Anthony and Erica on the road to Mandalay 2006 travel blog

Cao Dai Holy See

Cao Daists waiting to pray

Cao Daist and the eye in the pyramid

Various ranks of Cao Dai worshippers

Cao Dai worship

Cao Daists worshipping

Senior worshippers

Me with captured tank of the American aggressor at Cu Chi tunnels

Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon

Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon

Worshippers at Jade Emperor Pagoda, Saigon

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Cao Dai worship

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Saigon traffic at cross purposes


Well here I am, back in Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as I prefer to call it (as do most of the locals). I have to say I like it a lot. Like a cross between Pnomh Penh and Hanoi. The travellers area around De Tham where I am is concentrated on the main streets, though my hotel is down a series of little alleyways which is like a different world, very Vietnamese. Best of both worlds. Didn't do much other today than get here, have a haircut and wander around exploring.

Later in the evening I was checking out one of the three local bars described as playing loud music when I heard a voice I recognised, and there were Louise and 'Action' - the Steve Irwin clone - who I last saw in the loudest bar in Siam Reap. We have arranged to meet later for more drinking and mayhem. I can drink on my own and just people watch, but I much prefer company, especially Aussies! When they were in Pnomh Penh they did all the Killing Fields visits and museums, etc, and said it was profoundly depressing and upsetting, which I have to say is why I didn't.

And a good session we had later, though moderated by an awareness of how early we all had to be up to do cultural tourist things. However we did make a good start on a prospective trend for writing on the walls in the bar we were in. This place is fun.

14:12:06: Bit of a hangover this morning. Got a motorbike down to catch a bus and there waiting for the same bus were 'Action' Greg and Louise, and this Aussie girl called Elana who I have seen around a lot over the last week and nod to when I see, but have never actually spoken to. So us, this Scottish couple, a couple from Singapore and a German Australian all spend the day together, much of it on buses. First we went to see the Cao Dai main temple. This is a slightly unusual local religion that is a bit of a mish mash of things, and has one of the most colourful churches I have ever seen. We got there just before one of the services, which we watched from a balcony. It was very colourful and interesting.

This was followed by lunch, where I had my first taste of snake, which seemed fine. Also interesting, though a lot less colourful than the Cao Dai Holy See, were the Cu Chi tunnels. Even before the American war (i.e. during the war of independence that they call the French War), the people of this large area north of Saigon took to hiding out underground. This practice increased during the American war, particularly as the Americans carpet bombed the area and used chemical warfare to kill all the vegetation (the results of this use of chemicals - i.e. Agent Orange - are visible everywhere in Vietnam with people who were born with limbs missing, etc). There were over 200 kms of tunnels, and up to 10,000 people living in them, which must have been pretty hellish, judging by my taste of about a minute shuffling along in a squatting position down one tunnel that had been especially widened and heightened for huge tourists like me. These tunnels were expertly hidden, you could be standing on an entrance and not know it, and were deliberately made really small to make it hard for American soldiers to fight in them. And there were gruesome spikey traps everywhere in the tunnels and the surrounding jungle. The Yanks didn't really stand a chance. It was all very interesting, if a bit gruesome. And afterwards a firing range. Having fired machine guns before, I opted out, but Action and the Scottish woman both had a go on a M-16 machine gun, which was very loud indeed and appeared highly enjoyable.

And then another night's drinking in loud bars, found a couple more that were even better, though couldn't really hack the partying till dawn experience, so was in bed by 1. And I put tomorrow's pics on this page, to leave tomorrow clear.



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