Busy, busy, busy ...
29.12.2007 - 01.12.2007 30 °C
We arrived in Saigon in the evening and took a taxi to our hotel. This is an amazing city with somewhere between 5 and 7 million people and no mass public transport system. There seemed to be 10 to 14 million scooters and other vehicles in the streets, all with horns blaring. After 3 days there, we almost perfected the art of crossing the street. You basically head out between the scooters and pray to whatever gods you can think of until you get across to the other side.
In Saigon, we visited several pagodas, the War Remnants Museum (complete with plenty of anti-US memorabilia), the Reunification Palace (more anti-US material but very interesting) and a couple of other museums. The place was rather tiring but intensely energetic. Every time you ventured on to the street, you would see something absolutely surprising. These sights included extended families riding around on scooters, more scooters with building materials attached to the back of them, bicycles with fairy floss machines attached to the back of them, bicycles with bar-b-ques attached to the back of them, motor scooters with bicycles attached to the back of them, and so on .... Never dull, I suspect.
We also witnessed New Years Eve in Saigon (I think it is only referred to as Ho Chi Minh City by government officials and politically correct tourists). The was an incredible sight with the equivalent of the entire population of Queensland riding along the street in front of us, bright lights everywhere, noise, crowds and some more noise.
The young women running the hotel (actually a small group of hotels) that we stayed in were fascinating organisers who displayed a phenomenomal skill-set. At one stage while we were sorting out onward travel arrangements with the young lady on reception, she was finalising our bus tickets, organising someone's laundry, and talking on two telephones at the same time. All done perfectly and managing to make the seven people that she was dealing with feel welcome and important. She even took our hands and guided us across the busy street a couple of times. At the end of our stay of 3 nights (costing about $US75 including laundry, drinks, breakfasts, postcards and forward bus bookings) we were given two small bottles of wine as "valued customers". Their capacity for hard work and entrepreneurial flair is something to be seen. I went to a stall in one of the massive markets there with the intention of buying a cap. I walked away with three shirts and a cap. Not quite sure how that happened ...
The only negative to all this was where a couple of cyclo drivers used these skills to separate us with more of our money than we had intended. I suppose we were just doing our bit to redistribute some of our imperialist-capitalist Western wealth with the people in developing countries.
After a few days of this crazy busy, we were looking forward to our next stop at a resort at Mui Ne Beach about 240km up the coast.