I tried to fit it all into 2 parts but it would have needed a pot of tea and whole packet of biscuits for you to get through it instead of maybe just the one cup and a jaffa cake or two.
So, yet another long bus trip, this time with a woman on board puking her ring almost all the way and another wee local girl sleeping with her head almost in my lap bless her. She woke up at one stage and apologised looking embarrassed then fell alseep again and resumed her position. The noise from the sick woman was like comedy vomitting, really loud and projectile into a plastic bag. I felt very sorry for the people sitting near her, thankfully Alex and I were at the back of the bus but you could still hear it. I had to take my earphone from Alex (we were sharing my ipod) and plug in with both cos I couldn't stand the noise, it's making me feel ill just thinking about it. The Irish lads were, unfortunately for them, sat directly opposite the puke-a-thon woman bless them.
Right so we got to Saigon in one piece. Norah Jones once said that there were 10 million bicycles in Beijing, well there's about 10 million motorbikes in Saigon, it's mental. We found a place to stay which was like the spareroom in someones house but very nice indeed then went out for some noodles. Did you know that the stock for noodle soup has star anise in it which apparently contains the tamiflu properties that help cure swine flu? well it's true. I wonder if there's been less cases in SE Asia than anywhere else in the world cos they eat it all the time. We went out after the soup and bumped into the irish lads, Robbie and Paul and went out for some drinks. We ended up in a night club called Apocolapse Now which was cheese central but good fun. At the end of the night they play 'The End' by The Doors which if you've seen the film Apocolapse Now, you'll know why. After that we went to another bar which served draft beer for 50p with free popcorn and a free neck and shoulder massage on the side. Random I know but lovely after a night on the dance floor not that I was doing any break dancing on my neck and shoulders. Said cheerio to the lads who were leaving the night after and promptly got robbed. When we got to the guesthouse road the lads asked if we wanted chummed down to the door cos the street looked dogey, nah we said, it'll be fine. We got to the gate to find it had been padlocked shut (well, it was 4:30am) but still, they could have said. Anyway Alex tried to climb over the wall to the door while I tried to use our door key to open the lock. There was a bloke hanging around trying to 'help' I told him to go away but he wouldn't. Looking back I know exactly what he was after but at the time we were distracted, I put my wallet which was in my hand into Alex's bag which was round my neck and as I bent down to try the lock again he grabbed my wallet and ran. Alex flung her flip flops to the wind, pushed me out the way and ran after him, I ran after her shouting all sorts of abuse (at the bloke, not Alex) but he knew the rabbit warren streets too well and was gone in a flash. I hope he spent my money on good things the short assed, dark haired, well practised at running in flip flops, light fingered, chain smoking little git. We spent the next day in and out of the police station doing my statement so I could get a report for the insurance company, what a waste of time, I was stupidly honest with said insurance company which meant it wasn't worth me claiming doh!! One good thing came out of it tho, we found a donut shop across for the station with donut costumes lying around upstairs begging to be put on so we did and had a local girl take photos of us, no one else in the shop even batted an eyelid... The police were so relaxed, even more so than the policia local in La Linea. While I was re-writing my statement there was actually a man dressed as a policeman lying sleeping on the bunker behind the bloke dealing with me who was either playing snake or sending text messages on his mobile probably to the woman at the front desk who translated my statement on our 2nd visit and giggling at texts coming in on her phone. In the end it took 3 men and 1 woman to take, translate and give me a copy of my statement over 3 visits and almost a full day. What a palava.
The next day we went on a tour to the Cao Lie temple and the cuchi tunnels which were really cool, the temple however was a bit weird. The religion is a mixture of buddism, christianity, catholic and a couple of others. They have a symbol of an eye and a man with a beard, it's in my photos if you want a better idea although I think I'll have to upload them... anyway, we watched a service which was all a bit medival, I like medival. All the chanting and stuff, men and women dressed in robes, kneeling on the floor, dragons and stuff on the walls, it was pretty amazing. They even had a live band? is that the right word? they were playing traditional instruments. It was all a bit bizarre but I suppose they sort of have the right idea, praise all, upset no one... After that and some lunch we went to the cuchi tunnels where the Vietnamese hid from the bombs and stuff during the wars, it was truely amazing. How they fitted into the wee tunnels is beyond me, I know the Vietnamese are smaller than us western folk and probably more so when the wars were going on but still. We watched a video first which was very anti american calling them 'the devil americans' and such like, very interesting. They made some of the tunnels bigger so western visitors could walk through them, they were still really small tho and I didn't get very far at all, bit scary. I did however get into a hole in the ground. You had to hold the lid above your head with arms straight then lower your body in so that the lid went on and you disappeared. The only thing was, I couldn't get out again. I tried but something made a loud popping sort of cracking sound in my chest and I wonder if I did a rib, still not sure. I couldn't use my arms to push myself up if you know what I mean for about 2 or so weeks. I'm fine now tho. and at the time I managed to fire 5 rounds off an M60 Machine Gun which was pure dead brilliant so it was, very loud but the earphones were something you'd get with your personal cassette player in the 80's and therefore not much cope but we got to keep a bullet and stuff, it was great. I thought more people would have wanted to do it but they didn't. We got back eventually doing about 85 km in 3 hours, went to the market for noodles and beef then to an ice cream shop called 'Fannys' for a sorbet. A very popular chain in Vietnam.
If you go to Saigon, don't bother going into the Reunification Palace unless you're really interested in that sort of thing, it was booooring. All there was to see really was velour curtains and upholstery, old retro phones and lots and lots of tables and chairs, proper yawn-a-rama. The outside of the building and the gardens were lovely tho. After that we went to the War Museum, again very anti american blaming them for the war and the disease and deformities of the people of Vietnam now due to gases they used etc, some of the photos are very disturbing.
Exercise is big in HCMC, people are out in the parks walking, jogging, bending, dancing, doing aerobics and playing this game with a shuttlecock. It's not like a shuttlecock you'd play batminton with (which is also very popular) it's more a long tube like thing, how they do it I just don't know, it's like keepy uppy and hacky sack mixed together but you play in 2's or more, if you hit it back 4 times in a row you have to hit it next time with your foot behind you throwing yourself on the floor, it's amazing to watch.
The next day we went to the post office to send off a parcel each full of presents and souvineers then we walked for miles and miles via the Jade Pagoda which was lovely and very old and housed terripins and turtles who i thought were vegitarian but are actually into cannibalism, a few of them were ripping into another dead ones head and legs, it was pretty gruesome to watch but I still took a photo. We went to a shop and ate 3 different naughty donut things which I personally think I should have gotten for free cos when I went to pay for mine the bit next to the till gave me an electric shock!! the guy behind the till was just about to say 'don't touch that' as I put my hand on it and got zapped. I said 'hello like? that was sore, shouldn't you have a sign up??' he laughed and said it doesn't happen all the time so I stood there looking at him for a while thinking any miniute now he's going to say sorry but alas no. It had been raining a lot that day, I don't know if that might have had something to do with it. Before we got to the electric donut shop (thinking of it now, prob a sign that I shouldn't be eating them) we had been stuck under a pagoda in the park with a vietnamese soap opera crew and some other people cos it was raining so hard. We actually stood there singing songs about rain for 2 hours. Not one person joined in with us, I dont know why. A massive bolt of lightening hit a lamp post fairly near us giving out a really loud BOOOOOM sound and lighting up the park, it was mad I tell you, never seen anything like that before.
Before I go, I'd just like to tell you about the many weird and wonderful things people carry on their scooters, I'd like to see anyone manage it let alone get away with it in Gibraltar... I've seen a bike with about 50 bags of water with a goldfish in each one, another with a fridge freezer, one with a man holding a dining table, loads with as many kids as you can fit on ranging in age and size and of course some carrying live animals like chickens or ducks - lots of them hanging off the bike all over the place. It's fab to see and I even found a book at the airport in Bangkok that was full of photos of these bikes - great stuff.
Right then, next stop the Mekong Delta and a very strange tour indeed...