First day in Saigon, and I love it more every second. We walked all over the city today, learning the ins and outs of bargaining at Ben Thanh Market, how to cross the street (what we usually found easiest was sticking close to a local like a small child holding an adults hand) and how to get sunburnt by forgetting to put on sunscreen. When we got in last night on our delayed flight, we met another Aussie guy called Sam. We shared a cab only to be ripped off, which is most annoying when you know it’s happening. We then came to the hostel, finding it difficult to explain that it was fine for two gay men to share a bed. We then went to a bar for spring rolls and beer. The place was a backpacker hangout from way back and I even wasted money on a street vendor to get a Vietnamese phrase book for three times the price I found it today. It was then time to crash as it was about 4am in Sydney. This morning we woke up at 6:30am as we begin to adjust our body clocks to the three hours behind. After lazing around we got up for our first day of adventure in the big city. We took a walk up to Ben Thanh Market, the largest in District One (where we are staying). I drove a hard bargain and we received some shirts and a pair of earings for the trouble. Following the bargain house, we moved on to the Reunification Palace. The building that stands there today was built in 1966 and was once the residence of the South Vietnamese President before the fall of Saigon to the communist north in 1975. The place is so sixties, it’s funny, was an awesome look. We then went over to the Notre-dame Cathedral, Main Post Office and into the Diamond Plaza.
Entering the Diamond Plaza is bizarre, the shopping mall is almost like America saying, “we won the war, but we’ll give you the battle tribute”. Everyone in there was the total opposite of those out on the streets, showing the typical gap between rich and poor. Next we took a stroll down the main touristy thoroughfare called Dong Khoi which is the nicer area. Although it attracts many beggers such as one man who removed his hat from his lower arm, only to show me he was missing everything below his elbow. It’s hard to ignore but all situations like that are difficult. Finally we walked a hell of a long way to District Four to see the disappointing Ho Chi Minh Museum. On the walk we endured severe heat and the fact that the wide canal that once separated the districts is being reclaimed for more development and the two bridges on my map no longer existed. We had to walk on basically the road itself which is scary with all the motorbikes this city has. When we got there we were so tired that we took a couple of photos and left. As we left we were harassed, as usual, by a guy on a Honda Om for a ride into the city. While we said no for a good 500 metres, he helped block the traffic for us on the roadway. He made our journey a little less daunting. After our walk back to our area, we got passport photos for our Cambodian Visas and booked our trip to Phnom Penh. I’m very excited and it’s all so fun, food and beer especially!