I wrote this on a hot and sweaty bus ride to Bangkok before my video app fried.
Saigon (officially called Ho Chi Minh City) is the most populous city in Vietnam and had a lot of that same craziness I experienced in Hanoi- insane traffic, shoe cleaning hustles and a ton of street vendors.
There I wandered around the city, explored the Cutchi Tunnels and met back up with the cheeky Brits I did the Hoi Van Pass with.
After I landed in Saigon, I was thrust into a chaotic taxi situation where people formed a line and then proceeded to completely disregard how lines work and began pushing past each other to try and get a cab. Once I made it through the line, some jabronie tried making me pay him $120k Dong just to get into a cab; since these cabs were metered, I politely told him to take a long walk off a short pier and found myself a driver.
It was about 12:30am when I landed so I didn’t make it to my hostel until almost 2am. The door was locked, the buzzer appeared to be broken and my phone was dead so I resorted to pounding on the door hoping to wake someone up. Just as I began to envision myself spending the night sleeping in some Saigon back alley, a guy opened up and let me in.
Day 1 Wander
After breakfast at my hostel, I hit the streets to wander around to get a feel for the city. Just like Hanoi, the motorbike traffic is insane; it’s a marvel to watch how the traffic seems to flow through itself like water.
At this point, I’m an expert at just walking out into traffic and making my way through the insanity; below is a how to video on crossing the street, Saigon Style:
On day 2, I toured the Cutchi tunnels, where the Vietcong (the Southern Vietnamese sympathetic to the North Vietnamese) built an eleborate systems of tunnels, miles deep into the ground designed to shield themselves from the American bombers.
There, I got a sense of the conditions the VC lived in for years underground during the war, saw the brutal traps they designed to psychologically scar American troops, shot an M-16 and crawled through 100 meters of recreated tunnels.
As expected, the tour had a very anti-American feel and since I was the only American, our guide seemed to look at me with a smirk every time he explained how the VC were honored based on how many Americans they killed. The tour ends with a good ole fashioned anti-American propaganda film.
For about $20 USD, I got to unload the clip of an M16. I didn’t think it was possible to look uncool shooting a semi-automatic rifle but the below video is evidence of the contrary. If I could do it over again, I’d lose the timid, uptight posture; not a good look.
Down In The Tunnels
The original tunnels are way to narrow for our portly western bodies so wider tunnels were recreated to enable visitors to get a full sense of what life underground would have been like. In short; it must have not been pleasant. I passed a gigantic millipede along the way and was told that during the war, the place was rithing with scorpions and spiders and that the vast majority of the VC were afflicted with stomach parasites. It was also brutally hot since the tunnels were poorly ventilated.
Altogether, the trip made me appreciate what both the Americans and the VC went through during the war and made me very grateful that it’s unlikely I’ll ever have to live in an active warzone.
Back with the Blokes
For my last two nights I met back up with the blokes from Britain, did a pub crawl and got exposed to some Vietnamese nightlife.
Since leaving Saigon, I’ve toured the Mekong River Delta, crossed the boarder into Cambodia to see The Killing Fields, went to see the famous temples near Siem Reip and am currently in the middle of a hellish bus ride to Bangkok.