After traveling by bus from Can Tho we had less than 48 hours left in Vietnam. We booked a room at Saigon Inn for two nights even though our flight was leaving at 11 pm so we would not be spending the second night in the hotel. It cost us $39 US for two nights in a basic room. Paying $19.50 US to have a place to take a shower before the flight and leave our bags for the day was well worth it. It’s taken us a few years to figure this out but we have done it a few times since.
We did some last minute souvenir shopping in the stores around the hotel some had no prices which makes buying anything more complex. Others had “no barter” prices which were pretty close to what we had seen in Can Tho.
We ate dinner on the Ho Chi Minh walking street which is only a “walking” (car free) street on Saturday nights. Beer is cheap but many restaurants will only let you sit out by the street if you buy food as well as beer. We found a lost tourist wandering around the street and helped her find her hotel. I think she was happy to get help form a harmless looking old couple like us!
Vietnam was playing Sri Lanka that night in the AFC Under23 championship. Soccer is a big deal in Vietnam and many of the restaurants had big screen TV’s with the game on. You could tell when Vietnam scored because there was cheering, yelling and hugging going on in the street. The game ended tied so they went to penalty kicks. At that point the entire street came to a halt and everyone was crowded around the TV’s. Vietnam won the game and the street went crazy. Waiters running up and down the street hugging people, signing and waving flags. A scooter parade was spontaneously started around the block. It continued for most of the night. It was one of those great travel moments where you just happened to be in the right place at the right time. You had to smile because everyone was so happy.
As the evening wore on the chairs and tables in the restaurants crept further and further out onto the street until there was really no street left. Then at 10pm the staff from all the restaurants suddenly started grabbing tables and chairs and pulling them back out of the street. Startled customers were left standing with their plates in their hands.
Looking down the strret we saw a truck moving slowly towards us with three policemen in front and three policemen behind. They were throwing all the tables and chairs left out on the street into the truck. No messing around with tickets from bylaw here. The funniest part was that 10 minutes after the truck had passed the tables and chairs were all back out on the street.
Cu Chi Tunnel Tour
We had an 11:00 pm flight to Tokyo and a trans-pacific flight after that so we decided to make the most of our last day in Vietnam. We took one last tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. We paid 80,000 VND each for the tour plus 110,000 VND to get into the site.
In the 1960’s the tunnel network of Cu Chi was used by the Viet Cong to battle the South Vietnamese and the Americans. There were 250 km of tunnels at one point and they were remarkable useful for surprise attacks on the Americans. After failed attempts at ground attacks against the tunnels the Americans basically bombed the hell out of the entire area. It is now a pilgrimage spot for Vietnamese school kids.
We started our trip with a stop to see lacer crafts being made. It was kind of cool to see the process, they use egg and sea shells and it takes a long time. As with most of these tours it was really more about the gift shop than the tour. The prices were very high but the quality may have been too.
It was a long bumpy ride to the tunnels after that. One and a half hours on a very rough road. Our tour guide was not great, he would give us a short explanation about where we were and then disappear. We lost one guy at the beginning and only found him as we were getting back on the bus.
The tour starts with a mandatory movie about how the Vietnamese worked together to defeat the Americans. Lots of stories about Mr Y or Mrs X who killed lots of Americans.
The tunnel system has two levels and was dug almost entirely by hand. The Viet Cong would fight the Americans by night and sleep in the tunnels or work at regular jobs during the day. When we were there the site was very crowded with many tour groups.
You can go into the tunnels as some places, see traps used to kill Americans and displays about average people making bombs to use against the Americans out of unexploded ordinances. The sandals designed to make it look like you were walking in the opposite direction were rather ingenious. You could also pay by the bullet to shot several types of gun. We did not. I would not say it was a great tour but it was interesting.
We got dropped off at the main tourist market in Ho Chi Minh on the way back. We wandered around and got a great deal on a couple of items. Its amazing what you get when you really are not looking to buy anything.
We returned to the hotel and explained that we were not actually spending the night as we had a plane to catch. The lady at the desk gave us much advice about how to get to the airport and when to leave. We were to leave at 7pm, take a white metred taxi and if they charged us more than 200,00 VND we were to call them a thief and tell them we were calling the cops. She even made us a lunch to take with us. You can also get to the airport by bus.
We took a taxi at 7pm in the pouring rain. It was one of the most alarming rides we have ever taken and that includes the mini bus in Mue Nee who passed everything on the road totally ignoring anything coming the other way. The driver hit a scooter about 500 metres into the ride after getting out and chatting all appeared to be OK. He was cutting people off and driving way too fast. Then the rain started to come down really hard so he drove faster and complained loudly about everyone else on the road. We were very happy to arrive at the airport in one piece. But on the plus side the fare was only 165,000 VND and we arrived so early the check was not open.
We ate our packed lunch of pineapple, bananas. Sandwiches and yogurt and at 11:00 pm we boarded our flight to Tokyo.
Overall Vietnam was amazing. Very different from Thailand. A little less developed for tourists but still easy to travel around. Everywhere was different and everyone was friendly. We will go back!