Day 41: Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City
Claire: Ho Chi Minh City is really busy! It's not as difficult to navigate through the traffic as it was in Hanoi, but it's still pretty crazy. It seems a lot more Westernised here though — wider roads and tree lined avenues. So many cool cafes too, including L'usine that provided our morning caffeine fix (and later our alcohol fix!).
I have to admit I never really cared much for history at school but in my adult life I genuinely enjoy learning about the past, particularly when I have visited a place and can put it into context. I'm always bringing up Wikipedia when I see an interesting building or if something intrigues me. I'm definitely more of a visual learner though so having physical places/things to spark the initial curiosity definitely helps. Well today's history lesson was all about the Vietnamese war...
Arriving at the War Remnants Museum we had limited knowledge about what happened in the Vietnamese War but we left feeling very sad. The brutal events and torture the Americans inflicted on civilians was horrific. Some of the photographs were really disturbing, particularly from the My Lai Massacre and the thousands affected by Agent Orange (including third generation children who are being born to this day with disabilities). Reading some of the letters from soldiers who refused to battle any longer was heartbreaking, it must've been so traumatic. Seeing the images of countries around the globe in peace protests did help restore some humanity in this horrible history.
Gav's day 41 flat white takeaway
- I admire the shoe shiners here for attempting to show me how they can reinvigorate my dusty trainers. But feel one is clutching at straws there old boy, we both know trainers are meant for getting dirty.
- We've both packed as lightly as possible which means only a few of everything. Consequently, laundry is an essential part of weekly life one way or another. Whether that be a cheeky handwash once a week (and the hope we get enough sunshine to dry them). Or we succumb to the indulgence that is hotel laundry, which at varying (per kg) rates means extra dollars to pay out at checkout. Either way, t-shirts and pants are easy/cheap to wash but jeans are less so. They either take too long to dry and you need to actually wear them later, or they're gonna mean we're paying half a nights accommodation on getting them cleaned.
Anyway, the point of all this laundry waffle is that my jeans remain unwashed since we left sunny Tamworth and although they could do with a scrub, my main problem is that they're getting a bit saggy round the waist and starting to fall down - which the locals don't seem to like too much.
- So I've been looking for a belt (I didn't bring one) but have been put off by the overinflated prices of shop assistants with attitude. Today however, we're in the market and I spot some belts that look like they shouldn't be too expensive anyway, never mind once I dish out some pro haggling skills. The usual tactics get things off to a tediously predictable start. She aims for the sun and I offer something offensively low and so the bartering begins and we creep slowly towards a more reasonable price but the Vietnamese don't play ball easy and this lady doesn't look in the mood to chop her price in half and half again, so given it's a massive market we try to walk away and try somewhere else.
What followed was nothing short of gbh as she accosted me by continually grabbed my arm and shouting increasingly desperate lower figures until I was a) in a ballpark that sounded reasonable for both parties and b) I couldn't bear her getting any more desperate - I think she needed this money.
So the deal was done, but not until her male family colleague had made his contempt for the deal known by uttering some scornful native words in Claire's direction. And she hadn't even done anything.