Ho Chi Minh – Day One
Today was the beginning of our very eventful trip, landing in Ho Chi Minh at 9.20AM. We quickly caught a cab that cost us 150,000VND to get to our hotel and the ride was approximately half an our of mayhem where we caught our first glimpse of Saigon traffic. This image is one that will stick with us for ever and is impossible to explain to anyone who has never seen it – we both knew and heard that the traffic would be chaotic but what we saw is something we will never forget. Cars, motorbikes, scooters, buses, trucks, bicycles and cyclos all driving wherever they please. There was no traffic enforcement or laws that were noticeable and even though there were traffic lights they were ignored, people wanting to turn right do so from the far left “lane” cutting off all and any forms of traffic and all this while pedestrians try to cross at their own will.
Checking in to our hotel was easy and the people were lovely. after refreshing ourselves in the room we deicded to explore the city. we took our cameras, wallets and maps and left eagerly. the streets were just as chaotic as the traffic and finding our way around was overwhelming and extremely intimidating. Crossing the road was like taking your life in to your own hands and that on top of not knowing where you are going or what you are doing made the task impossible.
We accepted a cyclo ride from very “friendly and nice” drivers who claimed to be cheap and local. even though we begged for a quote of how much it would be they simply smiled and said it was up to us, as long as we wrote a recommendation in their book (one in which they did not receive). They rode us to a nearby market which was bewildering to say the least. 30cm of crawl space between each stall for a 4 story building, thousands of people begging for your sale and if they weren’t begging for a sale they were staring for a piece of white chocolate.
At the market we witnessed our first sight of Vietnam rain from the top balcony of the market. the sight was unbelievable and as the rain poured down you could see everyone panicking to get under cover and protect their stock.
After that they took us to lunch and had our first Vietnamese meal which was cheap and tasty. We were even allowed to take the leftovers home with us! the waitresses had interesting uniforms – tight tops and tight mini skirts.
After asking the price again, the cyclo drivers just smiled and insisted that we MUST see the temple in the city which was on the other side of where we were staying. completely lost, we just laughed and accepted – hopping on the cyclo and taking the death defying ride to the beautiful temple.
As we finished our sight seeing the cyclo drivers become slightly suspicious and they ordered us to pay up front now before being taken back to our hotel and to “stop us from running away from them”. They requested 3million dong each which is around $150 USD. We refused and claimed it to be outrageous and in fact for their 4 hours work they would have earned more than we do combined for one day. We settled on giving them 1million dong for the both of them and their mood changed very quickly – even though they accepted and told us they would take us back to the hotel.
Instead of taking us back to the hotel like they promised, abruptly and out of nowhere, they stopped in a street and said to get out. Daniel, being very brave, demanded that they write the name of their boss on a piece of paper and they did so, muttering to each other under their breaths as they did. We walked away, very grumpy travelers. However, from this point on we started to realise how the system of vietnam worked.
Daniel got our bearings, as his job was to become, as map reader and we started the trek home – bitching about the dodgy cyclo drivers. Unfortunately, worse was to come and if we thought we were upset then within moments we got the worst of it. While turning a corner, on the supposed safe sidewalk (what we thought would be less chaotic than walking on the road which many tend to do) my bag was being held tight by me. all of a sudden, and truly out of nowhere, a motorbike mounted the side walk and sped past me, knocking me slightly and ripping the bag from my possession. Having no choice but to let go, I ran after them screaming for them to stop and for someone to help as my wallet and Daniel’s brand new camera which I had got as a present for him was inside. Daniel stood in the same spot – almost like a ninja – trying to fathom what had just happened, doing nothing to benefit our situation. after a few moments of nothingness he came to his senses, realising what had happened he yelled at me to stop. I stopped my psychotic rage and stood motionless on the sidewalk – bawling my eyes out as loud as I could.
If we thought we had learnt our lesson from the cyclo drivers, this incident proved we clearly thought wrong. With this, our first glimpse of the wonderful Vietnam. After trying two police stations, with our hotel lady by our side, we witnessed the police laughing at us and we were told nothing could be done. with this, we ended our Ho Chi Minh city short (good city) and booked the next available flight to the furthest city away – Hanoi. That night, we ate some lovely Pho and, with our belongings strapped to our bodies, discovered the Ben Thanh Market which was a well deserved good end to the day.
Go See all our photos by clicking – Ho Chi Minh – Vietnam