There's only one right way to cross the roads in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or any other asthma inducing SE Asian metropolis. The wrong way is to wait patiently by the road for a break in the traffic. This will never happen. The right way is to walk across with the idea that you're surrounded by a force field where nothing can harm you. With that attitude thankfully the motorbikes kind of flow around you a bit like when you're scuba diving through a shoal of fish. Road rage just doesn't seem to happen in the east; everyone seems to accept that everyone is trying to get everywhere at the same time and no one seems to deliberately aim for you in revenge if you get in their way unlike in the UK.
There's not much to distinguish HCMC from any other crazy Asian city centre i've been too; the usual mix of street food vendors, groups of men sat on the pavement playing chequers, women carrying back breaking quantities of fruit across their shoulders, tuk tuk's and taxi touts. You do get a lot of Vietnam red and yellow flags on the backpacker streets though, just in case you get too pissed and wake up wondering where you are in the morning.
One of my first stops in Ho Chi Minh was to go and see the old fella himself in his mauseleum. Unfortunately he'd already left last week on his annual visit to Russia where apparently he gets re-embalmed and the odd finger put back on over the course of two months. Sceptics say he goes to Madam Tassauds.
The Chu Chi tunnels were still there at least. It was fascinating to see and crawl through the USA beating web of tunnels created by the VC in the forest,where they launched surprise attacks before popping back down their holes like rabbits. Looking at the some of the traps that were created in the forest to kill the Americans made your eyes water just in anticipation of the pain that must have been involved. After this you got the opportunity to don a pair ofear protecting Sony walkman headphones(another SE Asian health and safety first) and fire a real gun! This was a real tough choice, most people picking the ubiquitous AK47. I'd always fancied a handgun so it was a Colt 45 for me, thought it would give me a taste of being a real cop somewhere well 'ard if that ever happens. Guns are so f***ing loud it's untrue, how Clint Eastwood fired all those Magnums and still has his hearing I have no idea.
If you're in Vietnam and your cravings for some european weather and some interesting architecture all get a bit too much to bear, you can spend a couple of days of Dalat. This place is in the highlands, giving you great views as the bus weaves it's way through clouds giving you stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Once in Dalat in rains a lot, but it's a pretty place. They've managed to fashion the local radio mast like the Eiffel tower, there's a huge lake and golf course which at $35 is a month's wage for some of the locals, and you get to local Vietnamese wearing long trousers and coats which looks just not quite right! The architecture is very odd, and feels like you're in an episode of The Prisoner. It's also home to the Easy Riders, a group of 80 local men who speak good english, and will take you on motorbike tours of most of Vietnam for the right price. Each of them carries books full of testimonials from gushing tourists saying it was their best experience ever, yadda yadda yadda. You can't avoid these guys they hang around the cafes, but give them any attention and prepare to be talked at and shown photos of their tourist friends for 30 minutes. Probably would be a great experience, but during rainy season I aint convinced.
I've actually had more rain in Vietnam than anywhere i've been so far, meaning the beach resorts i've been too aren't really worth a mention. The run off from rivers has meant the sea has mostly looked as appealing as a dip in Blackpool. In Nha Trang I did at least get involved in a boozy boat trip which made up for the zero vis for snorkelling. Each of us on the boat pretty much got a a local bottle of 16% mulberry wine each whilst sat on our rubber rings floating in the sea, bringing back memories of Vang Vieng. Despite all this temple business it does seem to be a common theme amongst travellers, myself included, that all the best memories seem to be when your pissed...
It certainly rescued a dodgy trip to Halong Bay I was on a few days ago. Beautiful location; incredibly calm waters dotted with thousands of uninhabited limestone islands. The idea of the trip was mostly snorkelling, which would have been fine if it wasn't for all the sea monster jelly fish that were everywhere! Two guys from the boat got stung, one looked like he'd been to an S&M whipping marathon. To say Vietnam is supposed to be a communist country, they're certainly not backward when it comes to capitalist ideas of overcharging people wherever possible. The boat we were on had the cunning idea of charging $10 for any alcohol brought on board that wasn't bought on the boat! And the stuff on the boat was piss takingly expensive. Thankfully a few people had been tipped off and had worked their vodka magic on some Evian bottles so we all got trashed anyway. The highlight of the trip was staying on Catba Island, a tiny quiet place where I hired a 125cc for the the day for $5 and wragged around. Hilariously after my first 5 minutes of ever riding a motorcycle I was getting flagged down by locals needed lifts, including 3 school kids(all at once!) and one of those fruit women. Sure makes you get your balance fast. I now want a motorbike they completely appeal to my sense of being 12 forever.
Since i've first been to Bankok i've been putting off the idea of going to local tailor and getting suit or two made; a notorious traveller rite of passage. You hear so many scam stories going around of dodgy fabrics and stitching, and overcharging on what you agreed on. When I got to Hoi An I couldn't really put it off anymore though; a town of 800 tailor shops doesn't give you a lot else to do. Well the jobs been done, my two suits and overcoat should now be sat on a cargo shop getting nibbled by rats, and with any luck might reach home before I do.
Well, it's a few days from now that I technically start at tigermuaythai.com in Phuket, two months of becoming a lean mean fighting machine hospital admittance. If my fingers don't ache too much maybe they'll be an entry about my agony to follow, although as i'm supposed to by training for 6+ hours a dayi'm not sure if i'll have the time...