So the journey from Sihanouckville to Ho Chi Min city was intersting!! Left Sihanouckville on Sun 30th October early morning and within minutes of leaving on the bus we were caught up in a protest! There were people bloicking the roads holding up signs and police there with guns and tv crews etc. I gathered from some people that it was to do with the government reclaiming some land from the cambodians who lived there, so they decided to cause havoc and block the raod. This held us up for 3 hours, I decided to get off the bus for a toilet and drinks break after 2.5 hours, as I was doing this, sods law, the protest was cleared and the bus left!! So I sptinted up the road, managed to catch what I thought was my bus, jumped on, great! After a few seconds I realised it wasnt my bus at all & mine was gone, along with my rucksck ha!! Some frantic signing and facial expressions worked to communicate my problem and the bus put its put down, cuaght up with my bus & after lots of beeping and light flashing my bus stopped & I got safely transferred over. This was much to the amusement of the cambodians on the bus, the pretty much only white girl making a fool of herslef haha!!
Due to this delay, i missed my cnnection bus to vietnam, so had to spend a night in phnom penh (cambodia) again. in a dodgey hostel, as there was no bus to vietnam until the mroning. A little disppointing to have lost a night, but sure, had some more nice cheap cambodian food etc so was fine. By 2pm Mon 31st October I reached HCMC (still Saigon to the people who live here) The bus drops you off around the backpacker area which is good but you are bombarded by taxi/moto drivers who want to take you to their hostel etc, its just pure madness! I had been massivelywarned by the hostel I had booked not to trust ANYONE but it was only a 3 minute walk to my hostel, 'My My Arthouse' so was okay. Shared a treble room with 2 danish girls, beautiful clean room, air con, en suite, cheap, perfect! Hostel turned out to be scam artists too, constantly changing prces for things by the minute. Quite a change from the great 10 days in cambodia.
HCMC is crazy crazy crazy....apparantly there are 5 million motorbikes / scooters in the road so getting to the sights and crossing the road was a big challenge!! There appears to be no system at all for the traffic and so you literally just have to walk out into a busy filled road and hope that they will stop!!
On my first afternnon there I saw the Reunification Palace where North Vietnam crashed the gate on April 30 1975 and took over Saigon and renamed it Ho Chi Minh City .Was impressive building from the outside, didnt go in as had limted time here. Then I headed to the War Remnants Museum which is basically all about how badly the USA damaged the country and its people during thier time in the war. I didnt realise how much damage they really caused and there is some shocking photography showing the US Army killing civillians. Not for the faint hearted as many of the pictures are after execution and there are displays of the torture devises used by the US army. The tiger cages were horrndous. Really sad looking at how much this country has had to suffer and impossible to understand how humans can do that to one another . There was an Agent Orange display room and this showed how they dropped millions of tons throughout the south killing vegetation and damaging the land and having long term effects on the people. I saw the famous picture of the children running down the road, naked, screaming, was very very moving. Scary thing is that the effects of the agent orange is carrying on through generations and this morning crossing the border into vietnam I am pretty sure a young boy begging with stunted deformed arms is a victim of the agent orange too. It can be passed down through breast milk feeding and eating vegetation that was effected those years ago.
On Tues 1st Nov I headed out on a half day trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, 30km from HCMC. They were amazing! The area around the Cu Chi district during the american war supported a large Viet Con prescence. As the american troops tried to neutralise the area the people literally dug themselves out of harms way; into tunnels beneath the ground. Tunnels could be as small as 80cm x 80cm and included meeting rooms, dorms, hositals for operating etc. Today I was able to see the tunnels and go down into them. The tunnels that allow visitors have 3 levels, each getting narower as they go deeper. Level 1 you have to bend a little, level 2 really crouch in and level 3 you literally had to crawl! Me and 2/3 others went down into level three, most people didnt, but I thought I have 1 chance to see what life was like down there so went ahead! What an experience, narrow, dark, crawling - not pleasant - and that was knowing i would be out in minutes. The cu chi people in 1965 sometimes had to live down there for weeks on end to stay safe. I couldnt imagine what that was like. The people must have been so determined and resilient and what they managed to design and build was so so impressive. There was a range of 'traps' on show that they used against the american troops. These were very clever and designed not to kill, but to injure, causing the maericans to scream out and therefore draw in more american troops who would alsofall victim to the traps. All quite gruesome but very clever. Kitchen area they used has a smoke hole diverted a an area quite far away, so if smoke was soptted they wouldnt be bombed or attacked in the kitchen area. Got some fab photos down there in the tunnels. Really intersting worthwhile day.
Arrivved back in the city just after lunch so headed to 'Ben Thanh' market which is a famous big market in the city. Had some cheap yummy food in there. There was amaze and warren of stalls selling anything and everything in there, really impressive. After this I ventured off, alone, map in hand (those who know me know that isnt a good combination) in search of a nearby water puppet show! They are famous in vietnam and have been going for centuries. It was odd - a strange experience but very cool! The puppeteers stand knee deep in water, behind a screen working the puppets in the water. Amazing dancing puppets with vietnamese music and narration, an intersting experience!! Managed to navigate my walk back to the hostel, in the dark, clutching my bag tight, head down - ignoring all taxi and moto bike offers, have no idea how I got back safe in 1 piece but did!! Dont feel all that safe in this busy city to be honest.
Saigon /HCMC has alot of history but for me it was a crazy busy hectic place with many people trying to scam you and so 2 nights here was more than enough to see the main sights and them move on! Was definitely worth it to see the tunnels though. Ready to move onto Hoi An tomorrow. Flying with Jet star to Da Nang - 35km from Hoi An (was cheper than the train, takes 1 hour, train takes 20hours, so no contest really). Flight for 26pounds sterling so a bargain. Goodbye crazy HCMC and all your motorbikes!!