Monday, February 25, 2008

you can't miss saigon

We landed in Saigon after a short stop over in Singapore. It reminded me a lot of Bangkok. Similar buildings, the same grimy streets and took tooks everywhere.

Our hotel was in a tiny, crowded alley in the heart of ‘district 1’. All of the blocks are really thin (one room wide).

The ‘deluxe’ room we booked was on the top floor with glorious views of the alley and the back of another building.

Being on the top floor isn’t as good as it sounds. Especially when it’s six floors up and there’s no elevator.

We spent the first couple of days exploring the city on foot and looking in shops. Well, looking in the ones that were open. Most places were shut due to ‘Tet’ (lunar new year). But that just meant that there wasn’t as many street vendors and people hassling you on the street.

We stopped into a little stall in a park to grab some food. I ordered prawns on a stick. But as I bit into the first one I found that it was just that cheap seafood mix that had been stamped into the shape of a prawn!

We got a cyclo rickshaw driver to peddle us over to one of the sights for US$2. It was awesome scary as the traffic there is mad. We were laughing with fear as he ploughed into a crowded intersection without so much as a slight pause. The thousand or so scooters just found their way around us, beeped and continued on their way.

We later found out that most of the cyclo rickshaw drivers were actually exiles from the war. They were doctors, lawyers and journalists who had been accused of siding with the Americans and after the fall of Saigon, had their citizenship revoked. They were barred from owning property, practicing in their field or owning any business. They now drive tourists around and sleep in their rickshaws on the side of the road. Sad.

But I digress.

We saw some sights and the French influence is unmistakable. Here I am out the front of what we thought was a reunification palace.

Turns out it’s a government building. I saw this “no pictures” sign and just couldn’t resist taking a snap. Bec recons the guard watching us grabbed his baton and was making his way over to us when we decided to leg it.

We found these everywhere. They’re bottles or jars with snakes, mostly cobras, and scorpions in them. We later found out that it’s a type of “snake wine” that you drink. Eeeewwwwwww! I had to put my thumb in the shot for scale, that cobra’s head was huuuge!

click here to see the rest of the pics

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