We arrived in the Vietnamese capital after a fairly odd bus journey. I say odd because crossing the border was strange. We were stamped out by Cambodian customs and we walked through a disused shopping centre to get to Vietnamese customs. We kept having to get on and off the bus and there was no explanation about what was happening! It all worked out for us anyway as we just followed the rest of the people on our bus! Reaching the bus station in Saigon our challenge was to now find a hostel (shock horror we were winging it) and to find a cash point to get some Vietnamese Dong. Luckily Rhianna already had some currency so we dived into a tiny cafe with tiny tables and chairs with our huge backpacks to have a drink and look up accommodation. It turned out we were really close to the backpacker area so there were loads nearby.
We headed round the corner to Vietnam Inn and hooray they had space for us. All checked in and bags dumped, we headed out for some dinner and to explore. We stumbled across some kind of festival in the park; there was a stage with performers and lots of people watching surrounded by dessert stalls. As tempting as it was to buy a doughnut ice cream sandwich, we pressed on in search of dinner! Not really grasping how much we would be expected to pay for dinner, as we hadnt wrapped our heads around the currency yet (10,000 dong is worth around 36p) we picked a random restaurant which turned out to be alright. However our evening got better when we spotted a rooftop bar covered in fairy lights and lanterns and decided to walk towards it. As we got closer we got accosted by the staff working there who gave us a rose each in celebration of International Women’s Day and the promise of a free glass of champagne and entry into a raffle if we went up to the bar. Surprised but intrigued we walked through the hotel lobby and got the lift up to the pretty rooftop. We sat with our bubbly looking at beautiful views across the city, so pretty!
After our bubbly we headed back to the hostel as they also had a nice rooftop with free beer for guests at a certain time. Even though I’m not a beer fan it drew people to the rooftop and made the atmosphere vibrant and sociable. The activity of the evening was limbo followed by a pub crawl with luminous, neon yellow tshirts.
The next day we got up and had breakfast on the sunny rooftop – I had a lush pancake with pineapple jam. (As a side note, I am struggling with breakfast slightly as I don’t eat eggs or bananas, which seem to be breakfast staples on menus in south east Asia 🙈 ). That day’s plan was to visit the Cu Chi tunnels which we booked through our hostel.
A bus picked us up from the hostel for the two hour drive to the tunnels, including a stop at a shop where beautiful art is made by the ‘unlucky’ ones affected by the legacy of the Vietnam war. Our tour guide, who nicknamed himself John Wayne(!) explained their circumstances and how although he can’t help them directly, he feels he is now by bringing tourists to buy their art. After a quick marvel at their artistry we piled back in the bus and on to the tunnels.
John Wayne took us round the tunnel complex, showing us different types of traps the Vietnamese used against the Americans. What amazed me is how much they did with such few resources – he told us about how they would make mines from unexploded American bombs (so dangerous). The tunnels themselves were tiny! And that’s when they’d even made them 30% bigger for tourists! You had to crawl or really crouch and walk. I can’t believe whole villages lived underground in such small spaces. We were also showed an original entrance to the tunnels which was even smaller. I really didn’t think my hips would be able to fit if I tried, the hole in the ground was so small! It was really interesting to visit the tunnels, but I felt prior knowledge was presumed for some parts, of which I didn’t really have.
Once we braved rush hour traffic we were back in Saigon and by this point it was 8pm so we headed straight out for dinner. It was then that I tried pho, traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, which was delicious!
In order to fill in the gaps, the next day we headed to the War Remnants Museum. We got up early and booked a night bus to Dalat for that evening, had breakfast again on the rooftop, checked out of the hostel and visited a nearby market that morning before heading over to the museum. As museums go it was pretty good, telling all about the Vietnam War and the devastating Agent Orange. There was a particularly moving exhibit showing international photographers’ images of the war who died before they could be published. What was interesting were the statistics comparing American investment, bombs dropped etc, to World War Two. Though not tackling a light topic, I’d definitely recommend this museum a visit.
That evening we also got our first night bus to Dalat, a small mountain town north of Saigon. We booked with Sinh Tourist and overall it was a decent experience, though we did end up arriving early at 4:30am 🙃🙃🙃 so we were pretty dazed and confused when we got off the bus in the dark.
More of that to follow on my next post. Thank for reading! xo