|Leaving the capital at 12pm we were expecting to get to Saigon at arou8nd 6am, obviously were on cambodian time meaning we didn't leave until 1.20am and over 10hours later we arrived, very tired and grouchy. We jumped into a taxi, who seemed to be very helpful but when we paid him he decided to drive off with our change, so we were down $30! We wondered around and eventually found a guest house, and our room was on the 4th floor, 90 steps up! we did all we could to avoid extra journeys back to the room!!
We spent our first day in Saigon visiting the War musuem and the Notradamn Cathedral. Parts of the war museum were pretty gruesome, there were different rooms, some explained how and why the Vietnamese war began and what other countries thought about it, some explained how people would set themselves on fire in protest against the war and how soldiers from the American Army were resigning and spending time in prison instead purely because they truely felt that what was happening to vietnam and its people was wrong. Many of the walls in the musuem showed photographs of vietnam before and after the war, and also during the war. Like the S21 in Cambodia, there was lots of pictures of torture including women and children.
One of the largest rooms in the museum was for explaining the effects of the chemicals the US used, mainly Agent Orange. The effects of the chemical were awful, and are still affecting 2nd and 3rd generations today. It causes malformations mostly. It is also belived to of been the cause of a lot of still births and siamese twins. The most awful things we saw in the musuem was a pair of siamese twins preserved in a glass cabinet in jelly. At first we didnt think it was real due to ethical reasons but we were later told that it was real. We also saw photos of still born babies in jam jars and many many photos of malformed children with captions explaining there problems. In one case a young malformed girl whose parents had been killed had written a letter to Barrack Obamma asking him to explain how it is fair that his young children can grow up to follow their dreams whilst America did nothing to help children like her who were affected by Agent Orange chemicals dropped by the American Army. Another story that stood out was of a young man whose arms and legs were seriously malformed, yet he was able to create the most amazing woodcraft! They had a piece of his wood work on display to show it.
We were also able to look at some of the American Aircraft and the bombs that they had used before we left the museum. From there we went on the look at the Notradamn Cathedral and also had a look around a modern shopping mall- and used perfume for the first time in 2 months!
Next day we were up early to go on a 2 day, 1 night trip to the Mekong Delta. After the bus journey to the river, we caught a boat across to one of the smaller islands in the Mekong, seeing lots and lots of floating houses and transportation boats along the way. At the island we were given lunch and then shown how the locals made Honey Candy and Honey lemon tea. Then we took a smaller paddle boat through the maze of thin canals of the Mekong which were lined either side with tropical greenery. Next we stopped at another small village where we watched a traditional southern band play. Definatly not our taste in music...!
After that we made our way back to mainland and to the hotel that the majority of the group were staying at. But me, satty and another couple had paid a bit extra to do a home stay overnight in a village so we were back on the road, this time on the back of scooters for 20mins to a small village on the riverside. The ride was so much fun as the locals know the twists and turns so well, we just sat back and enjoyed watching the sunset over the Mekong (through all the dust being sprayed in our eyes from the dirt tracks!) When we arrived we were shown to a small bungalow opposite the house where we would be staying. The balcony at the back of the bungalow was over the river which was beautiful. Only bad thing was that our mosquito net had aload of holes in so we kept being biten by flying ants and mosqitos!
For dinner we all learnt how to make spring rolls and all sat around eating and talking for a few hours. Then it was time for bed as had to be up at 5.30am for the second day of the tour. First thing we did in the morning was walked into the village centre, walking the mans young son to his school, and then on to the fresh morning market. That was really nice to see as we were literally the only tourists there and they were just going about their every day life, chatting to their friends and buying their days fresh fruit and veg for the family.
After that we were taken back along the river and met up with the rest of the group who had come straight from the hotel. We went to see the floating market which was crazy! people gather every morning with fresh produce on their boats to buy and sell to eachother. the boats all had tall poles on the front with the things they were selling attached to them so that it was visible from far away. Many of the smaller boats kept coming up and attaching themselves to our bigger boat trying to sell us fresh mango and iced coffee- i can understand why they do it as they make a killing from the chinese tourists!!
We went on to visit a fruit orchid and then made our way back to Saigon.
Next day we went to the Chu Chu Tunnels. It was like an underground world! During the War the Vietnamese dug the tunnels for hiding. The holes to get in and out of the tunnels were tiny, we were shown an original one and a small vietnamese guy who worked there showed us how he could squeeze in and out of the hole. Our guide asked if anyone wanted to try it, and for some reason a rather large, over excited chinese tourist thought it would be fun for her to try... she managed to get in ok, but then got stuck trying to get out and had to have the help of about 3 men to pull her free, soo funny!!
We went down another one of the tunnels, but this one had been widened a bit. We crawled through for about 10 metres, at first i felt fine but as the tunnel got smaller and hotter i started to feel really chlostraphobic so got out at the first chance! During our tour of the Chu chu tunnels we were also shown the ways in which the vietnamese tried to defend themselves against the Americans. They had loads and loads of traps set up, which they made from the iron of the bomb shells dropped by the americans and the soldiers also had special sandals that made the footprints they left look like they were walking to opposite way that they actually were, to confuse the americans.
We got back from the tunnels in the early afternoon and had the rest of the day to celebrate Satty's birthday with cake, food and lots of drinks and clubbing with the vietnamese locals.
Feeling very hungover, the next day we caught a bus to Da Lat. We opted for the overnight bus to save on accomdation costs so the bus left at 12pm. After being told it would arrive in 8hrs time we were confused when we arrived to a very dead Da Lat bus station at 5.15am. With no hotel booked and no where open yet, we were lucky to find a taxi driver to called ahead to a hotel to make sure someone would be there to help us on arrival. Da Lat was really different to Saigon as it was a small, french style town. After a few hours napping, our plan was to visit the 'crazy house' and a waterfall, but it started pouring with rain so we spent most of the afternoon in cafes and watching TV until it stopped! We managed to get both sights done and back in time to meet up with a girl we had met on the bus from Saigon for a meal and walk around the market. It was a really nice evening until i realised my purse had been stolen out of my bag, but luckily it was only money that was in it.
The next afternoon we were back aboard another bus heading for Mui Ne. As we approached the bus we realised there were a few men underneath the bus trying to fix something - wasnt such a promising start! Once on board we couldnt help but laugh at the dodgy black smoke coming out from the exhaust, the jaulty kick start down a hill, and the chairs which were completely falling apart!