This trip was a girls trip again: Kati, Judith, Janina, Elli and me are going to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) city in Vietnam.
The hostel we had there was really really nice and I can highly recommend it to everybody who wants to go to Ho Chi Minh – NgocThao Guesthouse. It is a friendly place with nice staff, clean and nicely furnished rooms.
The first time we went out on the street by day was crazy, traffic is crazy. Thousands of scooters are out on the street, driving like crazy and actually the first time we had to cross a street was an adventure. Even if there is a red street light nobody cares.
Our hostel was located in district 1, which is the richer district and city centre of Ho Chi Minh, where you will find the most sights of the city. All those sights in this district were walking distance and so we spend our first day exploring the city by feet.
One can see a lot of French influences from the Colonial era in the city, like Notre Dame, the old Post Office, the Opera House.
Ho Chi Minh is a really nice city. The air is fresh and the people sit in cafés or on the street on little children’s chairs and tables, having drinks and snacks. And actually you will find a lot of people who are wearing the traditional rice hats and people carrying goods on sticks over their shoulder.
Furthermore you find a lot of art ind the city, there are streets in which one gallery follows another. I saw a lot of people on the streets who were playing some kind of Vietnamese chess and another game was very popular: the ball looked similar to those with which one plays badminton. But the people were kicking this ball with their feet, like we play ‘hackysack’.
We also visited the War Remnants Museum about the war between the States and Vietnam. The exhibitions in the museum were shocking and deeply moving. But I was glad to visit this place, because in Europe we know so less about this brutal war.
Then we went to the colourful Benh Than market and took a look around there.
In the evening we went to a very cheap but really good Vietnamese restaurant, which the owner of our guesthouse had recommended to us. The food was really good and we tried a lot of different dishes, even those we didn’t know the ingredients. Surprise!
The second day in Ho Chi Minh was already New Year. But before the big celebration in the city centre we went on a tour to visit the Vietcong tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh.
Again this was a day full of history and learning. I found this trip to those tunnels there really interesting. But the weird thing about this museum and memorial was, that at the end of the tour one could shoot with the kind of guns that were used in Vietnam war. And actually after hearing about all this sad and brutal things that had happened in this war, some people were willing to shoot. It was unbelievable for me! For me the sound of the guns was horrifying, it felt like you are timetravelling back to the time of the war.
Finally we were walking through a part of the small tunnels in which the Vietcong fought.
And then…back in Ho Chi Minh the New Year’s Celebration was about to start.
We were walking around the huge festival area, lingering around here and there at a stage. From a friendly street vendor we bought some funny crowns and actually we were the stars of the night! It was unbelievable, everybody wanted to take a picture of us. It happened to us that we found ourselves posing for 15minutes for a never ending line of people who wanted to take a picture of the funny white people. The funny thing was, that we were not only interesting for the Vietnamese, also other western nationalities (e.g. New Zealand) wanted to take pictures of us.
With Vietnamese beer and fire candles we made our way through the crowd close to one of the big screens. 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New Year! Six hours before Germany we celebrated the new decade. Sadly there were no fireworks, only on the live screen from Hanoi. After 00.00 o’clock they were playing two songs and then… the end. The public party was over. We were totally surprised. A few minutes later they opened up the streets again for the traffic and hewego again with the scooters!
In this festival area we met some nice people from the Netherlands, they also head some funny things on their head :D and we celebrated together and were looking for a club to end the night.
But the clubs were closing soon and so we went to the 24h-store bought food and sat down in the street and watched the people in the street. I was playing with a little Vietnamese girl that was selling gum and had a conversation with a nice Vietnamese woman (Kim) who gave us travel tips.
Happy New Year. I am sure 2010 is going to be even better than 2009.
The next day we slept until midday and then did some sightseeing, following the advices of Kim from last night. That means first we visited two Pagodas (temples), one for the women to pray and one for the men. But the pagodas are open for everyone and every sex. Those temples were different from those we saw in Taipei, but still they were really beautiful. By coincidence we met Kim there again and she was so lucky that we were actually considering her advices.
After that we went to the highest building in town and enjoyed a fresh juice and a great view over Ho Chi Minh.
Finally our last day in Vietnam came. We had to get up early because we had planned a trip into Mekong Delta.
We were shipping through the Mekong Delta, its river, its canals and saw a floating market there. It was very interesting to see the peoples familiar dealing with shipping. Even on thise really small boats they were standing, eating or calling.
We also tried some local sweets like coconut candy and got to know how this all is produced. In addition we tried snake wine, which is actually a schnaps in which lies a snake. It is really strong, but it promises to become potent.
The Mekong Delta was a great experience. There is not so much to tell about, the pictures say more.