Good morning Vietnam, Saigon.
( nobody says Ho Chi Min City here)
I imagined a romantic, mysterious Saigon of old, or at least, some hints of its past legacy. There are approximately 8 million residents here and 6 million mopeds, which contribute largely to the poor air quality, traffic gridlock and inability for anyone to cross the road safely. Traffic lights are ignored and it seems that the population have replaced their legs with tyres. This will be interesting...
Verena's brother, who is also here right now, booked us on a 1 day trip to MEKONG delta (where the mighty Mekong River approaches and empties in to the South China Sea).
Speedboat, bus, boat, and back. Start at 7am.
Got told the Speedboat was broken, so we had to take the bus, which didn't leave before 8am.
After 1.5 h bus drive we boarded a small boat and went through the narrow canals, witnessing local lifestyle, floating vendors and small industrial boats. Many of the Vietnamese boats have eyes painted on the front to ward off evil spirits and to help guide the boat and crew safely back to land.
First stop was turtle island.
Groups of people got pushed through a little market and all sat down in a tiny restaurant close to a bee farm to try some honey tee. Afterwards everybody went to another little sit-down place to try some tropical fruits, while listening to traditional folk music. The intention was good, but their voices not so much. And the wanted a tip for ruining our ears...
Back on the boat next stop unicorn island.
There we went on a small rowing boat to see the transportation models of the locals. It was a nightmare. 100's of boats pushed thru that little canal. You would think those local people know by now how to row, nope, like always just pushed into each other, each carrying 4 tourists with big straw hats on. It was hilarious.
A short trip to a small village, where they make coconut candy and sell lots of coconut products, as well as small bottles with a liquid and either a small snake or scorpion inside. When i asked what it was, they said its snake wine. :( men were allowed to try it...there was a massive glass of it at the counter, including a dark broth and about 10 big snakes. ....its a healing drink for men only.
After that it was nearly lunch time. But instead of taking the boat, we all went on horse carriages, 4 people each carriage. Well, the horse was a pony, a little one and I am not sure how old they were and when they got fed the last time. It's was horrible.
But we didn't go that far, as in the middle of that path was a funeral going on. Everybody got down and walked thru the funeral and some tourists even took pictures- how inappropriate?
Arrived at lunch, some people clearly had enough, including me. It was all such a mass processing. We started to make jokes about the whole tip, which was quiet funny, at least all western people had the same feeling.
Lunch was awful- unique regional "Elephant fish", standing on the table, we had to pick out some meat and make our own spring rolls with it. Didnt have any of that fish, look at the pic and you know why.
There was also a menu available, but reading thru it, I was more than full....have a look on the picture as well ! Don't want to take the surprise...
Some nice Buddha's and a temple to finish the tour and we arrived back at 6.30pm. Quiet iteresting and i tense day, but looking back, youget what you pay. we paid 10$ for the whole day...
A quick 90 min foot massage - which was amazing- and back home.
Went on Verena's scooter through the city to go for dinner. Unbelievable. I have never seen so much traffic and so many scooters. Very special.
Next day, Verena' s driver offered, to take me on a city tour. Very cool. So I went o the war remnants museum, Notre dame, Chinatown and the big market, district 5 and the old Chinese pagoda- lots of people praying with incense sticks. Ben Thanh market, Reunification Palace...
At night was Verena's birthday dinner in a local vegetarian restaurant. Lots of nice food which is on the able and everybody shares.
Was really cool to get such an overview and impression in those few days, ESP hanging out with locals and find out some interesting cultural differences.
The prices were amazing. I spent in 4 days less than at one dinner in Sydney. People are super friendly and interested. ( They all are fascinated by white skin. There are whitening creams, shampoos, skin treatments, everything. They all want to be white...very weird to us.)
So glad I made the effort to come. I will be back.
Now off to my favorite airport KL... Lets see if I can leave the country first of all. Fingers crossed.