Ho Chi Minh City, used to known as Saigon.
Ok, the fact, that I travelled from Dubai straight to Vietnam might have helped with the exaggeration of how I perceived it.
I went from 50 stores buildings to falling apart little houses! And it is a shock for me!
I am so glad, that Saigon was my ‘introduction’ to Vietnam, as I had to adapt immediately to the new cultural habits and just flow with the stream.
There is this saying in Polish ‘What a Saigon?!’ – and basically it means – ‘What a mess etc.’. Now I know why!
Be prepared, as I’m about to bore you with so much detail, it’s disgusting : o
First … The money!
It is good to exchange your money at the airport, as it is the cheapest way and you will avoid overpaying when inside the country. There are not many places where you can pay with card free of charge, so It’s good to have certain amount of money with you from the start!
Also, because of the Vietnamese currency – I instantly became a billionaire ! ; ) What a feeling !!!
I took a bus from the airport, as it was around 5000 Vietnamese Dong (instead of paying 300.000 for a taxi!). So I had a chance to look around a bit more on my way.
Second … Scooters !
Scooters and scooters !!!!
It was definitely overwhelming ! I mean the amount of people on those coming from all the sides of the road at the same time was absolutely fantastic !!! (Obviously from the point of view from behind the bus window ; ))
I’ve heard the stories and saw some pictures before, but what stroke me at first was the fact, that people were dressed completely normally while driving them – nicely dressed teenagers, house wives with shopping etc. etc.
Nobody was looking around, nobody was scared. People had so much on their scooters ! A tiny little woman, basically transporting a tree on it ! (and I’m about to find out why!).
Basically scooters scooters scooters !!! They are EVERYWHERE !
There are whole families on the scooters! (I even saw a woman breast feeding while sitting on the scooter with her other 3 members of family! – she wasn’t the one driving, but still!!)
My first afternoon was not so packed with excitement, because what I did was just arriving to the hostel and trying to sleep off the jet lag.
I stayed at the Hideout Hostel, which I chose, because of free beer : )
And you know, I get to the pub, have a beer, hangout a bit, but to be honest I was not ready to cope with people. I was still very hung up on the idea of travelling by myself and I was very much enjoying myself as it is, but apparently unintentionally I was a target to all the guys who came from Australia etc. to party in Vietnam.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, but I partied my amount in life and going to another continent to get shittfaced and make out with strangers is not necessarily my thing, so I was most bored ever at the pub crawl : p (but if you’re in this sort of thing – Saigon is the best for it ; ))
Except drinking for pennies – what is to do in Ho Chi Minh?…
First stop – War Museum.
I heard it’s worth going because it is showing the Vietnamese War from the Vietnamese perspective (not the one we all know from American movies).
I rolled there quite late, but I was told – I can use the same ticket next day, so I ended up spending much more time than I expected at first.
I must admit, it was a very strong experience. I didn’t know that much about this war and definitely, I didn’t know how long and how tragic in consequences it was!
The length of the war, the way it was being held and the amount of people who lost their lives in it was shocking! I felt pretty bad with such a lack of knowledge in the subject. It was embarrassing! I very much enjoyed getting to know more about the war (if enjoyed is even right vocabulary choice …) Anyway, the experience was strong!
Outside the museum building there was a huge display of planes and tanks from American army forces. It looked amazing, because I actually never had a chance to stand by a massive army helicopter and it was so much bigger than I could have imagined!
The museum was a little bit exaggerated when it comes to Agent Orange consequences. I mean, the exhibition about it, not the thing itself!
It was an entire floor of photographs of deformed people, who suffered because of chemical weapons used by American army. It was extremely hard to look at and you could almost touch the bitterness and sadness of the entire Vietnamese population.
My favourite part of the museum was the the exhibition which was put together couple of years ago in the name of Requiem Exhibition project.
It had no sides, no nationalities, there were just pictures of photographers from all different countries, who lost their lives trying to capture the war as it was and show it to the world.
Definitely worth checking out!!!
Basically, Instead of being point to point tourist, I just decided to stroll around the streets and kinda try to get used to Vietnam.
Couple of snaps I took.
I had to go over the big fence to take this pic !
I was very excited when found out about the fact that once I’ll arrive in Vietnam – the celebrations of a New Year (Chinese New Year) will start all around the country!
I couldn’t have been more wrong !
But before I found out, that it will modify my trip in so so pleasant ways – I had a chance to be part of the celebrations!
There were flower everywhere! I mean not like cut roses, but big pots with these tall yellow flowers (I am so shit at recognising any types of flowers and it’s not only because I don’t know their names in English, but I don’t know their names in general : p)
I will include some pictures of it, so at least you’ll know!
They were put outside most of buildings, as well private as well as the public ones such as hotels etc. Also, I stumbled upon those tiny altars outside of the houses, where people put lots of scent sticks and some fruit and sweets!
How people are celebrating the New Years? (from my observation only).
*They are making those little fires in buckets on the sides of the street
*They are burning the fake paper money
*They pray to the little altars with the scent stick in their hands
*They drink a lot of beer ; )
*They sit on the streets and play cards
*There are teenagers who do some sort of shows – dressed like big dogs (two people under one costume) and little children feed them with money.
*They have city fairs full of flowers, where they take pictures, and pictures, and pictures … (the stereotype of Asian people getting too crazy with their cameras has new meaning for me ; ))
Also, they were taking pictures of me and with me ! It was quite strange, but I would lie if I said, it wasn’t flattering ; )
*They have fireworks! Amaaaazing fireworks! (I was watching the ones in Saigon and must admit – they were one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen!!)
The downside of New Year’s celebrations in Vietnam…
Everybody had days and days off, so it was hard to sort anything out, lots of places were closed.
Also I was told, I can’t do the Mekong Delta tour until Tet (the name of the holiday) is over, so I had to wait. (in the end I managed to book one somewhere, but I still lost one day and wasn’t able to go to the tunnels).
All the bus tickets are more expensive. Who cares ! It’s Tet, so instead of paying 100.000 Dong for a bus ticket somewhere – you were paying 250.000 Dong, and there was nothing you could do about it!
Some trains and buses were cancelled. And don’t get me wrong ! I understand that completely, but it was going on for weeks !
I had a conversation with a friend of mine which gives you an idea of it : p
B: This holiday never seems to end!
Me: Haha! I want my life to be as long as Vietnamese holidays : D
B: Haha. Not sure how much fun being old forever would be though.
That’s about it for now,
next stop – Mekong Delta!