After stores close the owners place small plastic chairs on the sidewalks and sell Beer Saigon for 10,000VND ($0.50), the cheapest in SEA.
This post should be a little shorter than the following entries for Vietnam.
We crossed into Vietnam from Phnom Penh rather uneventfully. The same couldn’t have been said for the three older American women on our bus. They were kicked off just before departing because they had obtained e-Visas and our border point was not one of the ones that could accept them. They were pretty miffed about where to get a visa, asking a British bloke where he got his Vietnamese visa.
Her: “Where did you get your visa?”
Him: “Uh, at a travel agent.”
Her: “Which travel agent?”
Him: “Uh, any travel agent. Like literally, any travel agent.”
Also of note was the skeletal Frenchman who sat beside GTO. Shortly after departure he began to bust up a small bag of grass, tossing stems onto the floor and transferring the rest to a smaller bag. GTO informed me that he stuffed it into his genitals. He was also intriguing because he was carrying about $5,000 worth of camera equipment and took about a million photos from the bus…of nothing. Some people’s kids.
We arrived in Saigon about 7:00pm which isn’t too daunting of a time to arrive in a new city in a new country. I had read that upon arrival a taxi will drive you all the way around town just to let you off at the same place you started: the tourist district. We walked about on Pham Ngu Lao road, well in the alleys. We were shown some pretty dismal rooms, up endless flights of stairs before we accepted a rather dreary room on the main street. Again, we would take what we could and then relocate the next day. The woman running the rooms was an absolute artifact. So old and Vietnamese and sweet, but definitely a bit out to lunch.
Overall impressions of Saigon are that is pretty fashionable and modern, yet just-another-big-SEA-city. It’s constant flow of traffic and energy is a bit Big Apple. Slim hotels stretch skyward like stacked hard drives. Music thumps late into the night, touts and vendors relentlessly approach tourists at a rate of one a minute (and they sell the most useless shit). Cabs stream in and out of the central district, men on bikes clang rattles against their handle bars to peddle shoulder massages. After stores close the owners place small plastic chairs on the sidewalks and sell Beer Saigon for 10,000VND ($0.50), the cheapest in SEA.
During the day we visited the War Museum and discovered the absolute atrocities of Agent Orange. We spent a day visiting the Cu Chi tunnels, which was absolutely touristic. We paid a grand total of $5 for a round trip bus ride to the tunnels. This bus also stopped at an Agent Orange handicap handicraft ‘village.’ The whole stop was supposed to take, I don’t know twenty minutes, except some assholes went on the tour and we waited around for three quarters of an hour. It was supposed to take an hour and a half to arrive at the tunnels though it ended up being about three. Anyway, we arrived and were forced to watch a movie and then moved as a group of forty or so through the demonstrations. Please tell me how anyone is able to get anything from a tour that crowded? A Dutch girl and I found a lot of humor in the tragedy that was the tour. However, redemption was earned when we actually got down into the tunnels. A minute and a half underground was enough to give me a ton of appreciation for the Viet Cong’s subterranean lifestyle. Also earning merit was the humorous mural that served as the backdrop to the booby trap demonstration. Americans soldiers are depicted injuring themselves in underwater fish traps with the silliest of faces. Gosh they are sooooooooooooooo stupid.
During our stop in Saigon Greg managed to develop a severely festering wound on his shin. It had developed during a game of beer pong in Sihanoukville. He had dove to save a play and scraped the bottom of his knee quite badly. By the time we arrived in Sagion it had grown to the size of two loonies (coins) and was about 3mm deep. The centre was black and edges were fleshy white. It was disgusting. It got worse as he left it exposed and the tropical heat likely affected it. Of less worry was a smaller ‘wound’ a couple inches below it. It may have even started as a bug bite that was becoming infected. Nonetheless he was in rough shape and it would become much worse before it would get better, many weeks later.
The last part of this entry concerns a restaurant rant and warning to travelers who appreciate good food. We settled on La Cantina on a smaller foodie street. It was happy hour and a list of cocktails were listed as part of the promotion. The boys asked whether they could have rum and Cokes rather than the cocktails at the happy hour discount. The server agreed. Greg ordered a baked potato, I ordered mashed potatoes and gravy and GTO ordered pasta. The server took a good ten minutes to produce a rum and coke and they first actually delivered margaritas. It was in that moment that we should have detected something was amiss. GTO got his pasta and I got my mashed potatoes (instant potatoes and the gravy was really gelatinous). Lest I say I did not eat much of them. The boys finished their rums and ordered the second free one. Another ten minutes passed. Things were getting a little ridiculous and Greg’s meal had not yet been delivered. Agitated we decided to cut our losses and settle the bill. Well wouldn’t you know, the rum and Cokes were charged at the menu rate. And such was our first experience with the Asian occurrence of saying ‘yes’ when they a) mean no; or b) don’t understand. Naturally this exasperated the situation and a confrontation boiled up. Greg became really upset, especially as his food never materialized. Words were exchanged and when we left the server put his hand on G’s shoulder and called him friend or something. As Greg exited he yelled, “Thanks and the food was GREAT!” which was of course lost on the guy.
At a loss of what else to do in Saigon we set our sights on Nha Trang. We ended up booking a sleeper day bus which was a nice alternative to sitting. Word to the wise: if you order a bagel at Bobby Brewers, give yourself enough time for them to dick around and take ten minutes to make it. I nearly missed my bus. I had paid them and was standing there for a good amount of time trying to will them to go faster with a good glare but it wasn’t until I threw up my hands and began to walk out before they ran out and gave me my food. I literally had to run through the streets of Saigon to get to catch the bus. Hey, that sounded neat.