21.06.2007 - 23.06.2007 33 °C
My time here in Saigon is almost over and I really enjoyed it.
Due to the delay of my plane I got here really late, about 1.30am and fortunately Alex was waiting outside the hotel, as it was really a really dodgy alley way that I would have never found, as there wasn't even a sign for the hotel. After my taxi driver tried to drop me off in a dodgy alleyway I was getting a bit freaked out and was so relieved to see Alex sitting in the road. Very sweet of him, considering the time, to wait there for me. He found it quite entertaining as he got all sorts of offers for drugs, massages, prostitutes or "bum-bum" as they like to call it. The room we shared was quite basic but clean and cheap. It is so much cheaper if you travel with someone in Asia, as you always pay for the room and not per person.
The next morning we checked out straight away to move into the Park Hyatt Saigon. Alex was telling my just a few days ago, that it is rated as one of the top 5 hotels in whole of Asia!!! So, not bad going then....:-)
Here, unfortunately it did make a difference in price.... dough!! Was hoping they would give it to me for the same rate, no matter whether I was going by myself or with someone. Ah well....
The hotel is absolutely stunning though and the service truly is execptional. All these little things, the attention to detail, which just make the whole to a very unique and pleasant experience. It is probably one of the best or the best hotel I have ever stayed in.
The bathroom was fabulous. You had a shower and bath tub room. The shower itself was enormous and had a dual shower. From the wall the ceiling.... You then had a separate room in the bathroom for the toilet, one room for the sink and a massive wardrobe accessible from the bathroom and the also from the hallway. So if someone would shower you could look in from the hallway, so you had to actually close 3 doors when you got into the bathroom. The beds were so comfortable that I knew already it would be impossible for me to get up :-)
The pool was really nice too and I even treated myself to a facial. We also took advantage of the complimentary shoe cleaning, which we cheakily used to give them our muddy trecking boots! ha, ha.... The shoes were immaculate afterwards.... What a great service.
After having a good look around in the hotel we wondered around in Saigon and went to the American War Museum, which was shocking. They showed all the different wounds from different weapons, i.e. Napalm etc.... methods of torture, tiger cages where they kept Viet Cong prisoners and and all sort of atrocities. Difficult to understand what got into the Americans when you see pictures and statistics of whole villages of women and children being murdered. They cut open their throats, cut open their abdomen, clubbed them to detah and so on. And all that was done to small kids, babies even, pregnant women and old people. Absolutely horrific! It was really shocking but well worth a visit. They really can't have seen them as human beings. The famous picture of "The Girl in the Picture" is there too. That is an absolutely fantastic book by the way.
After that and some lunch we decided to was time again to relax by the pool which was great. They bring you towels, ice cold water everything.... and my facial was soo relaxing. Quite different to the ones I had, as it was also almost like a full body massage. Happy days! A very special treat!
We went to one the bars/restaurant which was really cool and had quite a few beers and a pork sausage with mashed potatoes and gravy! Excellent! Not very Vietnamese but so delicous and you have to take advantage of these kind of things, as it is only those kind of places where you can actually get it. We then moved into the lobby bar and moved on to some nice red wine, which was quite a novelty for me. Been a long time since I had a really nice glas of wine. Needless to say that that day cost me a bit of money. The total bill came to $517.50 which is the equivalent of 8,336,691 Dong! What a bill to receive! Had to keep that for my picture album. quite funny. how much did you spend last night? Oh, just over 8 Million!
The first place where I am a millionaire.
We stayed in the hotel until 12 pm to make most of it and then sadly checked out. We left our luggage there and got a taxi driver to bring us to the Cu Chi Tunnels which was really impressive. Although they are already enlarged for tourists, they are tiny and it felt really claustrophobic and I was glad when I could get out of them. They start the whole tour with a really strange propaganda movie which is ridicolous. It constantly talks about the gentle innocent people with nice gentle music in the background and the moment the evil Americans were mentioned the background music is replaced iwht machine guns.
They show you the little trap doors they had hidden and all the secret entrances and exits. Amazing how tiny they are. You get to see the tunnels itself and also all the bunkers which also used to be underground but are now overground so the tourists can actually see them. As I said the tunnels are so tiny, that after a few meters I had enough and the girl behind me was panicking and Alex didn't even go in. So, I can't imagine what it must have been like to live in there..... Even I had to crawl through them. The bunkers were for fighting, cooking, hospitals, making weapons and traps etc. They were really smart the way they made sure the Americans couldn't see the smoke from the cooking, couldn't find the entrances and exits and how they protected themself from the flooding of the American etc.
Funnily the Americans actually built there biggest base right on top of some of the tunnel network and couldn't quite work out how they were getting shot at night while lying in their tents.
Apparently the US soldiers were really scared of the whole area, as they knew of the tunnels but couldn't find them and it gave the VC the opportunity to appear and disappear without a trace. Also the place full with traps set up by the Viet Cong. Those traps are horrific. They almost make you feel sorry for the Americans. It's all really strange. What a horrible war that was and when you see the determination of the VC it really doesn't surprise you that they won, although they had by no means as many soldiers or weapons.
Amazing what they went through....The tunnels, coming all the way down to the Ho Chi Minh Trail which took already years and all that.... The deformation and injuries that were caused by spraying things like Agent Orange were terrible and still up to now on one can really say what all the after affects are. Because they couldn't get through the jungle they basically decided to get rid of it. Completely crazy....
After that we had a last sad glimpse at the Hyatt and got our bags to check into the real world again, the Backpacker area of Saigon. For the first time since I have been in Vietnam the temperature is actually bearable. Really nice not to sweat straight after setting your foot outside.
Saigon seems also much more developed and also richer than the North of Vietnam. The people even seem taller here. It is still strange though how they have all those Northerners/Communists in the tourist guide positions.... The guide in the tunnel was the same. You really didn't want to be American here. They make you feel so bad. We were convinced that the one guy in the tunnels was American and he didn't say a word to probably not give away his accent. Was also funny how the guide tried to convince us that all Southerners were VC. What a lot of rubbish.... They really make it sound that it wasl all of Vietnam against the Americans and hence it is called the American War. They seem to forget that the whole South hated the VC and is up until today still locked away in the so called "Re-education" camps. I of course couldn't keep my mouth shut when he tried to tell us all that rubbish. It is horrible to see that all they do is point the finger but don't even admit to their own crimes which are still going on. So many people are still missing and locked away in those camps. Doctors, lawyers, teachers etc. still can't get any jobs in Vietnam if they are from the south and are working as riksha drivers.... I wonder whether they will one day to admit to their own crimes like the re-education camps and wheter one day Ho Chi Minh City will be called Saigon again and will be the capital again. Everyone here calls it Saigon, but up North everyone calls it by it's official name Ho Chi Minh City.
Our last evening together we had a walk around and ended up drinking 3 bottles of wine, but surprisingly I felt fine this morning and are alone again.