Monday, May 02, 2005
Ho Chi Minh City - What a place!!
Click here for Shelly’s story on Viet Nam
I know Troy told you for his graduation present I took him to a nice dinner and to see the HK light show! Not very exciting present if you ask me. But what he didn’t know is that I planned a surprise weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for his graduation present!
Ok, I have to brag here. Who can honestly say their spouse took them to Viet Nam for a surprise weekend trip!!!!!!!!!! We also never thought in a million years we would be saying we went to Viet Nam for the weekend! I have a feeling we’re going to be saying that a lot with Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore…! Oh, I’m sorry, am I bragging again????
Viet Nam! WOW! Where to start! We both really liked this city. For me it was how friendly the people were. We have traveled to a lot of places where the people don’t like their picture to be taken or expect to be paid for it. Not here! The people loved to have their picture taken and were as interested in us as we were in them! Tourism has only been around for 10 years so they are still getting used to foreigners and are very intrigued by us.
There were a few things that stood out to me. One was the traffic. Unlike Shanghai where a majority of the traffic is made up of bicycles, in HCM, it is motorcycles; little mopeds or Vespa type cycles. There are hardly any stop signs or stop lights but the traffic has an almost controlled quality to it. The scariest thing was the first time we crossed the street. There is no light to stop them so we just had to go. As I tightly held onto Troy, we learned right away that you moved slowly and steadily. You didn’t want to make any sudden movements otherwise the chances of you getting hit would rise exponentially. They judge how fast you are walking and swerve around you.
It was very unnerving crossing the street with about 50 motorcycles coming toward you and knowing they are not going to stop. And then, halfway across the street you have to remember to turn and look the other way for the traffic coming from that direction! During the day wasn’t bad, but the evenings were much worse because everyone was out! By our last evening there though, we were pros at it. I was even daring Troy to cross diagonally across 8 lanes of traffic with buses coming at us full speed!
The second thing I noticed was how the women dressed. More specifically how they dressed when they drove their motorcycles. They like to have fair colored skin (they think it’s attractive and the men find it charming) so they go to great lengths to cover up every inch of exposed skin. First off, they wear a large billed hat. Then they have sunglasses with a handkerchief that covers their face from the bottom of their sunglasses all the way to their neck. They also have a long sleeve shirt or jacket and pants. If they don’t have long sleeves on they wear gloves that extend up past their elbows all the way to their armpits. They wear this in 95 degree heat and 100% humidity! All to look pretty for the boys! The things women do for men!!!!!!!!!
We did a few tours. One was to the Mekong Delta and the other to Cu Chi Tunnels. For me, the Mekong Delta was interesting because that was one of the main areas you always heard about with the war. It was kind of creepy being there and imaging boats with soldiers patrolling the river, helicopters flying around, with gunfire and explosions going off all around you. Once again, this was an area where the people were extremely friendly. They were always waving to us from their boats and posing for Troy to take pictures.
The Cu Chi Tunnels is where the Viet Cong hid out during the war. We didn’t get to see the actual tunnels but were shown a model of them 40 km away from the real tunnels. We couldn’t figure out why the government chose to build a model of the tunnels so far from the real ones. That was one question we could not get our guide to understand enough to answer. (A quick note here, the tourism companies and most tourist places are government run, so the views and opinions that were portrayed of the war were “slightly” skewed!)
At the tunnels they proudly showed us their traps they created that were in the ground during the war. They would show how a soldier would step then fall into a hole where sharp spikes would kill him. We also saw a “documentary” film at the end of the tour. It made us sick to our stomach. It showed the Vietnamese people having a peaceful life, farming, harvesting fruit, teaching their children, and just being happy. Then for absolutely no reason whatsoever, America decided to come in and bomb their villages, killing innocent adults and children. The film didn’t even bother to give a reason behind this. No other countries were mentioned, such as France, and absolutely no mention of how the north was trying to overtake the south, etc. And it was all America, America, America, bad, bad, bad! It made us very angry and sad to think that people watch this and probably believe it!
On our way to one of the tours, we made our guide stop at one of the local wet markets. I will never again complain about the sanitary conditions of HK wet markets. These were absolutely gross. On tables were mounds of butchered pork. Skin, guts, meat, all in a pile of nothingness with flies feeding on it. Because we found this interesting, Troy took a picture. An old lady behind us said to our guide that she didn’t understand why we would take pictures of something so ugly, but we would not take pictures of her beautiful knifes? So Troy, more then happy to, took her picture with her knifes.
I could go on and on and on. There were so many interesting little things that happened. One such thing was an old, skinny toothless man in the Ben Than Market asking us to buy postcards from him. What was so unusual was he spoke perfect English with a Texan accent! “C’mon man! Ya’ll know ya’ll want to buy some postcards! C’mon man!” Where the hell did he learn that?
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Hi from Portland, OR. We love your blog - it makes us that much more excited to get over there. Sounds like you had a fabulous "celebrate Troy's graduation trip." Chris and I hope to make the same trip when we're in Hong Kong. I was actually born there so it will be so interesting to go back as I don't remember a single thing. Anyway, it's looking our move will be mid-June but we'll keep you posted as we know more. We'd love to get together again once we're there and we'll email you for a list of things you miss from the states. Cheers! ~ Chris and Steph