Wednesday 28 February 2018

Last day in Vung Tau

We set off for a walk along the seafront further away from our hotel and came across a magical place. Almost all of the writing was in Vietnamese only, but we worked out that it was a display that was left over from the new year celebrations. 
We were almost the only people there and we wandered around in amazement. The flowers were beautiful with displays of hollyhocks and sunflowers. Floating fish adorned the flower beds, sheep leapt amongst the cactus plants, there were Russian dolls next to the Smurf display and a few dogs were scattered around. This made more sense as 2018 is the year of the dog, so I bravely posed with two of them.  
This afternoon we went on the beach and had a great time in the surf. 
Catching a flight tomorrow. 

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Jesus at Vung Tau

Today we went on a trek up a hill to visit the Giant Jesus at the top of it. There were 811 steps to the top and it was very hot, but we made it.
Inside the statue is a staircase and Darren went up to stand on it's shoulder to get a view of the city. The statue looks quite small from the road, but up by his head it is absolutely huge. 
We then went on a walk around the bay, watching the fishermen and stopping for a drink and a lovely banana fritter from a street stall. 

Monday 26 February 2018

Beach at Vung Tau

I fancied going to the beach for a few days and we found the nearest one to Ho Chi Minh. It is called Vung Tau and we caught a little ferry down the Mekong River to it this afternoon.
The ferry ride took just over two hours and for the first half of it they played Christmas carols and songs very loudly over the tannoy. Highlights were Wham and Boney M, but I was wasn't so keen on the many verses of 'We wish you a merry Christmas'.
The ride got bumpy across the open sea, but we arrived safely in Vung Tau and it is an amazing place.
We had an interesting late lunch at an empty beach restaurant and Darren had a surprisingly strong rum coffee, although we were also served iced green tea to go with it. Disappointingly I ordered rum and lemonade but there was no sign of any rum in it.
We caught a taxi to our hotel and I caught a glimpse of an almost deserted beach in the heat of the afternoon.
We started to think that the resort was almost empty, but as the sun started to go down the crowds came out to the beach.
Everyone was either jumping over the waves, paddling or sitting in groups in the sea.
We had a lovely paddle, enjoyed the scenery and collected shells.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Sunday in Saigon

We were up early this morning and went out for a run in the park opposite our hotel. Everyone else gets up early too and it was full of people exercising, doing tai chi and playing badminton. It was quite hot but we had a good run. 
Next we went to a nearby park that we remembered from the last time that we visited. It was full of people who had brought their pet birds with them and they were all sat around chatting, while the birds whistled away to their own feathered friends. 
Then we went to the Reunification Palace, which was the place where the Vietnam War ended on 30th April 1975. A communist tank crashed through the closed gates and on to the lawn and then the president surrendered. The tank is still sitting in the grounds today. 
It was a very interesting place and very modern. It was built in the 1960's in the style of the time and has not been altered since. It was like a James Bond film set with circular settees and a purple coloured cinema.
We went up on to the roof terrace where a helicopter was parked. It used to be used by the president, but I think that it is just decorative now. 
Just next to the helicopter were markings on the roof where two missiles hit the building a couple of weeks before the surrender. They were fired by a communist spy who infiltrated the enemy airforce, took a fighter jet, fired the missiles and then made it safely out of the city to another airbase. 
The plane is also in the grounds of the building.
Disclaimer - I am not totally sure of all of my facts here, but they are roughly correct! 

Saturday 24 February 2018

Mekong River trip

Fantastic day out today on the Mekong River and surrounding islands. Our trip only cost £6 each and included a two hour bus ride each way from Saigon, rides on four different boats, a visit to a pagoda with giant bhudda, tropical fruit and drink tasting, lunch, a horse and cart ride, meeting a snake and bees - not at the same time, and a free hat each!
I could say more, but the pictures cover it all....

Friday 23 February 2018

Sightseeing in Saigon

Excellent day today where we ticked off a lot of the major sights of Saigon.
The weather was beautiful and we started with the main Post Office as Daz needed some stamps. The outside is nice, but the inside is amazing with a huge picture of Ho Chi Minh on the wall.
The Notre Dame cathedral is also lovely, and then we came across the City Hall, with a large statue of Ho Chi Minh. All of the main buildings were designed by the French in a traditional style. 
We then found the Opera House and it had a bicycle outside covered with wicker baskets. It was advertising a show of traditional Vietnamese culture, but done in a modern way and we bought tickets for tonight. 
Afterwards we walked down a massive open boulevard to the river and bought ferry tickets for next Monday and the next stage of our journey. 
Finally, we stopped for lunch at a pho restaurant. We have been meaning to try this famous dish, but I never thought that it was really my sort of thing. It was actually quite tasty, but hard work with just chopsticks and a spoon. I ended up with it all around my mouth and very sticky hands, so not very high up the list of food to be repeated. 
Ps, After a relaxing afternoon we headed back to the Opera House and the show was great. 

Thursday 22 February 2018

Cu Chi tunnels

Today we went on a trip to the Cu Chi tunnels, that are not far from Saigon. They were used by the Vietcong to hide underground from the American soldiers during the war.
The tunnels were very small and narrow and in some places were three stories deep, and were well hidden by the jungle.
The Americans tried very hard to destroy the tunnels and used agent orange and napalm to destroy the jungle, but even then they still couldn't find most of the tunnels. 
The Vietcong set gruesome booby traps and would pop up through secret entrances to attack the enemy and then disappear again. 
I went down one of the original holes and it was really tiny, and once the lid was on it completely disappeared. 
There was the wreck of an American tank and we also walked underground through a small section of the original tunnel. It was only 20 metres long and had electric lighting but it was very claustrophobic and hot.
It was a very, very interesting day, and then to finish it off Daz tried a sample of snake wine from an awful looking bottle! 

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Saigon, Vietnam 🇻🇳

We caught a flight today and landed this afternoon in Saigon, otherwise known as Ho Chi Minh.
It is a really interesting place and is far greener and cleaner than I remembered. Our hotel is in a great location as it is very central and within walking distance of everything.
It is just down the street in picture one, and it is a tall narrow building that Daz is standing outside in pic two. He splashed out and we have the double room just above the reception for £15 per night.
One thing that hasn't changed are the thousands of mopeds on the roads, and most of them carry two or three people, as well as lots of shopping. 
We also found the main backpacker bar area which is called a walking street, but sadly no one has told the moped riders who shoot along the road just like any other. 

Monday 19 February 2018

Spiceworld and the Butterfly Park

On Monday we had a lovely touristy day, and Dave has a friend who lives on Penang who very kindly showed us around.
We started at the Spice Gardens, which is a rainforest garden starting at sea level and going up into the hill behind.  My first thought was how incredibly hot and steamy it was, but either we got used to it or it cooled down a bit as we walked upwards. We learned all about dozens of different plants and spices, but it has all rolled into one in my head, so I won't amaze you with any interesting facts.
The giant swing was good and there was a peaceful teahouse right at the very top. 
After a tasty lunch that cost 80 pence each we visited the Butterfly Park, which cost significantly more. However, it was definitely worth it.
Firstly, Daz made friends with a scorpion who crawled across his hand - not a butterfly I know.
Dave was very popular with a big butterfly that sat on his ankle for most of the visit, but eventually I briefly found a friend of my own.
There was thousands of butterflies everywhere and the park was enormous, so we spent ages wandering around taking pretty photos. We also went to the hatching area and watched a couple of butterflies appear and start to unfold their wings. 

Straits Quay

Today we moved into an apartment in Straits Quay for a couple of days. It is about five miles away from the noise and bustle of Georgetown and we can relax, almost put our feet up and make full use of the swimming pool.
First of all though we caught a ferry from Penang Island to the mainland. It cost about 30 pence each and only took about 15 minutes.
Once across at Butterworth we took a quick look, decided that it wasn't very exciting and got straight back on the ferry for the return trip. 
We didn't mind though, as the whole point of the outing was the journey, not the arrival. 
In the evening we went down to the hawker stalls at Gurney and Margs and Dave went for the adventurous octopus option, while I stuck to the steamed veggies.
Very tasty though.