Saigon, (Ho Chi Minh City),Vietnam

There are motorbikes everywhere, they constantly “toot” their horns, and there is no respite from the sounds of roaring 2 stroke engines. Our heads were burst! There just seems to be no place to escape.

Having said that, we absolutely loved the place. There was a lot of stuff to do, and we stayed in the heart of the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao. Being a big city, it is a bit more expensive here, but we managed to negotiate a decent enough deal at the quaint little hotel we were planning to stay at, for the simple reason we advised we were going to be staying for at least 6/7 days, and were also able to book a room for Stacey and Mark. There are quite a few streets and alleys to wander around, choc full wall to wall with bars, beauty salons, restaurants, hawker stalls, souvenir shops etc, and at night, the thumping bass and neon lights from the clubs. The senses get overloaded almost immediately – the kids were going to like this 🙂

Green Saigon is the beer of choice here for me, and at 10-12,000 VND, averaged about 35 pence for a large bottle, and it’s a really nice light beer. Michelle was in cocktail mode, with the odd Mojito or Uncle Tom Collins. The food choice was also great, but although the kebab drought could be broken here, we wondered how long that meat had been spinning, and sensibly stuck to the freshly prepared native dishes. We had only been in the city about an hour, when we spotted Alex and Marysia casually walking down the street. We all went for food at a local hawker stall on a street corner, and had a good time, with Alex and Marysia giving us pointers on things to do and see. This gave us some ideas for what to do over the coming week. A lovely young couple, they would be leaving in day or two so we had a couple of nights together before they would be on their way to Thailand.

Before we knew it, we woke up one morning knowing that flight from Australia would be landing in an hour or so. I had emailed Mark directions for the hotel and advised on reliable taxi company that would drop the gang off at our alley. It was like waiting for Santa to come, but all of a sudden the four of us were together and catching up, almost as if we had never been apart.

Over the course of the next few days, we visited the War Remnants Museum, the Chu Chi Tunnels, The Reunification Palace, The National Fine Arts Gallery, and were really getting to grips with Vietnam’s history.

At nights, we would wander around the Pham Ngu Lao area for a beer, grabbing a bite to eat and playing chess and cards. While in the bars, there are constant hawkers, mostly older women and young kids walking around offering cigarettes, sunglasses, and novelty touristy tat. It can be quite draining after a while of constant interruptions, but you have to be patient and politely decline. We were absolutely astounded one night when a young girl, maybe around 6 years old, walked away after we politely declined to buy anything from her. She told us to “F**k Off!” as she walked away. We just could not believe our ears, but were roaring and laughing afterwards. Cheeky wee so and so.

Stacey had decided to get her eyebrows and eyelashes tinted at one of the beauty salons, so Mark and I decided on a cheeky  afternoon beer while the girl’s disappeared. When Stacey arrived we had to do a double take, it was like looking at a pair of eyebrows, with Stacey attached to them! Soon got used to it, maybe I’ll get mine done too!

We set about a plan for our travel northwards. We would be heading to Dalat, in the central highlands, then eastwards to the seaside town of Nha Trang, then further north up the coast to the less touristy Quy Nhon. Each journey would take around a manageable 4 hours by coach.

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