Ho Chi Minh and the Mekong River

Although we were pretty exhausted by the time we reached our back alley hotel in Ho Chi Minh, we were determined to do a bit of exploring with what we knew would be a short amount of time there. I was exhausted (due to my problem with being able to sleep overnight transport), I missed the serenity I had found in Sihanoukville and I just generally wasnt in the best mood. It definitely wasnt the right time for me to be experiencing the chaos of Ho Chi Minh and I don’t think we could have possibly found a bigger contrast to Sihanoukville.

Alley way where our hotel was

Alley way where our hotel was

I couldn’t believe that before now I had considered khao San road chaotic – it has absolutely nothing on Ho Chi Minh! I have never seen so many mopeds in my life (and that’s saying something after experiencing the roads in Phnom Penh) and I’ve never felt more scared crossing a road. You would literally have to weave your way through hundreds of mopeds to get to the other side – you’d step out into the road and just hope they would stop for you. The crossings on the road mean noting and we soon discovered the side of the road doesn’t either – you’d get them coming at you from all directions. At one stage Jess had reached the other side and I got stuck in the middle. I was surrounded and all I could do was close my eyes, scream and hope that the bikes would swerve around me! You weren’t even safe in the narrow alleyways where our hotel was – they would come down there too. They would also sometimes come into the pavement, and they did all this while beeping their horns at you continuously. I did not like fearing for my life everywhere I stepped one little bit! By this point I had decided I couldn’t wait to get out of the city and that I strongly disliked it.

Ho Chi Minh road

Ho Chi Minh road

However, it did manage to win me over a bit when we found a hotel bar (the Sheraton) with views like this.

view from the Sheraton Hotel

view from the Sheraton Hotel

It cost us $10 for a drink but was so worth it. We had to laugh when they asked us if we wanted to charge the drinks to the (extremely posh and expensive) room! He must have been having a laugh! Alongside this view, I also enjoyed walking though the wealthier areas of Ho Chi Minh which were full of coloured lights and not as chaotic as the other areas we d been. I’m glad we discovered that side of town as it gave me a new perspective on a city I had previously decided I hated.

I did however, have to face one of my fears to reach that hotel. After around 20 minutes of walking aimlessly around and trying to follow google maps (fat lot of good that app did me) we admitted defeat. Unfortunately they don’t have tuk tuks in Ho Chi Minh and only have taxis or mopeds. Since taxis are a lot more expensive, and Jess and I are on a budget, it only left us with one option. I’ve never been on a moped before and I can’t say I was too happy about it, especially given the crazy traffic, but I got over my fear for long enough to get to the other side of town. I did however, grab Jess’ sides like my life depended on it, even though she explained she wasn’t even holding onto anything so there was no point! Although the driver didnt speak any English I’m pretty sure the look of panic on my face would be universally recognised and as a result he drove extremely slowly and kept to the side if the road, which suited me fine. So far I haven’t gotten over many fears on this trip and it’s something I want to do more of, even if I had to start with a 5mph moped ride.

Stupid amount of mopeds at a rare stand still

Stupid amount of mopeds at a rare stand still

Anyway that night we grabbed some cheap street food (we were excited to find baguette and pate for about 70p) and had an early night as we had to be up at 6am for another day trip.

The day trip was to the Mekong River, something that Jess was really keen on and I was happy to go along with. Basically it consisted with a few rides up the river on boats of varying sizes, the most interesting being small rowing boats. Unfortunately I was still feeling so tired and was a little ill and so I don’t feel like I really appreciated the day as much as I could have. Sometimes when you’re travelling you feel guilty if you’re not moving around and seeing things 24/7, but there comes a point where you know if you don’t slow down you’ll stop enjoying it, so that’s exactly what we did at our next stop.

River crossing boats

River crossing boats

Rowing boats

Rowing boats

But anyway, the Mekong tour was pretty good and it was interesting to see the house boats and small shacks at the side of the river, watching the way the locals lived.

river house

river house

We had a Vietnam guide who spoke very good English and had a good sense of humour. So much so that when we got to a bee farm and Jess decided to hold the honey plaque full of them he left her holding it for about 10 minutes – I wasn’t going to go anywhere near a load of bees so I found it quite funny!

bees

bees

After the bees we had an opportunity to hold a python. I had done I before but wasnt going to turn down a chance again. Jess and I took it as an opportunity to get a joint picture holding the head and tail (we re getting a bit fed up if pictures of one of us on our own). I wasn’t too scared but it surprised me to see a German family letting their 8 year old hold it and not bat an eyelid when it seemed to be tightening around his neck!

Python holding

Python holding

After the bees and python we were able to taste some of the honey (which was amazing) and a selection of local fruits, some of which I still have no idea what they were but they tasted okay. At one point we were both feeling very dehydrated and desperately went off in search of water. We didnt find any but what we did find was shots of various alcohol – rice wine, coconut wine and most unusually, scorpion and snake fermented wine. It wasnt wine so much as an extremely strong vodka/whiskey tasting spirit. After 3 shots we both felt a bit drunk. Getting back on a shaky boat was a little risky!
Shots

Shots

After that day trip we arrived back in the city at around 5pm, with a few hours to spare before we were to board another coach. This one left at 8pm and arrived at 1am. I was not looking forward to it. Suffice to say when we reached our next stop, Mui Ne, at around 1.30am, I was done with travelling for a few days. All in all I’d say I enjoyed my time in Ho Chi Minh but I would not be keen to go back. I’m glad I experienced the chaos but by the end of my time there I couldn’t wait to get away from it and be able to walk down the road and feel safe again.

Ho Chi Minh leaving shot. I think it sums up the chaos well. Love the colours.

Ho Chi Minh leaving shot. I think it sums up the chaos well. Love the colours.

Strangely, Jess absolutely loved it. She said it reminded her of India (she puts me off going there on a daily basis by saying things like that!). Each to their own. It just goes to show how different places can mean nothing to one person and so much to another – one reason you shouldn’t always follow recommendations and should make your own mind up about places. Anyway, luckily our next place was to be another beach town and just what I needed. Ill write about that another time when I’m not lying on a sleeper bus on a very bumpy road trying desperately not to think about how much I need a wee!

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