if there's one good thing that came about for bringing my brother on this trip - it's having him along while trying to cross the streets of motorbike-crazy saigon. i dreaded it every time, didn't know if i should just run all the way till i reach the other side of the street (very dangerous!) or just wait for other pedestrians to cross first (might take a loong time) or let all the motorbikes pass before i cross (not possible). my brother's technique which was very effective was to cross slowly, making sure that the motorcyclists are aware of you which will give them enough time to stop or go faster (the bastards).
we stayed in pham ngu lao - a popular street for backpackers. our hotel an an 2(20 usd a night) had a very good location - you can go on foot to see the city's sights - museums, government buildings, cathedrals, and markets. the area was also teeming with small shops and we enjoyed going through them especially after a few hours inside a museum. i got a kick out of their "fake" bookstores, you can buy lonely planet books for 6 dollars, pop fictions for 3 dollars. lots of cafes and restaurants around the area and it seemed like we couldn't go wrong when ordering food. everything tasted great! we also loved the coffee where they serve with the metal strainer, the yummy french ice cream, and the ice cold beer was perfect especially after a long day of wandering around. it was amusing how most of the pubs got these lawn chairs all facing the street - you can just watch as motorbikes, tourists and locals alike pass by.
travel agencies also abound the city and they offer lots of cheap services. from open-tour bus tickets, motorbike rentals, to guided tours. for our second day, we decided to take the 5-dollar cu chi tunnel and cao dai temple tour. was it the best idea? i don't think so but for 5 dollars for a whole day tour, it certainly was cheap.
factory of inlaid mother-of-pearl furnitures
we were early for the tour, but my brother forgot his psp and cash so he had to go back to our hotel room which made the whole bus wait for 5 minutes which ticked our tour guide. we stopped first at a factory of inlaid mother-of-pearl furnitures, it was quite interesting how they do it - very intricate designs so sometimes it takes them weeks or months to finish one design. i had to go to the washroom though before going back to the bus which made me what - 2 minutes late. our tour guide wasnt very happy with me, i tell you. after that, no more late incidents but it seemed our goal for every stop we made was not to be late. it kind of took the fun out of the trip. one of the many reasons why i dont like guided tours - always feels like you're being herded like sheep. (ok i was wrong for being late but still..)
inside tay ninh holy see - jesus, confucius, buddha(?), muhammad(?) and other gods/saints i cannot recognize
our next stop was the cao dai temple - home of the weirdest religion ive ever seen. they combine the teachings of buddha, mohammed, confucius, jesus, moses and some bits from lenin and victor hugo. cao dai philiosophy is "all religions are one" so a cao dai disciple accepts all religion. at noon everyday, a prayer session is conducted where it is possible to see and take pictures of the disciples worshipping.
jay trying out the hidden trapdoor
after a relaxing lunch, we headed straight to the restored cu chi tunnels - a tunnel network used by the viet cong during the vietnam war. i would have to say jay enjoyed this place, he tried everything(which means i had to try it too) - from going inside small wooden trapdoors to crawling inside a dark and tiny tunnel that made me feel a bit claustrophobic to firing a few rounds of ak-47.
we spent one more day in saigon, just checking out the museums and other sights as we wait for our midnight train trip to danang(central vietnam). looking at the reunification palace/war remnants museum/the musuem of ho chi minh city, this country's history says it loud and clear - the vietnamese will fight and die for his independence.
"The southern mountains and rivers belong to the viet people,
It was so written clearly in the celestial book.
Those who dare attack our territory,
will be immediately and pitilessly annihilated."
- Marshall Ly Thuong Kiet
(a quote we found in the war remnants museum)
mural in museum of hcmc
more pictures on my smugmug