Ho Chi Minh started off on a great note because when we left at 8am Chris guessed we would arrive at 4:12pm, and we arrived at exactly 4:12. We gave him a couple minutes to soak in the glory and then cut him off. Soon, Izzie, Chris, and I stopped in a bar and let Andrew and George go find a hotel for us to stay at. We may or may not have enjoyed a few beers while they were gone (we did).
Our hotel didn’t look exceptionally posh or popular, but it was nice and had a huge family-sized room with a queen bed and two over-sized twins, which was more than enough to sleep all five of us comfortably. Plus it had two showers! For three nights, it cost us each about $30, and this is part of the reason why SE Asia spoiled the shit out of us. Saigon is probably the most Westernized city in Vietnam – it’s large, industrious, has plenty of tall buildings, and feels very urban. It was a nice change from the rural areas we’d become accustomed to.
Later that night we headed to the busier, younger area of the city and ate on the top floor of a skyscraper that overlooked Saigon. It was an incredible view, but for the first half hour I just couldn’t get comfortable and felt really weird. About 20 minutes later I realized that it’s because the top floor where we were eating was rotating – like a lot of nice restaurants in big cities do, so that patrons can get the full view – but it was rotating so slowly that it took that long to notice. We’re talking like an inch every ten minutes… yeah, it was kind of pointless.
A couple of girls whom we’d all met earlier in the trip met us at the restaurant, and after ordering lots of NY-style cheesecake, we headed out to find a club or bar to go to. After perusing the main strip of hookah bars and playing far too many (and far too revealing) Never Have I Ever rounds, we decided that we needed a change of pace and pulled up TripAdvisor for some club recommendations. Apocolypse Now came up as the #1 bar, but we weren’t sold. It wasn’t until we heard/read that it was known for Vietnamese prostitutes and old men that we knew we had to go. And off we went. The club/bar was really fun and the night was uneventful in a good way. Well, up until the moment we hopped out of our taxi because we realized he was ripping us off, and then a motorbike drove by me and the passenger tried to steal my purse out of my hands. They didn’t get it, but they did manage to pull my entire skirt down and burn my leg.
You win some you lose some, I guess.
The next morning I had an excruciating hangover, but managed to make it to the first big market of my trip. I don’t even know how to explain these markets, other than they are chaotic, as hot and humid as the boys’ sweaty ballsacks, smelled like rotting fish, and full of the pushiest “salespeople” I’ve ever met. As I would walk by, one after another would grab my arm and beg me in a screeching whine to buy from them, to which I daintily replied, “fuck off.”
Even if I could understand the total lack of respect for personal space at these places, what I really don’t understand is the business model. Every stall, literally all 400 of them, falls into one of five categories: food, purses & accessories, shoes, cute clothes, or athletic clothes. Within these categories, they each sell the exact. same. merchandise. It makes no sense! We searched high and low for a knock-off USA soccer jersey that didn’t look like shit, but Saigon’s market just didn’t have what we wanted, so on we went. The boys did walk out with some shiny, snazzy, completely fake Rolexes though ;). Oh and I got a pretty badass Hello Kitty hat…when is Asia, amirite?
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this already, but our dear Andrew is obsessed with McDonalds. There really is no other way to phrase it. So, naturally, we looked up the only McDonalds in Vietnam and took a cab there. I won’t lie, it was great…actually, it was better than great, because it not only reminded me of home, but it was better quality than the pink ammonia shit they serve us here in the States. After filling up, we hit up the American War Remnants museum, and met two of our friends from Hanoi there.
I won’t lie, the museum was hard. Undoubtedly, Americans caused a lot of pain to the Vietnamese. But if you were to look up the term “propaganda” or “one-sided story”, you would see a picture of this museum. It was particularly difficult for me given that my grandfather is a Vietnam War veteran, and I had to read article after article paired with gruesome images that vilified the men in his specific battalion. I’ve been to a LOT of museums in my day, and I’ve yet to see anything as visually intense and overtly graphic as the pictures showcased here – images of little boys burnt to crisps with their eyeballs hanging out, families holding up the dismembered pieces of their loved ones, even an entire gallery was dedicated solely to the disfiguration and appalling effects that Agent Orange had on the Vietnamese.
I’m glad I went, but needless to say, I was happy to leave.
Izzie had to leave us in Ho Chi Minh, as she needed to get back to her job in Hoi An, and we were leaving the next day for Cambodia. That night, we enjoyed one incredibly over-priced drink at Chill Bar, a swanky sky lounge overlooking the city, and then headed back to Apocolypse Now (what can I say, we’re creatures of habit).
When I got home later that night, I walked into our hotel room to find Chris and George half naked in bed skyping my best friend Kelly from my iPad.
I didn’t see these gems until the next morning.
Our last day was my first brush with SE Asia stomach sickness. In the middle of our meal at McDonalds, I ran to the bathroom and threw up twice. I was sweaty, cramping, and couldn’t tell what end the next round was going to come from. This was the start of what would be a long-term friendship with Pepto Bismol and Imodium. They were my saviors, second probably only to TripAdvisor.
We had planned on going to the famous Tunnels in the morning of our last day, and then catch our 2pm bus to Cambodia. However, about 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave, we were told that the people who had to be picked up before us had run late, and the bus wouldn’t get back from the Tunnels in time for our bus to Cambodia. We were really bummed, but at least we managed to get a full refund for our tickets?!
We loaded up on the bus, and just like that, Vietnam was over!