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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Two Motorbikes, Two Girlfriends

The next morning we were on the move once again, this time via bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.  Thankfully, this border crossing was much easier and because we had secured our Visas in advance all we had to do was walk across the border and get back on the bus.  As soon as we entered the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City we were swamped by motorbikes.  I had heard that Vietnam was full of them, but HCMC has entire lanes dedicated to motorbikes.  Also, the amount of stuff that people can carry on their motorbikes will blow your mind, I saw people riding along with: a refrigerator, 10 large car tires, 3 small children and a dog, it's amazing that these bikes can stay upright.  We were also told by our guide that motorbikes are a good sign of status in HCMC, if you have a good motorbike, you have a beautiful girlfriend.  And...if you have 2 motorbikes, you have 2 girlfriends! : )

I won a Twitter contest the day before we left for our trip thanks to Art of Backpacking for a $200 hotel voucher that goes very far in Vietnam, so we got to stay in a nice hotel in perfect location in HCMC. While in HCMC we sampled all of the local delicacies (well, not dog meat or fried baby birds) including fresh pastries and baguettes, Pho noodle soup, crushed rice dishes, and lots of iced coffee. One of my favorite things about the city was the process involved in crossing the street, there are no stoplights so cars, food carts, cyclos, and motorbikes are coming at you from all angles.  The best strategy is just to start walking and assume that people will swerve to avoid you, and if you're feeling local just put out your hand up and bat the cars away.  We also relied on the locals to escort us across the street, we would wait until someone came up and then just kind of stalk them across the street - it worked out great! We also took a cyclo tour and had fun sitting back and watching the bikes zoom by while we checked out the Post Office, the Opera House, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
One day we took a trip to the War Remnants Museum - an extremely interesting experience to see the Vietnam War presented from the Vietnam perspective.  As an American, you can't walk through this museum and not feel a tremendous amount of guilt.  Reading about the atrocities that occurred in Vietnam during the war and seeing it presented through such gruesome photographs and personal stories was a very difficult thing.  It was especially hard to walk through the section dedicated to the victims of the Agent Orange chemical attacks by the American forces, and to learn that people are still being born with birth defects and disabilities because of the chemicals spread over 30 years ago.
On our last day in Vietnam we signed up for a tour of the Mekong Delta.  For $10 we took a boat ride along the Mekong, checked out a coconut candy plant, took bike rides around a local village, had locals take us down the Mekong canals by canoe, and got to pose for a photo with a boa constrictor - or some version of a very large snake. It was really interesting to see how people live in the Delta region and to be able to see what life is like in the Vietnam countryside. Up next: off to explore some SARs!

1 comment:

Thai Baht for your thoughts....

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