Bel had already been to Viet Nam before (work thing), and was a little more prepared for the overwhelming sounds, smells, and sheer intensity of the country than we were. That didn't stop her getting hit by a motorbike while crossing the road in Hanoi...luckily it wasn't very serious (a bruise or two), but it did scare the bejeezus (?) out of her. But that comes later...
Our first stop on the family tour through Viet Nam was Saigon or, as it is now known, Ho Chi Minh City. Coming out of the airport we expected to find someone waiting to pick us up and take us to our hotel. Little did we expect that there would be 100s of hired shuttle drivers waiting for their customers, so it took us a few phone calls to the travel agency and about 30min to locate the driver. Then it was into the taxi / mini-van for the hair-raising trip to the hotel.
For those who have never been to Viet Nam or anywhere like that before, the whole "driving experience" here is best left to the profis. There is no hope in hell that you would survive more that 5 mins in this complete shit-fight that is the Vietnamese way of traffic life. There are more motorbikes on these roads than you would ever seen on Elizabeth Street in Melbourne (but none of these are standing still), and per bike there are more passengers that in an average family car in the rest of the world. Indicators also don't seem to exist, and overtaking is achieved by using your horn - constantly - to let people know you are coming. And lanes? What are they? Drive wherever the toss you want - the fittest or those in the biggest car survive. I can really understand why it has recently become compulsory to wear helmets here.
That night we had an awesome dinner in Ho Chih Minh City after choosing to avoid the noodle restaurant that had a sign outside "No Pay, No Delicious". After much thinking, we realised that this meant that you didn't have to pay if you didn't like it, and not that if you don't pay then you don't get something delicious, or any of the other variations we came up with.
The next day we piled into our shuttle bus and headed out to the Chi Chu Tunnels. These tunnels were where the VC lived and fought during the war with France and then with the US. These tunnels actually had 3 levels, with kitchens, living space, offices, etc all underground. These tunnels also allowed the VC to get behind their enemy and surprise them, before disappearing and turning up somewhere else.
Here we also had the chance to squeeze into a single person hiding place, which would be used when the enemy was coming and the VC didn't have a chance to get back to their normal tunnels.
After the tunnels we headed to the Cao Dai Great Temple, which is a temple belonging to a sect that pulls together elements of 6 or 7 religions. This was a freaky and very colourful place, but I wouldn't say that you absolutely have to see it, if you go to Viet Nam.
That reminds me - on the way to the Chi Chu tunnels, we pulled out to overtake a truck, car, cow, whatever, and were on the "wrong side of the road" (not that that seems to exist here). Coming from the other direction was a motorbike / scooter with a dad driving, and his little boy standing infront of him. As we got closer and closer, to the point that we all thought that we were going to crash, the little boy lifted one of his hands up and covered his eyes... Luckily our driver decided to finally get out of their way and let them live a little bit longer.
Ok, so that's enough about Ho Chih Minh City. Next time we head off to Hoi An for New Years and Tailoring tailoring tailoring...
Street vendor and her shop, on the move.
One of the levels of priest or believer from the Cao Dai sect.
Installing new powerlines. What work place safety regulations??