Halong Bay, Hoi An and Saigon
One thing I didn’t notice in other countries, is how intense and for how long the locals in Vietnam are watching me. I was uncomfortable at the beginning, but I am getting used now.
I think you can measure the level of excitement by the number of photos you take. And in the two days cruise to the Halong Bay I took a lot of photos.
3,000 limestone rocks rise like towers from the water and the view is stunning. Old ships called “junks” are sailing between rocks, and women with raw boats are selling drinks and food to the boats.
The “Cave of Surprises” is the biggest cave in Halong Bay, with huge “chambers” and surprising natural sculptures made from stalactites and stalagmites.
From Hanoi I flight to Hoi An. At the Hanoi airport I found again the bottles of whiskey with snakes and other creatures inside. I am not sure if I can bring something like this in Canada. Apparently these drinks are good for health and pain, such as back-pain or rheumatism. One bottle has even horse penis extract!
Hoi An is an ancient city, on the coast of the South China Sea, quiet and calm. I walked in the city or I rode a bike around it, watching the old houses, the farmers with conic hats harvesting or fishing.
When I entered in the South China Sea on a deserted beach, the waves were big. Small fishes were jumping out and in the water. I thought the bottom of the sea is leveled, but I was wrong. At one moment I got into shallow deep water and the waves were taking me away from the shore. I fought hardly for my life and once again, the good luck was on my side.
Saigon, official name Ho Chi Minh city. 7 million people and 5 million motorbikes! The traffic is not so chaotic like in Kathmandu, but seeing hundreds of motorbikes coming towards you when you are passing the street is intimidating. And they don’t stop. The trick is to walk slowly, without sudden movements or stops. And don’t run! I was “touched” only two times by motorbikes and one time by a bike…
Be careful about the smiley girls on the bikes. I was sitting at a table with a coffee watching the traffic when the smiley one passed. I waved to her and later she was sitting next to me…
The night in Saigon is quite different from the day. It seems in any bar is a beautiful woman and at every corner a massage is offered. “Come to my bar, come to my bar!”
As a foreigner, especially in Saigon, you hassled on the street all the times by walking vendors asking you to buy sunglasses, souvenirs or English books. The women carry 20-30 books all stacked one on top of each other with almost the same height of the woman. It must be quite heavy.
If you are in Saigon, go and visit the Cu Chi Tunnels – an immense network of connecting underground tunnels (2,000 km), built by Viet-Kong during the Vietnam War. A part of the tunnel is open to the public. If you are not claustrophobic, it is quite an experience. The width is about 80 cm and the height 1 meter to 1.5 meters. At one time I had to lie on my back to get through. The tunnels are built on three levels: level one (3 m underground) for living rooms, level 2 (5-6 m underground) for hiding and level 3 (8 m underground) for escape. The Americans never were able to penetrate level 2 or 3 through bombing.
What I Tried
- Passing through the claustrophobic Cu Chi Tunnels, near Saigon
- The “Xe-Om” (motorbike taxi – you get your helmet and sit on the back for the ride of your life)
- Vietnamese Black Coffee (very good)
- Dried octopus sold on the street by a vendor with a bicycle and a mini-stove attached to the bike.
- Cheap beer
What I Didn’t Try
- Shooting with a M16, AK47 or M60 rifles at Cu Chi Tunnels shooting range
- Whiskey with horse penis extract (Hanoi Airport)
- “Shisha” – is a water pipe for smoking made from glass and metal with a pipe
Date: December 2010