Travel, Vietnam

Hanging out in Ho Chi Minh City

I left Dalat for Ho Chi Minh city absolutely broken! My body was aching all over and I was still tied from the canyoning even after having a big sleep. On the bus to the HCMC I met 3 girls, 2 travelling together from the Netherlands and 1 from the UK. When we arrived we walked to the hostel ‘Vietnam inn Saigon’. Another of my favourite hostels, it had 9 floors, with the top being an open air roof top bar with a nice pool table! I went out that evening with the girls I met and we ate a strange but very tasty meal; like fried potatoes in egg. We walked through some of the neighbouring parks before returning. That evening I had a great massage in the hostel, although it was expensive and performed by a blind man! But he told me about an institute for the blind just down the road which trains people to become masseuses and costs only £2 for 1 hour! I went to this place almost every day I was in HCMC!

My first full day in HCMC I visited the war remnants museum with displays from the Vietnam war with USA. I had no idea it was so bad, it lasted twice as long as WWII and was mainly chemical warfare, with agent Orange being the main chemical, which was used to defoliate the country but caused severe physical developmental abnormalities to foetuses. Some of the photographs in the museum were horrific, and the information very to-the-point. Although not always biased as a large portion was dedicated to American opposal to the war.

The war museum was hard work emotionally, but when I left an American guy; Dimitri, approached me as he was also a solo traveller, and we began a mini walking tour of the city that he seemed to have researched. We walked past ‘turtle lake’ (with no turtles), the cathedral (with a wedding), the old post office, and then back towards the backpacker area. It was a nice walk.

The next day I started with a £2 blind massage before grabbing a motorbike taxi to the ‘jade pagoda’. From here I walked back towards the hostel via other temples, food stalls and the reunification palace. A long day of walking! That evening, whilst drinking and playing pool in the bar, 2 guys from Bristol and a guy from Germany approached me to say “you’re Libby?”!! The guys, Steve, Paul and Steffi, had met Sean whilst traveling Vietnam and apparently had heard of my “amazing pool skillzz” from him! We made friends quickly and I met them in the bar almost every night whilst I was in HCMC.
People set tortoises free in the temples for good luck… this may was selling them outside the temple.
A cockerel crowing in the middle of a busy city street!
Reunification palace.
The view from the hostel sky bar at night.

The next day I spent visiting temples and pagodas again, this time in Chinatown, where I got a bus to. The temples were so beautiful.
I guess this is one of the ‘free tortoises’… it was MASSIVE!
Incense burning, again for good luck.
Another tortoise haven!

From Chinatown I got a motorbike taxi to take me to a museum dedicated to ancient Vietnamese and Chinese medicine. It was fascinating, and at the end I had some mushroom tea… I know!!
All the dried plants and spices used in the traditional medicine.
An imitation of an ancient apothecary.

I decided to try to walk back to my hostel from here, the journey took me 2 hours, but luckily on the way I found a bun cha Hanoi shop! And I ended the walk with another blind massage to recuperate!

That evening I met up again with Cameron, it was the nice thing about travelling Vietnam, you bump into the same people in each new town or city, this was the 3rd town where I’d seen Cam now, and we still keep in touch on Facebook now :) it was the same with Nielz, my chauffeur from Phong Nha, we met again in Hoi An and in Dalat!

After days of walking miles across the city in all directions, I finally took a rest and spent the whole next day playing pool in the hostel! I met 2 friends Wilf and Dave, and we took over the music, playing 90s boy bands and then some 80s classics! I then met a guy Jack who told me a story about his travels which sounded very familiar to me… I said to him I knew the story, I had heard it from another traveller, George from Hoi An, and it turned out they were friends traveling together! Travelling really does make the world seem both big and small at the same time!

That evening a big group of us went out for steak across the road and then drinks in our rooftop bar, before moving to a local club.
With George and Danny.

On Saturday I rode with George on his bike to the tallest building in Vietnam; the Bitexo tower. We had heard of a way to avoid the high tourist entry fee to the 360° window view point, which involved going a few floors higher to a cafe which sold expensive (but cheaper than the entrance fee) coffee. The view from the top of the tower was spectacular!

On Sunday, after 9 days in HCMC, I felt like I had almost done all there was to do, so I visited the zoo and botanical garden. It was $3 entrance! The zoo was ok really, some animals had great large enclosures. However, others, like the elephants, were very sad to see… I spent must of the day also feeling like I was part of the zoo, as I think I was the only Westerner in the whole zoo, and with it being a weekend, it was packed with local tourists who wanted their photo with me or to talk in English to me. It was actually a really nice day meeting lots of Vietnamese people and people watching!
More people watching in the local park; all parks are used as outdoor gyms!

That night a big group of us from the hostel went out (after pool of course) to a local club! It was a really fun night with some crazy dancing!

My final day in HCMC, hungover, I chilled with the Bristol and German guys, Steve, Paul and Steffi. I’d like to think I helped Steve sell his motorbike, but really all I did was sit on the back as we drove between different bike shops!

I really liked HCMC, however I do think I spent a little too much time here in all. Unfortunately, I lost my special travel credit card in Hoi An, and I asked my uncle and aunt to forward the replacement to my hostel. After 14 days waiting for it to arrive (5 days estimated) I gave up and left, which is a good job because if I had been determined, I’d still be there now waiting! Regardless, the city was probably the most interesting place I could have been waiting and I met some really great people who were to become close travel companions in the weeks to come…


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