Since Bao Loc, I have enjoyed a couple of reasonably easy days down to Ho Chi Minh city, or Saigon as it is still often referred to. One day down to Dau Giay where the road I have been for the past couple of days meets highway A1, then another into Saigon via back roads (many thanks to a blog on www.crazyguyonabike.com which took me along route 769 into the south east of the city). This entire area is undeveloped due to there being no bridge/tunnel to the area. I was cycling in open countryside with nothing but scooters until the last 8km or so, which for a city of 8 million people was a huge relief.
Google maps combined with my digital camera for quick reference during the day provided me a map of the route to take and I only got lost once. After a short ferry ride over the river (which cost all of about 3 pence), I was only a few km from the city centre and only hit real traffic in the last 10 minutes. The tourist district of Saigon is much like other that of other cities, though due to it’s size and sheer number of people, Saigon doesn’t feel as touristy as other places. As expected, there are a ridiculous number of scooters – restaurants even employ people to squeeze them together when parked up to enable more people to stop and dine there. Most of the hotels in the backpacker area are no more than 10 feet wide and can tower up to 9 stories high. As a result, finding accommodation was a slight problem – not for me, but for my bike! I eventually managed to find one which would allow me to lock my bike to the bottom of their stairwell, squeezed between their reception and kitchen.
Today I walked out to the more affluent business district and sat outside an expensive coffee shop (by western standards even) people watching. Nearby were 2 of the city’s main attractions – Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica which amazingly was built only using materials imported from France. Adjacent to that was the post office – a tourist attraction in it’s own right, and quite deservedly so. If this were the UK, it would have been sold to a developer. I’ll give it 10 years.
Next was a trip to the war remnants museum (quite the tourist today huh!!). I had some idea of what to expect, having been to a similar museum in Nagasaki, Japan, in memory of the nuclear bomb, however this was on a different level altogether. Set on 3 floors, the higher up you get the more powerful the images become, and by the end, I was truly overwhelmed. Perhaps it was because the Vietnam war was fought more one on one, perhaps it is because I cycled through many of the towns effected in the past couple of weeks. It could also be down to the fact that walking about the city, you still see people who have suffered from the effects of agent orange which was sprayed all over the country 40 years ago.
Tonight, being Christmas eve is apparently celebrated with most of Saigon descending on the center of the city on scooters dressed as Santa driving like madmen. Should make for a good night.
Finally, to pester once more, seeing as it’s Christmas – the time for giving – please remember to donate to my charity if you have not already done so. http://www.justgiving.com/JohnnyMcManmon Any amount is much appreciated. My blog tells me who is viewing on a daily basis, so I know who you are!!!