Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good morning Vietnam!

There is so much to tell, SO much to tell ....

Right now I'm in Saigon, Vietnam. The older generation call it Saigon but the newer generation prefer Ho Chi Minh City. I prefer HCMC just like I prefer KFC and WaMu and those sorts of things.

My friend and I arrived here from the Philippines on the Cebu Pacific flight at 12:30 in the morning. Thankfully it was dark out and most people were asleep at that hour. A guy who didn't speak English was at the airport waiting for us with a sign that said Philip Caldwell on it. I took that as a good sign that someone would know where we were supposed to go.

Our hotel is right in the middle of the "backpacker" district, which I think is just another way of saying "tourist central". Bich Duyen is the name of the hotel and it's a bargain at $25 a night. It's spotlessly clean and run by an incredibly friendly (and helpful) guy named Chanh. The only drawback so far has been the lukewarm (no, make that cold) showers. I love my hot morning showers.

My first impression of Saigon is that it's INSANE. No, make that REALLY INSANE. Traffic in Saigon makes a New York rush hour look like a day in the park. There are no traffic rules. Everyone goes anywhere. Crossing a street as a pedestrian is a nail-biting experience since motorcyles are flying at you from every angle. So far, I have managed to avoid being mowed down by one but there have been some pretty close calls.

We went to the War Remnants Museum which is a museum dedicated to rubbing the Americans' faces in the Vietnam War. They call it the "War of American Aggression" and everywhere there are photos and quotes detailing the American atrocities against the Vietnam people. There was a large area dedicated to the horrific effects of Agent Orange (including pictures of the mutated people and children). I found it very strange that this museum was on the list of must-sees for American tourists and yet it was profoundly anti-American. I guess they have a right to do such things since after all, this is their country.

This afternoon, we went to Cholon which is the largest China town in the world. This place was even more insane than the area of Saigon where our hotel is. It was like a bee hive. So many people EVERWHERE. My pictures will not do it justice. We didn't do a lot of exploring because the traffic looked deadly and it was all a little too much but we did manage to get to the market and buy North Face backpacks for the wholesale price of $10.

Gotta run. It's raining out and hopefully the city has quieted down for the night. Tomorrow, we go to the Cu Chi tunnels. Don't know much about them. It's a day trip so it's gonna be nice to get out of the city.

See ya!

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