Friday, March 14, 2008

Run away plane…

It’s finally time to get around to giving those of you with a mild interest in my travels a quick run down of the trip so far.

The trip got of to a slightly unusual start, in that I ran into some guys from touch rugby at the airport starbucks ‑ I am embarrassed to have been in the starbucks, but hay, I was past customs and all the coffee shops are expense and rubbish. I took running into friends so quickly as good omen for the trip, despite the fact that we soon parted company as left for their Japanese skiing trip.

After a fairly uneventful flight I touched down in Ho Chi Minh City. (Aside – I highly recommend that all travelers get noise isolating earphones, the pair I had made the flight far more comfortable as they blocked out both the plane engines and the screaming children). As is the norm for all travelers, as soon as I got outside I found myself confronted with a taxi driver offering to do me deal into the city – just $30. Fortunately, I decided to read the LP on the flight across, and soon found the metered taxis. This reduced my fare to a much more reasonable $6.

My first thoughts as the taxi weaved its way between the millions of motorbikes and scooters was, ‘this is madness, what the hell have I gotten myself into’. These feelings soon subsided though, as I got used to the mayhem that is Saigon. At my hostel, I soon got talking to people and then started to make my way around town. I was amazed that I managed to walk across so many massive intersections without being hit by a scooter or car. The roads here are organized chaos.

My first forays with the local cuisine weren’t fantastic. I suggest avoiding the beef ball soups – I really have no idea what that stuff was, but I haven’t tasted beef like it anywhere else. Although my confidence was a little dented, I pressed on with the trying the local food, and soon found the flow of things and some dishes that were more than a little enjoyable. Big fan of the bbq pork, and have developed a bit of taste for good pho.

My drinking exploits were a little more favorable. The mango smoothies are amazing, as are the flavoured sugarcane drinks, and this crazy ice drink with chocolate flavoured jelly in it. However, no drinking story from Saigon is complete without complimenting the bai hoi set up – not only do you get 30 cent pots (even it is light beer) – you also get to meet heaps of fellow travelers as well.

Overall, I walked the fairly well trodden tourist path around Saigon and HCMC. I went to the Cu chi tunnels and was overwhelmed by the ingenuity of the VC, as well as the tightness of the tunnels – being a massive wuss, I only made it two-thirds of the way before I had to get out. I also did the two-day tour of the Mekong Delta. It was a very tourist oriented trip unfortunately. We basically stopped at places were they were constantly trying to get us to buy things we didn’t really want. I managed to get myself some coconut candy, which I have to say was excellent and very quickly eaten. I also got to hold a python, and then eat some snake spring rolls and curry – didn’t care too much for the meat but glad to have tried it.

Other experiences in Saigon included, going to the reunification palace – very kitche; going to the local sports complex – the pool wasn’t great but shooting hoops with some local kids was a bit of a laugh. I also hit a local club for a very short period of time ‘lush’, but spent a lot more time at the local tourist bar next to the hostel.

Overall, I had a fantastic time in Saigon. I have already met a heap of great people from all over the planet – although a surprising number of the Aussies I have met have come from Melbourne. I will give a special mention to the group of Hungarians from my Mekong Delta tour, as they helped make the trip a lot of fun.

Anyway, I think that’s enough for now – I will fill you in on Hoi An soon.

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