Travel Story «Gooooood morning Vietnam! (Grainne's title)»

Vietnam | 0 Comments 31 March 2006 - Last Update 09 April 2006

Lost in Saigon

 

 

 

We arrived in Saigon from Phnom Penh on the most luxurious coach that I have ever been on. Following previous travel… experiences/incidents, this was a welcome surprise. Not only did we have an adorable bus hostess (oh yes) who helped us fill out our entry cards for , who took our passports and guided us through the boarder dealing with all the administrative details on our behalf, she also gave us FOOD! Yes people, this is my kind of bus. We were given a breakfast snack (croissant and pastries for those of you that are interested) and bottles of water to wash them down and then cold flannels to cool ourselves with. Oh and the air conditioning worked which was a big surprise (and treat) as well. All in all, the trip to Saigon began well and we were happy out.

We arrived in Saigon and checked into a Hotel recommended by the lonely planet (and the first one we found). Lorna negotiated a small discount on the price with the Hotel staff on our behalf and discovered breakfast was included in the price (oh joy!). We then set off in search of the Re-unification Palace determined to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing before everything shut for the day.  Seasoned travelers that we (thought we were), we remembered to select modest clothing for touring the Presidents Palace and set off.

Palace my arse. The place was a hotel – well, it looked like it. And not a Fancy-Dan hotel either – it was a 1960’s monstrosity.  Undeterred we headed in and managed to catch an English speaking tour explaining the use of every room etc. allowing us to appreciate the “Palace” more.  Oh and we didn’t need to dress modestly at all. Fools, fools!!

With a little time to spare in the afternoon we decided to catch a museum before heading back to the Hotel.  We couldn’t find the museum that we were looking for but did stumble across another one – the Ho Chi Minh City Museum (there are hundreds of museums in Saigon ) about the Vietnam War (or as they call it the American War) and wondered around there for a while before heading home.

 

 

 

 

 

Cu Chi Tunnels

Day 2 in Saigon began with an early start for myself (Emily) and Aisling as we headed for the Cu Chi Tunnels outside the city. Following a 90 minute journey we arrived at Cu Chi and were given a guided tour around the area by our excellent guide. (Let me just say here that some of the guides we have had in South East Asia , while they have spoken English they have been impossible to understand, (unless we have had Grainne-the-translator with us) but this guy was a dream. He understood and could answer questions (!) – something we had yet to experience with our previous guides.

 

 

 

The Cu Chi tunnels, one of the most famous battlegrounds of the Vietnam War were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War and are a celebrated niche in the history of guerilla warfare.  The underground tunnel system stretches for over 200km around southern providing sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, hospitals, and other social rooms. The upper soil layer is between 3 to 4m thick and can support the weight of a 50-ton tank and the damage of light cannons and bombs.  They were dug before the American War in the late 1940s, as a peasant-army response to the French occupation. The plan was simple: take the resistance briefly to the enemy and then, literally, vanish.  The tunnels are between 0.5 to 1m wide, just enough space for a person to walk along by bending or dragging although the original tunnels were just 40 cm wide. We were shown how they cooked underground and managed to hide the stoves’ smoke by stretching the chimneys and the air vents up to 100 meters away from the kitchens. This way, if the smoke was seen by the Americans, they bombed that area thinking the kitchen and people were underneath the smoke, but in fact the kitchen remained undamaged.  We were also shown different traps (ouch they were all horrendously painful looking) and poisons used by the guerillas as well ingenious shoes they wore which were reversible (not inside out but back to front) so that the Viet Cong could mislead the American soldier as to the direction they were traveling in by changing which way they wore their shoes – ingenious!

Then we were to go down the tunnels. The original openings were 34 inches at the widest point – not designed for us fat westerners as the guide insisted on telling us over and over again.  We were told us there were three tiers in the section that we were going into (with a enlarged entrance to accommodate westerners – our guide again told us we were not skinny like him and other Vietnamese… how charming he was..) and that we could surface after each section which was just thirty meters long. Easy peasy. 30 meters is nothing.

Oh

How

Wrong

We

Were.

The Tunnels are tiny. And I know you are thinking yeah yeah tiny, I get it they’re small, get on with the story.  No. They are TINY. You are crouched down, your thighs burning with the weight of your body but you can’t stretch up and give them a rest, nor can you stop and sit down because there are 20 people behind you freaking out about the hold up. And it is pitch black.  You can only manage the smallest of steps so are walking so slowly. You have to feel your way and every few meters the tunnel changes direction (an anti-invasion tactic to prevent the invader being able to shoot at you from far away – the tunnels frequently turned corners meant the enemy has a maximum 5 meter potential shot at you). And it is hot. Really hot. So its pitch black, tiny, sweat is pouring down your face and back and every few meters you bang into the wall before you feel which direction the tunnel has changed to. And we paid for this.

At the first possible chance Aisling and I got out. 30 meters is a long way under ground. After I had given my poor thighs (not used to exercise) a small break I decided I was able for the next level down and re-entered while Aisling waited up at the top. More used to the tunnels and the dark this time I flew along the passageways (this time with a light) imagining myself joining the Vietnamese resistance and helping to save the world… Then I saw the second exit and decided that was enough saving the world for me and got out.

 
Grainne and Lorna stayed in Saigon and met up with Loraine (from Athlone - Hi Lorraine!!) for lunch and checked out travel possibilities for heading to Hanoi as we had heard about an over night train with cabins (sounded fabulous and STC).  Aisling and I arrived back in Saigon and we all went to book up the train at the official train station ticket office where we encountered the grumpiest Vietnamese woman alive today who was no help and told us the train was all sold out for the next few days and offered no alternative. As we were running out of time in S. E Asia this was a big problem. Downhearted, we left her office in search of ice cream to cheer ourselves up.  Next door was another travel agent and unenthusiastically we asked her if she could help us. Help us? She couldn’t do enough for us! Such a refreshing experience after Grumpy Grumperson before hand.   The new lovely lady sorted our train tickets and when we decided to make a stop over in Nha Trang (on the advice of everyone we had spoken to) she booked our accommodation and organized our bus down there. We LOVED her. Hated Grumpy Grumperson. Boo. Down with that sort of thing.

 

With all travel plans sorted we headed out for dinner and to meet Lorraine and her friends for drinks.  Allez Boo is the place in Saigon to drink. So after meeting Lorraine and her friends in a lovely quiet pub on a street corner where a bottle of vodka can be bought for next to nothing we headed on up to the livelier place around Allez Boo where we stayed until the wee wee hours (with one loss at the 2am mark, no prizes doe guessing who) when Lorraine and her friend Zoe had to leave to catch a 6am flight to the islands.

 

Day 3 in Saigon – The waterpark!


Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! – sooo much fun! We loved it!

Best cure for a hangover and so hilarious. Shockingly the place had no Queues although there were lots of people about.  We began on the Lazy River feeling a little delicate from the previous night and lolled about on our tubes soaking up the atmosphere and the quiet.  Then…. Hello.. hello?… HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO!!!

Lads, we are so big in Asia – they love us. Suddenly we had 15 new friends who all wanted to know our names and where we were from. Granted they were all about 10 years old but still, it’s nice to be loved.

The rest of the day was spent bouncing from one slide to another (God they were so great) and falling, sliding, slipping, screaming our way around the park. We are just big kids really.

Unfortunately, the really cool slide – The Drop Zone – was closed that day for maintenance and we couldn’t go on it. I don’t think the girls minded that but I was a bit put out – it looked really fun!  Grainne and myself kept going on this one slide over and over again – so much so that the life guard knew us and held us back on the tube letting the water build up behind us so that we went faster down the slide – we loved him!  On another slide where we could go down at the same time which OBVIOUSLY meant we should race each other, we had to leave Aisling at the top because a queue was building up behind us and she had decided she didn’t want to go down it once up there.  The life guard had different ideas about letting her escape down the stairs. Apparently once you go up the stairs, the only way down is the slide. With the crowd still building behind Aisling he insisted she allow him to coax her onto the slide and to the chorus of us screaming her name at the bottom she flew (literally flew down - this ride was so fast your body came OFF the slide at certain points) to the bottom.

Eventually we had to leave (‘cos they closed the waterpark at 6pm) and we headed home happy and tired, the hangovers long forgotten and prepared to leave the next day.  Good night Saigon .

 

 

 

 

Photo albums from Vietnam

Visiting Ho Chi Minhs body (4)

05 April 2006 | Vietnam | Last Update 05 April 2006

  • Ho Chi Minhs Mosoleum and surrounding grounds
  • L-R: Emily, Lorna and Aisling outside the Ho Chi M
  • Ho Chi Minhs Mosoleum
  • One Pillar Pagoda

General (15)

03 April 2006 | Vietnam | Last Update 03 December 2010

  • Vietnam's countryside
  • Aislings foot in an original Cu Chi Tunnel entranc
  • Views of countryside
  • Views of countryside

 

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