Day 46: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) III, Vietnam

 27/12/2006
considering today was my last day it was a hectic day because the stupid travel agent just had to sell me the tickets to see the Cu Chi tunnels – more on that later! Rosh and I had the alarm on at 7 knowing that we’d snooze it up to 7:30, which came true. We were expecting a 8am pickup so I went outside for a quick bowl of Pho. Scoffing it down in 10 minutes I was waiting outside the hotel at 8 – sitting… waiting… 1 hour later the tour decides to finally get around to our place. Deceptive advertising was clearly evident as the ‘coach’ was 2 mini buses.

Cu Chi tunnels was where we were going, it is where the Viet Cong (“Victor Charlie” or VC) used deep underground tunnels to defeat the Americans in a famous guerilla battle.We went to a crafts store where the goods are hand made from handicapped people whose parents were a victim of an Agent Orange [link here] poisoning. After the visit to this craft store we got to meet the ‘real’ tour guide, Mr. Bean (he liked to be called that, although his name was Binh). This guy was passionate, he was an American naval captain of Vietnamese origin – he had some HUGE resentment towards the States, pretty understandable – but everyone on the bus had the shiets because it was as if he was just trying to brain wash us!

Twenty minutes later we were on our way to the Cu Chi tunnels – how else were we greeted? none other than some great commie propoganda! We got to watch a somewhat bias view of the American invasion of vietnam – we all saw the light hearted side of it.

Then came the tour, it was friggen amazing! We only saw a few sites, a crater left by a b52 bomber, some boobie traps (man, the vietnamese were pretty smart). The underground tunnels, with three levels (3 meters (for cooking, snipering and sleeping) , 6 meters (communications) and 10 meters (emergency exit)) – the tunnels span 256km running parrallel to the Saigon river. We got to try our hand at moving our way through one of the tunnels, asian squat was a MUST HAVE on this one, it was literally 1.3 m high and about 80 cm in width – and this was enlargened for ‘Americans with fat asses’ (in the words of Bean).

Anyways, back to my frustrations with the wanker tour guide, the agent had told me that the tour bus would arrive back in Saigon at 1:30, so I could get back to the hotel, have a quick shower, finish up some packing and then get the cab I had arranged at 2:30. What time did I get back? 2:45! arhh. Anyways, powered through the packing, grabbed my shit and ran for my life to the airport. Got there on time!

….. sadly, that became the end of my asian adventure =(

Day 45: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) II, Vietnam

26/12/2006

Today was a write-off, after getting home at 4 from GO2 I only got 5 hours sleep, had to get up at 9, but didn’t end up getting out until 11, sitting in bed watching the Boxing Day Test (yay for satellite!). We were supposed to go to the Cu Chi tunnels today but didn’t end up going, we were waiting for Jem and Manny to get their Indian visas. So after meeting up with Richie ( richie.wright@hotmail.com) we walked around for a bit – then decided to go to DAM SEN WATER PARKK!!!!

It was friggen SICK!!! hehe They had some awesome slides there, from travelling into black holes/slides with inflatable rings – to the ‘super magic bowl’ which was a 30meter straight slide that ends up in a bowl where you slide around in circles hehe. We spent a good 3 hours there and had a blast, although there ziplines were NOTHING compared to Vang Vien. Getting back at 5 we rested up before my final night in Saigon.

I decided to go to my mum’s old place, where she grew up in Cholon – it was an amazing experience. When I got to the front it didn’t look like a house, it had no windows and there was a sign that said “cd’s”. Called mum and she confirmed it was the only place with that address. Two levels in the front and four in the back, the place was pretty run down. 5 of us walked around in this random area of town which had no tourists, people started getting worried when a girl came out with broken english asking me WTF we were doing there. Turns out she had no idea about anything, then the shop next door opened up with a chinese looking woman. I went up to her and her son and we started talking. Turns out no one lives in my mums place anymore because it was too run down and no one wanted to renovate it – the shop owners now living somewhere else and just using the frontage as a shop.

We ended up catching a cab back to Pham Ngu Long and catching some great pizza. DVD shopping and organising the Cu Chi later, we ended up at G02 for some very subdued farewell drinks and pool.

Day 44: Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

25/12/2006

We got up early in the morning to finish packing our bags and also so I could go and pick up my custom made messenger bag. I made my early morning phone calls back home to wish everyone merry christmas and then had some pho as I rushed to around the city, it was crap, but I sat down for some great Cafe Suda! We caught our flight and was introduced to Saigon in the mid afternoon. My first impression wasn’t that good, but as we moved around the city it was great – one of my favourite cities. A lot more commercial than the rest of the country, but there were lots of things to do and see. The taxi drive took us to Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker haven, it was great as we found a nice guesthouse which had regulations – such as “No bringing back prostitutes”- GOLD.

We hit some markets and it was my time to get some last minute gifts. It was great, the bargaining skills came into play as we walked around the markets firing up shop owners by dropping their initial prices down to a quarter – and it worked! We had all the strategies down pat, but some people were pissed off because we were shopping around – jeez. I ended up getting a Samsonite suit case, 4 watches, 2 bottles of perfume and a few belts. We went back to the hotel to rest up before we headed out for the night.

Rosh felt sick, Manny couldnt be bothered going out – so I enlisted Jeremy to enjoy Christmas night in Saigon. We walked around for a bit and couldn’t find anywhere good to sit down and have a few, until we hit some corner bar (I forget the name). We sat down next to an Aussie who was on his own, Rich, he’s from SA and we decide to have a big one. Jeremy and Manny had left, but I stayed out and drank till the wee hours of the morning – 3 am. We played pool and had heaps of beer, people were getting the shits with us because we owned the pool table hehe. That’s when I told Rich to join us for my final days in Saigon.

Day 42: Hoi An II, Vietnam

24/12/2006

Christmas eve in Hoi An was quite frantic, it became the official day of refits. We ran around to all the shops that we had visited the day before where the orders were made – because Rosh and I slept in, Yaly gave our hotel a courtesy call and tried to wake us up, heh. That didn’t work too well, we ended up getting to the refit an hour late. So I ended up buying 3 suits, 2 jackets and a tailor made bag. The most interesting thing that was purchased was a pair of custom made Tigers that Jeremy picked up, they were inverse Kill Bill style with a nice pattern for the black, rather than black leather – very cool. My final refit was at Yaly and it was around 9pm (on Christmas Eve) when we heard some crazy music pumping in the background. They invited us to their Christmas party and it was going off, heh. We got some initial weird looks but they invited us with open arms! The locals put a case of beer in front of the 4 of us and we sat there watching the karaoke, dancing and eating. The party ended quite early, around 12, because all the tailors had to get up for work the next day. After the Yaly party we walked to some pub around the corner and shot some pool.

Day 41: Hoi An, Vietnam

23/12/2006
So we got up at 4 am to catch a Vietnam Airlines flight to Danang airport (our times been cut short and we couldn’t do trains) en route to Hoi An. Everything went smoothly and we arrived early to be greeted by a wanker taxi driver who wouldn’t take us to the destinations that we wanted to go to. We would point to his meter and he was insistent that it didn’t work, so we fired up and found some people who could translate for us and explain things to him. After settling down we strolled down the road for some breakfast (Pho and Caphe Suda) and checked out some shops afterwood.

Hoi An, being the tailoring capital of Vietnam (and renowned around the world) became our one stop shop for suits and suit jackets. I entered some Indochine tailor which was okay, fabrics weren’t bad and was priced at around $US100. I didn’t realise how shit actually were until we did a little research (well, mainly Rosh) and we found Yaly – they were really helpful and did a great job fitting me out.

Will trying on a jacket

And that’s how we spent the whole first day, in different tailors figuring out what we were going to buy!

Day 40: Halong Bay II

22/12/2006

We got up fairy early this morning for some breakfast and then a visit to some floating markets – yet another commission based stop for these tourist agencies, heh. Here’s the view:

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We headed straight home after that and ended up in Hanoi late afternoon. We had arranged to meet with Mark and Danni for some dinner, as they had never ventured very far from their hotel, but they didn’t show up? Oh well, we hit some more street food (Hu Thieu) and wandered up the street markets hoping to pick up some bargains. Rosh got some sunnies at a really cheap price, around 1/4 of the original price and then we hit some Bia Hoi for our last night in North Vietnam. We had an earlyish night because we had to get up at 4am, so we got back to our hotel at around 12.

Day 39: Halong Bay I

21/12/2006

After a big night out and getting back to the room a bit woozy, I had to get up early so we could catch the bus and boat to Halong Bay. It was about a 1 hour bus ride before we arrived at Vietnam’s richest city (because of the discovery of coal mines). We got on the boat expecting it to be overcrowded with heaps of other tourists, but it was empty! Our boat only had 7 people on it, 4 of which were me, manny, jem and rosh! There was an English couple, Danni and Mark and some random scando. We started the day with a great meal, something like 6 dishes – yummo. First stop was to do some Kayaking, it was pretty cool but harder than we thought. We entered a cave and sat sorrounded by the gorges of Halong – truly spectacular.

Penis rock:

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This scene of tranquilty was SMASHED by the sound of a speedboat. As the boat moved past Rosh and I yelled out “Konichua”, thinking they were Japanese. The sound of “We’re Korean” came back and had a great laugh – making us almost fall off our kayaks. We got back after the Kayak ride and decided to go in for a dip, well Mark and I did heh. We launched ourselved from the top of our 2 level junk boat and crashed into the water, it was great! We did it again and again heh.

Sunset:

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After a hot shower we got into some more food, after that we sat down and had a few drinks – I had to buy a bottle of whisky which was marked up x 4 – literally.

Travel Advice: Whenever you’re on a boat, on a island, or whenever you’re at the mercy of agents – BRING YOUR OWN ALCO. They have massive mark-ups!

We sat around till 12, Rosh, Danni and I just talking about random stuff from home. We slept the night away