The journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh (AKA Saigon) took us about 2 hours by Plane. We both were a bit apprehensive about visiting Saigon, as backpackers we have met throughout Vietnam did not speak highly of it. On arrival, it was immediately evident that Scooters flock the streets by the thousands. Both William and I are now experts at crossing roads and have learnt that the best way is to just put your head down, cross the road and everyone will swerve around you.
We stayed at a small guesthouse down a tiny alley way, in district one which is otherwise known as the 'heart of the backpackers ghetto'. Our room was clean and cozy but up 4 flights of stairs. This is not so easy with heavy backpacks. Once we dumped our bags, we headed out for a look around the city. It is much much more developed than Hanoi. It seemed like a different country. Even the people were differnt and they were a lot more friendly.
The next morning we took a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. On the way to the tunnels we made a stop at a handicraft village with disabled artisans. Obviously, this is why our tour was cheap as they were hoping to make some commission from whatever sales were made at the handicraft village. Obviously we didn't buy anything...but some of the crafts were stunning. The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. We saw how the Viet Cong lived, hid and utilised the tunnels to their advantage. We also saw their choice of weapons which were a bit scary. At the height of the Vietnam War, (or the American War as the Vietnamese call it) the tunnel system stretched from Saigon to the Cambodian border. The Vietnamese believe that the tunnels helped them achieve military success against the Americans. William obviously could not turn down the opportunity to go down the trapdoor into the tunnels. Later on both of us went into the tunnels but they had been widened for us Westerners, even then it was still very small, claustrophobic and hot. - A little too small for poor william. How the Viet Cong's managed to stay down there for 20 years we will never know!! At the beginning of the war there was 16,000 people. 20 years later only 5,000 people survived. Of course The survivors were put in jail anyway as they chose against communism.
After the tour we went to the War Remnants museum (or as previously known - The Museum of American War Crimes). The name was changed in 1993 after President Clinton visited Vietnam to build up relations. Personally Vietnam should have kept the old name as America should be reminded of their war crimes (including disembowelling children!!!!) I guess Vietnam wanted to achieve normalisation of relations with USA, which is fair enough. The museum shows brutal and harrowing pictures outlining the effects of the Vietnam war. There were loads of photos/stories of the victims of war, jars of preserved foetuses deformed by the effects of Agent Orange, Photos showing the effects of Agent Orange, after effects of napalm bombs etc.Both of us found it very disturbing.
We decided to catch a taxi from the museum to the local markets. We were not to sure on the price as one wasn't agreed (our mistake) and the driver was a little too happy to be using his meter. So 5 minutes drive around the corner we start to notice the meter flying up, so of course we questioned the driver and asked him to stop. He didn't stop.. so we opened our doors and threatend to jump out. Before I knew it william had the driver by the throat and his fist in the air ready to punch. - JUST JOKES. Haha But they both started argueing as we refused to pay his rediculous price. We gave him 1/4 of what he asked for and walked away. Sucker!
Our last activity in Saigon was a visit to a water park! It was similar to Wet n Wild in the Gold coast minus all the rules. This was cool, until we got hurt. Only minor but I can definately say that it scared the sh*t out of me. We spent the afternoon on different slides, in wave pools and william even tried out the flying fox.
For our last night in Saigon was spent it eating yummy food, trying out the local draught beer for 45c and stocking up on snack foods ready for our long journey to Cambodia the next day. Instead of going to Phnom penh first, we decided to go direct to Siem Reap. (6 hours longer).
We absolutely love Vietnam for its food, scenery, activities and history and we have certainly learnt a thing or two about Vietnamese people.