We had organised Saras visa just in time, and got the electronic variety. When you got to the airport, there was a bizarre queue system, that Sara had to go through. It consisted of placing your passport on the customs window, and waiting for your pick, for when you had to cram your stuff through a hole. You would get something back, and had to fill another form out, then repeat the process. They would then take your passport, and you had to wait until someone held it back up again, and everyone would try and guess who it belonged to until you claimed it. Some unofficial travel agents where running around helping you, if you paid. There where a few returned citizens, and for them this process was very stressful. A women with a baby broke down in tears when she couldn’t figure out what was happening and thought she was rejected. The tears unleashed the most efficient bureacruacy I have ever seen, with her passport almost instantainously stamped with approval and returned, before she was escorted on the double to the next queue.
I was exempt from having a visa being Norwegian, a privilege only shared with Swedes, but still I have never felt so scrutinized by any customs official! Almost like being back in the army standing infront of your commanding officer getting a correction.
Through the paperwork, we went into the first trap we could find. How much should a taxi ride to the hostel be? Hmm?? $20USD? In Vietnam? Yeah? It was embarrassing, but we did just that…. To make it worse, we didn’t have enough dollars, or dongs, and had to renegotiate with an annoyed boss, who had pawned us of onto a driver that didnt understand a word we where saying.
In any case, the ride to the hostel was bad, although not as bad as the ride back. I had to close my eyes several times as I was certain we would hit that scooter, or that scooter, or that scooter. We didnt, and I dont know how.
We went to the Luan Vu Guesthouse, right in the backpackers district. It was clean and quite ok! One of the reasons I picked this place was because it had free WiFi. It is incredibly handy to use the iPhone and be able to browse your stuff, and reply to emails, although why should you on holiday?
We spent that day walking around the neighborhood, trying to get used to the spatial and spacial laws so frequently ignored by the million or so scooters that seemed all to be constantly roaming our neighborhood. Crossing the road was like playing frogger!
We found a spot by an intersection, where we could eat, drink beer and watch crazy traffic. It was also fun watching our food cross the road from the kitchen on the other side.
Anyways, next day we where on our first tour to the Meekong delta. It had all the token souvenir stops, and smooth guides.
Rice paper rolls factory
Aerials, parkinglots and frontyards
Bikeride, whats better than 15 slug tourists riding around the countryside?
The day was great, the food was good, and the company cheerful! We met a 2 guys who where working in South Korea, one of them had studied and worked in Wollongong and knew the same people I used to work with at the Faculty of Education! South Korea sounded like an acquired taste though. The tours where dime a dozen, and easily obtainable. All where different but same same.
Next day we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. These where Viet Cong hideouts during the Vietnam war. It was very interesting, and the guide offered a healthy jibe on the Americans expense! On the gunrange I gave the AK47 a go. I was expecting proper hearing protection though, but was only offered a set of walkman headsets, with no earmuffs… Yeah, it was loud. The gun was ok though, but the targets were busted, so no idea how I went.
I can fit in the tunnel!
I could feel this 200m tunnel in my thighs for 3 days!
This was a bigger group, with airhead aussies (the father tried to give some historic foundation to his kids, but they just reasoned that the imperial power was bad), big butted Americans (who got picked on the whole tour, both by the guide and the other tourists) and the Japanese. The heat and the lack of air condition on the bus sort of strained the mood a bit too. However, the guide was quite a character, and talked for the whole trip. His stories where great though, and he was very good at generating sympathy for the Vietnamese!
Our last day, we went to the War Museum and the Presidential Palace. The War Museum was displaying a lot of hardship and atrocities, putting most of the blame on the French and the Americans. The place was crawling with kids on school excursion though, and they had a lot questions and loved interacting with tourists!
Precidental Palace was Ok, but seemingly hadnt been in use for a long time.
First lady and her Bell
Then, we where due to head to Oz, only pending the ride to the airport…