Thursday, January 4, 2018

Saigon Stopover

Due to being unable to find a well-timed connecting flight to our next destination, we had an 18 hour stopover in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (aka Saigon) before continuing on to the island of Phu Quoc. It left us with just enough time to do one tourist thing during the day, the Cu Chi Tunnels - also a good idea since the tunnels are, like the airport, northwest of downtown. To get to the tunnels, we had to hire a driver because tourists cannot rent cars in Vietnam. Our driver met us at the airport in an SUV and we hit the road for the tunnel complex at Ben Duoc, which apparently is a popular elementary school field trip for Vietnamese.

What's left of a US Huey helicopter - cue 'Ride of the Valkyries'?
There was a ton of traffic on the road, and about 90 minutes in we were all feeling hungry, but there were no places to eat in sight. We stopped at a place on the roadside but soon realized they served drinks only, so back we piled into the car and continued down the road until the next place, which based on our rudimentary Vietnamese comprehension, we thought was serving some kind of crab soup. While nothing in the soup looked like crab, we gave it a shot anyway just to get something to eat. We still have no idea what was in there :)

B52 bomb crater - about 30 feet wide
We made it to the tunnels in time to join a tour group that had already started. Definitely an interesting tour and experience, everybody who wanted got the chance to go in and out of a few different tunnel segments. The most interesting part though was the film they showed as part of the tour, praising the heroic local women who "killed many US Americans." To see firsthand a film made by the Vietnamese during the era of the war was enlightening, even Ken Burns' Vietnam documentary which interviewed many North Vietnamese did not include this kind of source material. Its hard to know what to believe in terms of what was said and shown in the video, though the same can be said for the testimony and footage created by Americans. Reality is likely somewhere in between, and I was glad to have the opportunity to see this North Vietnamese artifact.



After another loooong traffic-jammed drive back to the area of the city around the airport, we were dropped at our hotel, which was definitely the worst one we stayed in the whole trip. I was a bit wary because I was pressured to book private taxi and other excursions through the hotel, at prices that seemed simply too high to me (in the end, we ended up taking an Uber to the airport for something like $3, compared to the $35 the hotel wanted to charge!). But there were not many hotel options I found in the area right around the airport, and how bad could it be for one night? We got put on the 5th floor in a dingy room with no windows and very weak AC...nobody was happy about this whatsoever, but it was too late and not worth it to move anywhere.

So we headed out to try and find dinner. This particular part of town by the airport didn't seem to have too much going on, but eventually we stumbled across a place called "Restaurant Bromance" - Siera and I were sold on the name alone, and it had a nice outdoor dining space with some ad-hoc karaoke going on. It did not have a menu that we could understand, but the staff did their best to help us and we ended up sharing a tasty 'make your own roll' platter of rice paper, pork, mint and other veggies.

Bromance was in the air...

So at least we had one highlight! The next morning was an early wake up call to get that uber to the airport for our flight to Phu Quoc. We'd be back to tackle Ho Chi Minh City properly in a few days. 

1 comment:

grace c tullis said...

Fantastic blog! Enjoyed the stories, humor, & pictures. An amazing adventure for each of you.
Thank you for sharing it.