11th November – 16th November 2016:
Our coach journey, although long, was very painless and the border crossing, which consisted of a security guard and a bag check in an empty warehouse, took no time at all. Not only this, but our hotel was both central and very cheap – so all was good with the world.
During our time in Ho Chi Minh we went on a free – yes FREE – guided tour of the city. We saw the Notre damn, war museum, central post office, multiple markets and the independent palace. The tour, considering the price, was amazing value and it meant that not only did we see everything but we didn’t get lost or run over. Our tour guide Huan, a local university student, was an interesting character who informed us that it was indeed illegal to drive or ride on the pavement – but this law clearly was not obeyed – as during our tour we had to dodge multiple mopeds and even a jeep that thought he would cut the corner rather than wait at the red traffic light.
We decided that we couldn’t visit Ho Chi Minh without experiencing the Chu Chi tunnels. So we organised a day trip that took us to the tunnels as well as Cao Dai, a local temple. Our tour, despite being led by a drunk Vietnamese war veteran, was amazing. We witnessed the daily ceremony at the temple and even got to see the local monkeys who obliviously carried on having sex despite the crowd of tourists armed with cameras.
After seeing the temple, we jumped back on the coach and headed for lunch, which consisted of rice, vegetables and very hairy pork – a meal that even thinking back to still makes us feel slightly ill. However, after another long drive and several beers later for our tour guide we arrived at the Chu Chi Tunnels. Here we got the chance to see the multiple traps, weapons and extremely cramped and hot tunnels that were used during the Vietnam war – and especially for the western tourists you could pay to shoot guns uncomfortably close to the gift shop.
As the sun was setting, and the temperature began to cool we thought it wouldn’t be quite so intense crawling through the tunnels – but how wrong we were! After a 120 meter stooped walk, or crawl for someone the size of Adam, we emerged from the tunnels as if we had been for a shower and upon recovering a member of the group that got lost in the tunnel, our tour guide ended the day with a slightly merry sing-song of hey Jude.
Our last adventure in Vietnam was a boat trip along the Mekong Delta, where we stopped off at different islands. On the first island, we tried hand made coconut sweets before heading to the ‘local’ restaurant for lunch, where we greeted by this intriguing menu:
After lunch, we went for a stroll around the island, and we quickly discovered that all of the animals listed on the menu were actually kept caged for visitors to see – this included crocodiles, frogs, snakes and porcupines just to name a few. Before leaving the island, we had time to relax in a hammock, however this relaxation was disturbed by the local butcher clubbing a fish to death right in front of our eyes. To say we were glad to leave is an understatement.
On the next island we were treated to an array of honey products fresh from the very nearby bee farm – aka just meters away. These bees clearly were not too happy by our presence and did not understand or respect our personal space. We escaped the bees by being herded onto a horse and cart, which transported us to multiple Sampan’s (small rowing boats) that took us down a series of extremely congested canals back to the main boat.
Our short stay in Vietnam was concluded by booking a spontaneous trip to Malaysia and sipping cocktails in a sky bar that made us feel like celebrities as we admired this view: