Monday, October 11, 2010

Malet does...... Saigon, baby!

So last week was Pchum Ben - major Khmer holiday, for us westerners not so important, but hey I got a week off of work so it worked for me! Unlike doing the traditional activities that are usually practised during Pchum Ben such as visiting the temple, making offerings and eating rice; Juliet, Will, Max and myself decided to head off to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, to partake in activities which probably have no national holidays dedicated to them.

We left PP at 1.30pm, Wednesday 6th. With our picnics in our backpacks we had all the food for the next 7hour bus ride. Surprisingly enough the bus ride over went quite smoothly - minus the 2 hour wait at the border, where our passports were checked, stamped, rechecked and restamped. We got a checking from the police a couple of times and then we were on our way! Driving in to Vietnam was SO different to Cambodia. Firstly, people there actually wore helmets on there bikes, there were no tuk tuks in sight, good start, not being perpetually hassled to get a tuk tuk already seemed appealing.

So we arrived in Ho Chi Minh around 10pm and began to find guest, after shopping around for a bit we settled into Hai Nuong guesthouse for a cheeky $4.50 room, with AC & breakfast (the breakfast left a lot to be desired though). After that we headed out to explore the local nightlife....

The next day we went to visit the Chu Chi Tunnels: Rise and shine at 6h30 for scheduled departure at 7h15. As we got on the bus little did we know we were in-store for 2 hours to get to Chu Chi, luckily we had a really offensive tour guide who made the time fly by! At the Chu Chi tunnels the tour guide took us on the standard route, to begin with we watched a short video on the War in Vietnam, were showed some of the traps which were set up by the Vietnamese to catch the Americans and finally a select few explored the tunnels beneath, which was highly exciting! After the informative, educational and slightly propaganda'esq day we got on the long bus ride back to Saigon.

Max in a hole hideout

We continued to soak up the Vietnamese atmosphere in the evening by hitting the local market, a traditional French bakery (Tous les Jours (thank you for the happy times)), getting some Pho and buying $1.50 Rhum. We proceeded to drink said Rhum back at the guesthouse, details from this night have been omitted for the benefit of all readers.

Will and Juliet sporting the sexy hats we bought

Day 2 in Saigon: on the agenda, late rise and War Museum. The Ho Chi Minh War Museum was pretty interesting, in addition to being quite graphic. It was crazy reading all the stories from the war from the Vietnamese point of view. What was even stranger was the fact that this was all so recent, the war in Vietnam happened only a few years before the Khmer Rouge but Vietnam is now probably 10 times more developed that Cambodia. This made me think that maybe all Cambodia needed might be 10 years in order to develop as much as Vietnam...

Just a few guns...

After the war museum, we headed back to the GH in order to get ready for our night out on the town. Ho Chi Minh is renown for its cheap jugs of alcohol, so being the good tourists we were we decided to sample a few, as well as a couple of pitchers, long island ice teas, B52.... And, well, the rest I forget. Anyway, it resulted in us doing loads of dancing! So much dancing! We rolled out of the club around 3am, and literally rolled in (army rolled if you're interested) to the guesthouse. We will not talk about the events which proceeded this.

Fun times in GO 2Bar!

Day 3 in Saigon: Another lazy morning, where we woke up to the carnage of the room in addition to a hangover for some (Will). After a traditional cooked breakfast, Juliet, Max and I went to Independence Palace. We looked on in awe at the neatly mown grass, tanks, fountains and leisurely walked in, where we were greeted by a tour guide. We agreed to be shown around the large palace by said tour guide, who took us through all the secret passages and showed us all the many maps, elephant feet and royal cutlery. The tour ended in the kitchen where this massive mixer was.... (Have you ever seen anything so big? Imagine all the cake mix that they could make with that?)

Independence Palace and said massive mixer

For our last night, we hit a local restaurant for some cheap food (no thank you alcohol), fruit smoothies and a trip down Saigon memory lane. For our last night we decided to have a quiet one, no alcohol this time (Will was still fragile from the previous night's jugs), just some educational Nat Geo.

We got our beauty sleep, ready for our 6h30 wake up and the 7 hour bus ride the next day. As we left HCM city I think we were all excited about arriving back to PP - the land of no helmets. Little did we know our 7 hour bus trip was going to be one of 14 hours! As it was the end of Pchum Benh it seemed everyone was coming back to PP, all at once, this combined with flooding was not good. After our long and arduous wait in the bus (which also broke down), we finally made it back to BABC for 10.30pm, where we all quickly crashed in our respective beds.

All in all a great trip! Even though the bus trip took twice as long, good times were had all round! Definelty good to get out of Phnom Penh and just have some mindless fun! Thanks Will, Juliet and Max for the good times!

Team Saigon!

PS Sorry for any grammar, spelling mistakes I may have made throughout this post. I feel like they are numerous!

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