What? Has somebody used that line already?
I arrived in Vietnam about one week ago. I’m into it so far. Food and beer are cheap. The budget hotels are nice. It seems like ages ago when I stayed in dirty hotels in India: a hole in the floor of the bathroom to crap in, a bucket and a cold-water faucet wash with, fighting off ants and other insects all night, etc. Here in Vietnam, for about the same price, I have clean rooms with hot-water showers, flushing toilets, towels, and HBO. My, how my accommodations have changed. I don’t even want the TV in my room, but its difficult here to find one without.
A jug of beer on the streets of Saigon. Content: about 1.5 litres of goodness. Cost: $1.17 US
By far, the most heard phrase in Vietnam is “Hello, motorbike?”. There are guys *everywhere* who want to taxi you around on their bikes. I think this is the only english most of them know. Much of my day sounds like this:
Some guy with a motorbike [in a thick Vietnamese accent]: “Hello, motorbike?”
Me: “No thanks”
2nd guy 15 feet later: “Hello, motorbike?”
Me: “No thanks”
… etc. I want to buy a t-shirt that says “Hello, motorbike?”, haha.
My first stop after crossing over from Cambodia into Vietnam was the island of Phu Quoc. It is home to Vietnam’s finest expanses of sand. Apparently I didn’t get enough beach time in Cambodia. My guidebook says it is off the beaten tourist path, but it seems like pretty popular destination to me. It was very relaxing. After all this beach time I felt revived and ready to continue my travels with renewed vigor. You may not believe it, but even travelers need vacations.
The chair in which I spent most of my time on Phu Quoc
I then spent a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon. This is a pretty busy city. It has 9 million people and 4 million motorcycles. As in most big Asian cities, crossing the street is a test of your courage.
A back alley in busy Saigon
One of the main sights there are the Cu Chi Tunnels, a 200km network of underground tunnels. These tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerillas during the Vietnam war. The tunnels are incredible: they have multiple levels, air vents, wells for fresh water, kitchens, hidden entrances, traps for enemies, etc. Down there, the Viet Cong were safe from American bombing. They also made many traps on the surface for American soldiers. Amazingly, some of the tunnels were just 30km from Saigon, American headquarters. At the site, you can crawl through 100m of the tunnels (which have been widened so that westerners can fit). The tunnel is hot, cramped, stuffy, and not for the claustrophobic. Watch me as I struggle through the last 10m:
A bamboo trap made by the Viet Cong inhabitants of the Cu Chi tunnels. Here it is in the “open” position. When it is closed, you would never see it coming. Check out those bamboo spikes. Those will leave a mark.
At Cu Chi Tunnels you too can fire an M16, for a mere $1.47 US per bullet. The AK47 is 15 cents less. I met some Dutch guys that spent $100 firing these guns. I took a pass on this one.
I’m now cruising up the coast of Vietnam on my way to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The trip requires several 12+ hour bus rides (the Vietnamese coast is really long!). I’m taking a break in the beach town of Nha Trang. I’ll talk to you again when I get to Hanoi. Have a good weekend!