the show then and we didn’t fancy our luck arguing with him. This time it was just a bus driver, so (to the disbelief of a few others) we refused, and there was nothing he could do about it.
The (lack of) security as we crossed into Vietnam was quite hysterical. We had to take absolutely everything with us and walk through airport style security, but there wasn’t an officer in sight, so even when the alarm went off people just carried on as they were. Better yet, sitting in front of the X-ray screen was a cocker spaniel! It literally looked like Vietnam had left a dog in charge immigration.
We carried on for another four hours or so before arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, where we checked in to Ly Loan Homestay at around 19:00. We probably could’ve found a private room in a hostel for cheaper, but there’s something about homestay accommodation that really appeals to us. We had a private room equipped with a television and refrigerator, with a double bed and an en-suite bathroom, in a house where the owners share one room with a double mattress on the floor (between four adults and a child). It seemed a bit backwards, but at the end of the day we knew our money was going straight into the pockets of a kind, loving and caring family, instead of just another business, and that was a lovely feeling.
Day 299 – Friday 17th March 2017
Our homestay hosts really went out of their way this morning to ensure that we had a pleasant stay. Thhey helped us put together a one day itinerary, gave us a map to take with us, recommended a few places to eat and drink, then sent us on our way.
First we walked to Independence Palace (which wasn’t open, but looked pretty enough from outside) then continued to Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, a beautiful cathedral that was constructed between 1863 and 1880:
From there we carried on to Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, where we paid 50,000₫ each (that’s the equivalent to less than £2) for our entry tickets. Given the choice I think we’d have visited the Botanical Gardens and given Saigon Zoo a miss, but they have shared grounds, so we got a bit of both in the end. The animals didn’t seem particularly happy though, so we paid more attention to the flowers and then made a move.
Next up was The War Remnants Museum, a unique museum which studies, collects, conserves and displays exhibits on war crimes and consequences inflicted by foreign agressive forces:
We strolled through nine thematic exhibitions (which focus mainly on the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists) and really enjoyed our visit, despite the fact that all exhibits were blatantly one sided. Let’s just say that there was a hell of a lot of anti-American propaganda on display!
Ben Thanh Market was our last stop of the day, where we found ourselves quite underwhelmed. I think markets are the new waterfalls for us now – it certainly gets to a point when they all start to look the same.
From there we headed back to our homestay via a ticket agency where we booked a bus for tomorrow, then planned on getting an early night but stayed up watching Full Metal Jacket and Good Morning Vietnam (hey, at least we kept it relative). That’s the only beauty about bus travel I guess – no matter how much sleep you may or may not have had the night before, you can always just sleep for a little longer on the road!