After a long moan at the Plaza Hotel for reasons given in the Bangkok post, I negotiated a Limo to take me to the airport for my flight to the last Asia destination of my trip, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). On arrival it seemed my potential Visa problem wasnt going to cause difficulties (the Cambodian Embassy got the departure date wrong but said "it should be OK" at Ho Chi Minh) so I got a cab to the Chancery Hotel, decent place nicely located opposite a park, but a bar obsessed with Abba.
Saigon is just festooned with motor bikes, they are everywhere and apparently the 4 million in the city and make up 95% of vehicles on the manic roads. You cross them by just walking very slowly across and letting them dodge you, scary at first but it seems to work well. You feel safe though, even at night I didnt find it too much of a problem walking about.
I went to the Dam sen waterpark (2 quid!) on my first day, all the usual slides etc and a wave pool with a band playing, I ended up with a few bumps and bruises but all good fun. Next day I booked a City Tour and feeling a bit knackered was taken round some sights, the best being the War Museum which takes a dim view of all things American and shows some heart breaking pictures of the effects of chemical/biological warfare, and the grand reunification Palace. We were also taken to a hectic indoor shopping market which few will be surprised to hear I nearly got lost in.
I chilled out a bit the following day, and brought a good value ticket at the plush Sheraton hotel and used there gym and pool most of the day. After that I booked a tour to the Ch Chu Tunnels, used by the Vietnamese during the 1965-1973 war - very narrow and I couldnt even fit in one, those I did go down were very dark, hot and claustrophobic - OK for a few minutes but those people spent hours if not days down there with no sanitation etc. Nice crowd on the tour, including two young girls who were big Burnley fans.
My other trip was to the Mekong Delta region, a very wide river that has smaller waterways going from it. We cruised down there in a variety of long and rowing boats and it was a top day in hot sunshine, and a good tour group made it a fun day out.
I spent most evenings at the Rex Hotel Rooftop Restauarnt, it gave great views of the downtown street life below and served excellent vegetarian noodles. I was going to stick with red wine in Vietnam, but it was to costly and I fancied the beer to much and didnt last more than 2 nights without lapsing. I also went to a water puppet show one night, not bad but 50 minutes was enough.
It was also Chinese New Years Eve whilst I was here, that made the streets even more chaotic, some mega loud bands and parades including one at 8am on there New Years Day in the Sheraton (my pick up point for the Mekong trip) which was deafening. Motor Bikes ended up just treating pavements like any other traffic lane, one even crashed into my hand.
My time at the hotel ended on a tragic note - a Japanese guy passed out in the breakfast cafe and when I went back to get a banana later in the morning they had placed a blanket over him and were carrying his body (in a style similar to the Fawlty Towers episode) about until finally putting him onto a stretcher, he was surely dead. The incoveninence of someone dying was too much it seemed for a Dutch guy who just moaned about the slow service as they were carrying him out of the cafe.
Thats it for Asia then, its been great but really pleased to be heading for the comforts of Australia.