Saigon Day 3

Continued from Saigon Day 2.

RL finished one of her sketches last night while she was still fuming over the taxi incident.


This is the giant 5L jug that I had to carry back with me after the taxi incident. Fucker.

We had to get up early this morning because we had signed up to go on a bus tour of Cu Chi tunnels. These were the tunnels that the Viet Cong used during Vietnam War. It was only $11 or so for the bus ride and the entrance fee into the tunnels. It’s about an hour and a half drive away from Saigon, ugh.

Apparently, half of the tourists in Saigon all leave on one of these tourist buses to go sightseeing at 8am. There are people everywhere getting on buses.

The Monday morning rush. This is easily the city with the most frantic traffic so far on this trip.

Ugh. This wasn’t on the itinerary, but we stopped by one of these stupid gift shops so we could “shop”. I hate tours that do this. And of course, they stop at one of these places with art that’s supposed to be made by handicapped people…So, Westerners are all up in arms about exploiting elephants, how about this??

The really expensive crafts that I am pretty sure are mostly not made by handicapped people.

The workshop that we all had to walk through. I’d say most were fully able bodied people. Plus, I am pretty sure the artwork is mostly made in a factory somewhere far from here. In fact, we saw a TinTin paintings just like the ones we got yesterday inside Saigon!! Except here, they were $28 each, and in Saigon, we got ours for less than $6 each. I guess the only good thing that came out of this visit was that we were happy we paid so much less than what we could have paid for the TinTin art work.

I see plenty of this around people’s front doors.

How the art is “supposedly” made. I am sure a few steps are skipped here and there.

When we got dropped off, our tour guide told us to look for a blue bus when we need to find our bus. Terrible way to differentiate the buses I would say.

While back on the bus, RL got into a cold war with the girl in the seat in front of us over the blinds. The girl in front, instead of extending the front half of the blind fully, kept on pulling the whole rear part of the blind forward, therefore exposing RL to the sun. I was more upset over this than the taxi incident actually. So, I put this girl in a headlock while RL slapped her around…or at least I would have wished to.

While on the bus, they showed us a propaganda video(also shown at the Cu Chi tunnels) about how terrible the Americans were and how heroic the Vietnamese are in fighting against the Americans. Our guide(Vietnamese, but spoke perfect English with I believe an Australian accent) was also very much anti American.

Oh, our bus attendant for this tour also had an uncanny resemblance to our shitty taxi driver from last night!!! It took RL a while to be convinced that they weren’t the same guy…yes, all Asians look the same.

Finally reached here. I have a feeling this tour is going to be a little lame.

While waiting here, we hear a loud bang, and something smashes down into the ground.

A giant mango fell and exploded upon impact. I wouldn’t want to get hit in the head by that thing! We all hurried out of the area.

Not sure what these are, but I saw them selling these at the markets.

The Cu Chi Tunnels…actually, this is just a tunnel for us to go through in order to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

A demonstration on how the exits are like on the original tunnels. Our guide said that the original tunnels were less than 2 feet tall in height once you get underground.

Now it’s time for the people on our tour to get their photo opportunity.

We didn’t take photos because as you can see, everyone just stood around and watched you crawl in and take a photo. Meh. I think RL and I are the two people who are the most uninterested in this tour.

The traps that the VC set up with poisoned bamboo spikes to kill Americans soldiers.

The only cool things we learned here was that the VC would wear sandals backwards so that if the Americans found their trail, they would follow them the wrong way. Also, in the tunnels, they distinguished the smells of the Americans by the unpleasant smell of the leather boots that have been water soaked.

The Cu Chi tree. This is where they get the poison for the bamboo spikes.

For the dirt that they dig up, they put some in river, some in rice patties, and some as fake termite mounds, that also serves as ventilation.

The different types of traps.

The coolest part of this tour was seeing these giant millipedes. Or maybe centipedes, I didn’t take care to count how many legs per segment.

Some of them didn’t fare as well under unsuspecting shoes.

This one is even bigger than the other one we just saw. Cool!!!

Our enthusiastic guide telling us about all the ingenious ways that the VC made weapons to kill the Americans. I wonder if RL and I are the most uninterested because we are Americans out of the group. Out of this entire bus of 43, there are only 3 Americans. We know because we had to fill out one of those charts that said who and from where etc. Americans don’t travel much outside of America. We’ve met quite a bit of Germans on this trip so far though.

Then people got to shoot gun. I guess this is pretty cool for people who can’t shoot guns in their own country. We didn’t partake.

Better than guns, ice cream!

The sandals that the VC wore, with soles made out of used tires. Just like the ones that I used to wear in Taiwan when I was a kid.

And now we head down into the Cu Chi Tunnels. Wait, sorry. The originals tunnels haven’t been used since the war, so we are not allowed in. And even if we were, they are so small that few of us could fit into them, so they built these tunnels that are double the size of the original for the tourists. These tunnels are also concrete instead of just mud. I wonder if there are millipedes inside..?

They were very cramped. To think that these are the enlarged versions gives me a very claustrophobic thought about the originals.

They also had these giant ants here. Speaking of ants, somehow one of these giant ants got into my shirt when I first arrived in Phnom Penh a few days back. It bit me on my stomach and now I’ve had a big red bump since then. Vicious little things.

VC lunch, tapioca roots with peanut power and sugar.

Actually pretty tasty. Kinda like a potato.

OK, let’s get out of here. But wait, not before we have to march through a row of souvenir shops.

This thing was huge!! About the size of a Milano cookie! Think about that next time you eat one.

A really hot hour and a half bus ride, and we are back in Saigon. That tour was lame and it took up all morning and early part of the afternoon. I felt like we needed to check out the Cu Chi Tunnels so we wouldn’t have wondered if it was going to be good or not. 3 out of 4 thumbs down. We did get to see the giant bugs!

It’s about 2pm, and we are hungry. We got dropped off at a different spot than the pick up, and close to the last two things that we wanted to see in Saigon before leaving tomorrow. Power through, lunch later!

Ah yes, this is the site where…

This happened. I saw this years back and it became the most powerful photo I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw this. The monks were protesting against the government who were repressing Buddhists.(The government rulers at the time were Catholic) There are other acts of elf imm_____n(I didn’t write out the word because I didn’t want the next country that I am going to visit next to firewall my site), but I have yet to see another where the protester never moved a muscle during the whole ordeal.

There’s a memorial at the corner of the intersection.

I am not religious, but I feel unworthy.

Now, onwards.

I think the building is pretty cool.

Trung Nguyen Coffee everywhere! One literally across from the other.

Also fake Apple stores everywhere. Steve Jobs would die again from seeing this.

Found…except not. You know that famous photo of the helicopter taking off from the roof of a building after the fall of Saigon, well we thought that this was the building. But upon closer inspection, it’s not. Google Maps SUCKS here in Vietnam. It’s actually more than useless, because it gives you the wrong addresses instead of just telling you that it can’t find it. I’ve had a little bit more luck with Bing Maps, just a little bit more.

Then, trek across town for lunch.

Decided to try Pho 24, which the swing dancers had recommended.

Looks surprisingly like the Pho restaurant we ate at the first day in Saigon. I wonder if that place tried to copy Pho 24’s decor.

I was Sooooo hungry by this time. I ate EVERYTHING!

Except for this. This piece of meat had skin attached still, which is not a big deal if it didn’t also have hair attached to it.

Coffee and dessert.

Still hungry, so I ordered another meal.

We used the wet naps that they provided us, only to see that they cost money!! A lot of places here in Vietnam do not give you napkin, not even a single piece.

Pho 24 was ok, I’ve had better Pho before.

Back to the hotel to rest after that long hot morning.

But first, pick up our laundry. Seems to be all there.

Napped and rested in the afternoon, now out for dinner.

Right around our hotel is this other place that the swing dancers had recommended.

This reminds me sort of like Zen in Austin, but for Vietnamese food.

The best coconut yet!

I was still very stuffed from lunch, only 3 hours ago, so I only ate enough food to feed a regular person.

We are leaving Saigon tomorrow. So we came back and did some inventory on our cash situation. What better way to increase accuracy of counting money than with some alcohol.

To be continued at Train to Hoi An.

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