Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
6am breakfast, which was baguette and omelette made by our homestay. Then a quick tour of the village. Because of the wet weather, the paths we a bit muddy. The clay caked to the bottom of my flip flops and suctioned with every step. In trying to lift my shoe, one of the plugs came loose, so I walked most of the tour barefoot. The tour ended at the boat, and we went to the floating market. It was a wholesale market for fruit and vegetables. Other boats moored to ours to sell us drinks, but otherwise it was pretty peaceful. The sellers had huge barges of pineapples or watermelon. Some of the buyers had shallower, more open boats, piled with their haul for the day. On the way back, I took the wheel of the boat for a bit. Then 4 hour bus onto Ho Chi Minh city. We walked to a place close to the hotel for lunch – they only served pho. My beef pho was delicious, but I put in a little too much chilli at one point and got a mouthful of spice when I bit into a slice. Then we went on a walking tour to the Opera House, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Ben Thanh market. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped into a coffee shop to sample real Vietnamese coffee. An Aussie I had met in Nepal raved about it, so it was on the to taste list. I had a chocolate ice coffee – very smooth. I want to try the iced with condensed milk next time. A little free time before dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I opted for banh uot thit nurong – beef and lettuce wrapped in rice noodles. That is definitely one to make at home. It was a delicious fresh light meal. Afterward we went to a sports bar for the boys to watch Manchester United soccer game. I ended up in a deep and meaningful with my roommate, before heading home at midnight. Breakfast at the hotel, and packed to check out, some of us hopped a bus for an optional tour of the Cu Chi tunnels. The information seemed particularly biased against Americans and the non-communists – such is history, I suppose. The story is only told by the victors. My favourite was a introductory video that showed “the sweet and gentle school girl … who received an award as an American killer…” Do they even hear themselves? I must admit, the Viet Cong (communists) were very smart in the way they waged war with the gun slinging, bomb touting American forces. They were outgunned, so they were sneaky and covert in their dealings. I have to admire the way they outsmarted a lot of the efforts of the Republic (non communist). Complex systems of narrow tunnels with water locks, crawl areas, dead ends, and many levels of depth, including access to the Siagon river. And the access to the tunnels was so well fortified and hidden, I can only imagine the frustration of the opposing soldiers. I went into the trap door style entrances and crawled through the 100m tunnels designed to show tourists how cramped and tiny the spaces were. And these were widened versions of the original, and it was still very close and humid. No one with claustrophobia could stand it, I’m sure. Bus back to the war museum, But we got some banh mi from a street vendor before we went into the building. I was looking forward to it so much! It tasted okay, but I think the best kind is served in a restaurant, which seems to be a rare thing. It appears to be exclusively a street food here. Never mind. Inside there were horrific pictures of the GIs during the war and what Agent Orange had done to local people and their families. Children born with deformities and sever learning difficulties. So sad. The cruelty of the soldiers was pretty awful to see. It started raining when we were inside the museum, so we piled into a taxi to get back to the hotel. Then, an overnight train! I was a bit worried because of my experiences in India and Madrid were not the best, but it was fine! Four to a bay, with a lockable door. The beds were wide enough, with individual lights, and clean sheets on both the base and a flat sheet. Even little fake flowers. Awww. Toilets were far better than the squat, aluminium, reeking of urine ones in India – Western, porcelain, relatively tidy. I fell asleep fairly early, the rocking of the train lulling me into slumber.