Thursday, 14 March 2013

Ho Chi Minh City - not a great start to the south!

We arrived at 6am, walked down the road to the hostel we’d been told about and checked in, but we couldn’t get into the room until midday so we took showers and then decided to make a day of sightseeing to get as much done as possible in case we had to leave earlier than we anticipated if we couldn't sort my visa extension! 

We went for breakfast and enquired about my visa, as I wanted to get it extended as it ran out on the 16th and we really wanted to do the Mekong Delta. But no-one at the hostel seemed to know what we needed to do and where we needed to go, so they gave us two addresses to try. We went for breakfast and walked through the park to the other road to find banks/ATM’s and somewhere cheaper for me to put in washing, then got a taxi to the first address the hostel had given us. Turns out that this place was for Vietnamese people only, sigh. So onto the next place! This looked more promising, as it was the immigration bureau for foreigners. 

So I waited in line (in the seating area) and my time came around to speak to the IMMIGRATION officer, who knew NOTHING about how I could get a visa extension etc, she just told me to try a travel agent down the road. Seriously Vietnam?! Your immigration officers are rubbish! 

So, annoyed and looking more and more like I won’t be able to get one, we tried out the travel agency. They wanted to charge me $50 for 2 days overstay, so sod that! Instead we’d just leave on the 17th and rock up to the mekong for a day instead of a longer stay, which would only incur a $5 charge on the border. Oh Vietnam, the land of broken promises strikes again! 

Annoyed and slightly de-spirited (our morning in HCMC so far hadn’t been great), we decided to get a taxi to the first stop on our sightseeing agenda (we vowed we’d get HCMC done in a day!). This was the Ho Chi Minh War Museum, and after paying our entrance fee we decided to take the opportunity to take some slightly inappropriate pictures by all the tanks and planes displayed outside. No climbing or touching was allowed, but we found other ways to make good pictures out of them!

We then went inside. We’d heard from Peter and Trent from Da Lat, that the museum was very anti-American, but nothing prepared us for just HOW anti-American it really was! It was basically just a museum displaying lots of pictures and propaganda from the Vietnamese war in different themed rooms. It made out that America was the bad guy (which technically they were) but it failed to show how South Vietnam were actually fighting with the Americans against the North Viet-Congs and that the Viet-Congs, inflicted the same – if not sometimes more violent – crimes of war against the Americans and their own people, as the American’s did against them. The worst room was probably the room entitled ‘Display's of American Atrocities' (which is what the museum was originally called - Museum of American Atrocities, before Bill Clinton's visit prompted better relations and it was renamed). It was basically just a room full of photographs of American troops killing, torturing and bombing Vietnamese. One thing we did learn - Vietnam really doesn't cover up the details, some of the images in the museum were horrendous. There was also a room dedicated to Agent Orange victims (the gas used in the war), which was full of people with physical and mental disabilities and impairments - there was a few American victims in here too - shock horror! I can actually understand how some American's walk straight back out again.

After we'd finished in the war museum we then headed for cake and coffee, got accosted by a coconut seller for pictures and then were horrendously ripped-off getting a fresh coconut juice each. We then visited the Reunification Palace, which was possibly the most boring hour of my time in Vietnam and I didn't understand what all the fuss was about - don't go! It was just a palace full of meeting rooms with different chairs and décor and then oh look, that one room out of about 20 has a bed in it, at least it's something different to look at!

After that it was time for lunch and another juice break on the way to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was actually a pretty church - though not a patch on the real one or any of the churches in Italy. Then we went in search of the HCMC Sky Tower for a 360 degree view of the city from 49 floors up. It was actually pretty stunning and the walk took us through the very upmarket part of HCMC with all the designer stores and the financial district. We stayed for about an hour here appreciating the very clear views of HCMC and province  before then heading down for a street coffee. We just, like we normally do, rocked up, ordered a Cafe de Sua, grabbed some stools and plonked ourselves down on the pavement, thinking nothing of it. Obviously, the locals here hadn't seen any western women do this before, because we were like two zoo animals being approached, stared at, photo's taken of us, talked about, gawked at. It was really quite surreal and we didn't understand what we had done that was so weird for them all to stare at, so that was the only explanation we could think of - that we were the only westerners to sit on the street with the Vietnamese at this particular joint!

We then got a taxi back to our hostel and freshened up, met the girls in our dorm, booked our Cu Chi Tunnels tour for the morning, and then went out for a local dinner at a local joint in the night market. Had a browse through the market, then headed to bed as we had a super early start and a long day ahead of us tomorrow!

No comments:

Post a Comment