THE THREE GORGES - Are impressive but the fact that they
are about to be flooded makes them stand out that much more.
Since you're cruising, just kick back and enjoy.
THE THREE LITTLE GORGES - Even if its foggy its worth
going down to see these, the mist may clear by the time you start
the return journey, and unless its really thick fog, you can
still get a sense of the scale of the gorges. Don't bother to
get out of your boats at the first stop but do at the second
stop, which is at the far end of the gorges, and have a look
at the stalls and snacks on offer. (Hmmm, Chicken on a stick!)
YANGZTE DAM SITE - We had a foggy day so we couldn't see
much but judging by the model I'm sure its worth seeing!
ACCOMMODATION - Overnight train to Guangxi Province. The worst
train of the trip! Hard sleeper with no A/C but a fan that cycled
round and was probably worse than having no A/C!
29/6 - 2/7 YANGSHUO
This town is near Guilin and surrounded by the bizarre scenery
of limestone karsts. It meant to be cheaper than Guilin, you'll
have to take a bus there as Yangshuo has no train station. I
saw more westerners here in one afternoon than in 3 weeks in
the rest of China. West Street is where the tourist area is centred,
its here you'll find the art shops, cafes, tailors and general
tourist stuff. (Including cheap CDs)
ACCOMMODATION - Lisa's Cafe, it has 24hr hot water but
only because each room has its own boiler which requires working
out! The staff are a good laugh too.
FOOD - All the cafes are pretty much the same, good, standard,
although service tends to be pretty slow. You might get a bit
excited to see pizza and lasagne on the menus but don't get too
excited, they aren't quite the same as what you are use to.
ACTIVITIES - I thoroughly recommend hiring a bike and
a guide, he can lead you all around the area and take you between
rice fields and crops of peanuts and corn, we even got to use
a manual rice threshing machine. Our guide also cooked us lunch
at his family home and took as to the normal sights of Buddha
Water Cave and Moon Hill.
We also went up river in a boat to see some more of the scenery
and take a cooling swim with tractor tyres. J What seems to be
the main activities though (apart from being sold stuff) is sitting
in the bars and watching western films.
The night of the 2nd was on a hard sleeper from Guilin to Guangzhou,
on a train which was as good as the Beijing-Xian hard sleeper.
Took a hydrofoil from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, very comfy
but just a little cold. (That's HK A/C for you.) They put on
a Chinese movie which I'm sure was really cool but I could only
read about a third of the subtitles! The trip was kinda like
being on a plane, what with passport control, the movie, the
layout of the seats and all.
Food - Dinner was had at The Peak on HK Island. Pricey
but with a fantastic view of the harbour and excellent food.
We treated ourselves as it was the last night of the trip!
4/7 - 11/7 HONG KONG
I had only planned to stay a few days but it turned into a week!
Even with all that extra time there are things I didn't see although
I did lose a couple of days due to changing hotels, saying goodbye
to the rest of the group and recovering from a hangover I mean the
previous 3 weeks. I was apparently unlucky as I was there for
a bad week of weather - rain and fog!
EVERGREEN HOTEL - the
last night of the trip was spent here and it was in keeping with
the standard set by the previous hotels. Good location for Mongkok
and Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) but in general it's not so good. They
don't change travellers cheques though, only cash which can cause
problems if your arrive on the wrong day!
YMCA SALISBURY - This place is fantastic. I stayed in
a dorm room with only 3 other guys and you get a cupboard and
a safe to yourself. It's very clean and the building has plenty
of facilities including pool, gym, restaurant, barbershop, etc.
It cost HK$200 a night, so not the cheapest place in TST
but I was impressed.
YHA MT. DAVIS - DO NOT WALK TO THIS PLACE! I did and it
almost killed me! The location is very poor (out in the middle
of nowhere) but there is a shuttle bus from the near the Macau
Ferry Terminal, which is the best way of getting there and back.
The hostel is OK, the dorm rooms sleep about 30 odd people and
the shower room isn't great but the price is only HK$65
a night (85 if you include 2 shuttle bus trips). However you
do have to do a cleaning job each morning but its small (ie change
the bins) and easily done, there's also a curfew. On the plus
side you will meet other backpackers to share stories with as
you sit on the patio looking at the spectacular view of the islands
CHUNKING MANSIONS - I saw inside one of these and its
not nice. Not nice at all. But it does have a perfect location
if you want a nightlife. I met 2 couples who were paying HK$100
each for rooms to themselves so maybe its worth it.
Of the places I stayed at I preferred the YMCA.
After 4 weeks of Chinese food and with 4 weeks of Vietnamese
food ahead of me, I was not ashamed of eating in McDonalds. A
lot! Compared to Britain its dirt cheap plus its quick and it
PIER 4 OPEN AIR RESTAURANT - has good but nothing special
food although the view is nice, when it's not raining. (Near
the Macau Ferry Terminal, walk towards Star Ferry on the walkway.)
MAD DOGS - (Lan Kuai Fong) serves a lovely Roast Beef
although it may have been lovely simply because it was roast
OLIVERS - Sandwiches and baked potatoes, which are good
mainly because you've missed them so much! (Just like the beef.)
THINGS TO SEE
MACAU - Take your passport, because you're going to Portugal!
(Unless its after the hand-over.) Also get a good map as it is
easy to get lost on the narrow, winding streets that are a big
change from China. Worth seeing is the Monte Fort with its museum
and the ruins of St Pauls. Apart from that, just walk
the streets and see what you see.
LANTAU - The bronze budda is worth seeing (when it's visible)
but don't bother eating at the monastery unless you're really
hungry. Take a bus down the other side of the island and visit
TAI O, a village with interesting stilt housing that shows
how much the rich/poor gap is in HK.
STANLEY AND ABERDEEN - I was so glad I went to see the
southern side of HK Island. It shows you that HK is not all skyscrapers
and there is greenery and open places. Stanley has the
Stanley Market which is full of tat for souvenirs, while Aberdeen
is a fishing port and thus has hundreds of junks in the harbour.
You could spend a day seeing these places but you could do it
in less if you wanted to. Taking the bus round is probably a
good idea because it's easy to use and getting on the top deck
provides some great views as you go over the top.
KOWLOON PARK - Is worth walking through if you're nearby
- get away from the roads and check out the sculpture park.
HONG KONG PARK - Very pretty and makes a nice break from
the streets. Like Kowloon Park, go there when you're passing.
VICTORIA PEAK - Has to be done to see the amazing view
but there's also all the tourist aimed shopping and amusements
which may interest you. The tram is a good way of getting up
there but factor in plenty of time for the queue as it can take
some time to get on the tram!
LI YUEN STREET (East and West) - I must have had the wrong
streets, L.P. describes them as having lots of shops etc. which
TEMPLE OF 10,000 BUDDHAS - I didn't get see this but I
was told it's very good and worth seeing.
I went to 3 different
cinemas, the Miramar (behind Miramar Mall, Nathan Rd. TST.) was
the cheapest, HK$50, but the most expensive (UA Times
Square) was only HK$10 more. For listings of films and
cinemas as well as other cultural events pick up the free HK
Magazine from places such as HMV.
PUBS AND BARS -
"Jousters II" is friendly but there aren't many westerners.
The "Australian Pub" is fun but its all westerners.
"Delaney's" is also fun but has better decor
and a very cool barman by the name of Kumir.
"Chasers" is the place for all night drinking
with live music.
Remember to carry some ID for getting in to any pub.
ROUTE TO HANOI 11/7
Having spent so much time in HK I needed to take the direct route
to Vietnam. I took the express train to GUANGZHOU from Hung Hom
station, in Kowloon, for HK$190. I was late for the overnight
train to NANNING so I grabbed hold of my courage and took a sleeper
bus. It cost me Y120. I got lucky and didn't get a sleeping
partner but I'm not sure if I took the best form of transport
- its either hot, because there's no A/C, or its cold because
some one opened a window! If you do take a sleeper bus, don't
look at the bed too closely and travel with someone you know,
unless you want to share a bed with someone you don't know and
possibly can't speak to.
Once I got Nanning I was determined to keep going, so
I went to the train station but I couldn't get a train for Hanoi.
What I could get was a train for PINGXIANG, which took
longer than the lady said it would so I ended up in that border
town for my last night in China.
is a good place for a last
night, plenty of places to eat - just pick one that you like
the look of, there's no way to visually distinguish between them
all! The hotel I stayed in is called Qui Yang Bing
Guan in pinying but there aren't any pinying signs. (I had
the name converted for me. Thanks Marcella.) As you leave the
train station head over the bridge then turn right, its way better
than the Luoyang hotel but that isn't hard! Pingxiang has a
large market and some interesting (modern Chinese?) scenery:
bland buildings in front of limestone karsts. For some reason
I noticed a lot of barber-shops in this town which I hadn't noticed
at all before, they don't do a bad job on the hair but the shaving
is a bit poor. If you want to change your money, make
sure you go to the main branch of the Bank of China, it's
the smallest one and nearest to the train station. Don't get
it confused with the large one that's down the main road!
To get to the border crossing you can either take a minibus or a motor-trike,
for a laugh I chose the latter and it was fun. The checkpoint
was easier to cross than I expected, no bribery or being stopped
to unpack or any such scare story. Once across I was approached
by a guy on a motorbike who didn't speak any English but managed
to tell me he could get me to the train station! He was also
willing to change my final Yuan but I have no idea if I got a
decent rate! In Dong Dang I found out the train wasn't for another
6 hours so the same guy took me to Lang Son for a bus. It was
a 15-minute ride and before I had even got off the bike a kid
came running up shouting "Hanoi". If that doesn't happen
to you then wait around, the busses drive around town calling
out their destination so its fairly easy to get transport.
After sitting at the front of the bus (the driver and conductor-kid
insisted) for a few hours I had arrived in Hanoi! It was as easy
as that! ;)
The time of year I was in Hanoi
was very hot and incredibly humid. It's just about bearable but
I recommend avoiding it if you can.
THINGS TO DO
HO CHI MINH MAUSOLEUM - Should be at the top of your list of
things to do in Hanoi, the experience of the deep respect and
solemness is astounding and bizarre. Remember to wear trousers/long
skirt and follow the rules strictly. Nearby are the HCM Museum
and HCM's Stilt House which are worth going around as part of
the experience. The museum is also quite unusual, being part
shrine to the work done by Uncle Ho in "freeing" Vietnam
and part modern art gallery.
HOAN KIEM LAKE - If you are going for a walk, you'll probably
come across here anyway. It's a good place to see life passing
by in Hanoi, locals playing badminton or people just hanging
about. But prepare to be hassled by postcard sellers who can
be very VERY persistent. (They can also be found out side your
hotel and most places in Hanoi, they just seem to be more prominent
ARMY MUSEUM - Has interesting exhibits, including a mangle
of American tanks, jeeps and jets as well as other pieces from
the American War. At the time I went they had a photographic
display of the war, which may be gone by the time you go, most
of it was also on in HCM City though. The flag tower is meant
to give a view of the city, if you're fit enough to get up it
in the heat, although it had actually closed by the time I got
around to climbing it. The nearby Lenin Monument is worth walking
past as it's in a little park that gets you away from the roads.
TEMPLE OF LITERATURE - A thousand-year-old Confucian temple,
it is well preserved and a good break from the busy streets.
I really enjoyed my time here, studying the lay out of the buildings
and the steles that are laid out.
WATER PUPPETS - Great for half an hour. Unfortunately
they go on for an hour! Cleverly done and some nice vignettes
played out wordlessly but it gets dull after a while, plus you're
never quite sure what is going on.
KOTO - (27 Quoc Tu Giam Str.) has amazing sandwiches,
drinks and cakes. Its all made and served by former street-kids,
who are being taught a trade other than selling postcards. It
also has the cheapest Internet access I found in Hanoi.
KINH DO CAFE - (252 Pho Hang Bong) serves good but small
portions with matching small prices.
RELAX BAR - (60 Pho Ly Thuong Kiet) is recommend by friends
who enjoyed the beers and atmosphere.
Generally, there are plenty of places for eating in. The Vietnamese
use a lot of bread in their snacks, something left over from
the French occupation.
Joined the Vietnam Adventure tour in the evening. The hotel was
the VICTORY HOTEL (9 Nguyen Nhu Do Str.) near the train
station and it has a fantastic city view from the roof top patio.
They actually put on an optional day trip to the Perfume Pagoda
for those who had arrived in Hanoi early, which I couldn't take
because I slept in L but reports from those that went say it
was worth it.
15/7 - 17/7 HILL TRIBE
TREK with HOMESTAYS
On the Thursday morning the group bundled into a minibus and
went up to the hills of NW Vietnam. The walks themselves were
fairly easy (although the heat made them tough) and only lasted
a few hours each. You get to see some fantastic scenery up those
roads and tracks. The village people are very friendly and welcoming,
serving some great food and providing entertainment, although
they cant speak any English. You actually get to sleep in the
stilt houses, sharing the main room with the owners, so make
sure you follow the customs, which the tour leader tells you
about. Also, you have to use the squat toilets - unless you can
hold it in for 3 days!
A warning - Be careful with the rice wine that the hosts
provide with the meals - its lethal stuff.
Returned to Hanoi for about 2 hours and then got aboard the hard
seat class of the train for HAIPHONG. We spent little time in
this city so I can't really say much about it, other than we
stayed at the Navy Guest House, 27C Dien Bien Phu Str.
19/7 - CAT BA ISLAND
Took a ferry to the island in the morning and arrived at CAT
BA TOWN pretty early. We had a couple of hours to ourselves in
which to check out the main street and its shops, which mainly
sold tourist tat, and the dozens of places to eat at. The service
is very slow but the banana pancakes are excellent and the fruit
shakes delicious. The cafes are also the places to book day trips
around Ha Long Bay and the island itself. For the afternoon,
we took motorbikes around the island, the idea of our guide and
a break from the itinerary. It was fantastic! Scooting around
the island at high speed, over the hills, past the national park
and between shrimp farming pools (I think). We visited a market
and a N. Vietnamese Army hospital, built in a cave to hide it
from US planes, that has just been opened to the public with
former army officers as guides. The beach is worth visiting,
although you do have to pay for access. It's also cool for some
night swimming but there isn't much else to do at night, other
20/7 - HA LONG BAY
Spent the day cruising and swimming around the bay, between the
karst scenery that's like a sunken Yangshou. Jumping off the
boat was fun and the water clear. Basically, a lazy day. By night
fall we reached HA LONG CITY but, like Haiphong, we didn't do
much (it's a bit crap!)
Returned to Hanoi and had a free day. In the evening we attended
the water puppets after a trip around the old quarter in cyclos,
which was good except I can't say where we went because I got
so totally lost.
The morning was a group visit to the mausoleum and the museum,
whilst the afternoon was free. That night we slept on the REUNIFICATION
EXPRESS, sleeping in the hard sleeper which was just that, hard
boards with no mattress or mat or anything. The train was slow,
not particularly clean and whilst in the station incredibly humid
but that eased when the train got going, so take a sense of humour,
its not like it can kill you or anything.
At a very early hour we got off the train at DONG HOI,
got breakfast and climbed aboard a minibus and headed into the
former DMZ. The area is an eerie place, with little vegetation
and lots of craters. The VINH MOC tunnels here weren't used for
fighting (such as the Cu Chi tunnels) but rather for the local
villagers to try and escape the US bombardment. Its worth visiting
to get a glimpse of the conditions people were forced to lived
in. We also went for a swim (to wash after the train journey)
at the beach where the tunnels exit, although when you look back
you can't see the tunnels, they were so well built into the cliff
In the afternoon we arrived in HUE and after a brief rest,
hired some bikes and went cycling around the historical city
that was the seat of the last Vietnamese emperors. There's plenty
to see, such as the city wall and gates and other buildings that
go with the history, alongside modern sights like the compound
displaying a variety of military vehicles and equipment. Cycling
in Vietnam is great fun, going amongst the locals, trying to
go the right way and guessing which way the traffic will head.
It's very easy to get around by bike as the area is flat and
the traffic quite slow. It's well worth doing because you learn
about the roads better than from a bus seat. I kept the bike
for the evening and went out around Hue on my own, just picking
streets at random and seeing where they took me and what they
had to offer.
ACCOMMODATION - Hue Hotel 15 D Le Loi
FOOD - Duong Hung Vuong has plenty of places to eat at
whilst there are also places up near the DMZ bar, which is a
fun western style bar, if that's what you are looking for.
Using motorbikes again we went out into the countryside around
Hue, visiting a colosseum (used by the emperors for lion v. elephant
fights) and an elephant tomb (some of the emperors liked elephants)
which aren't in the guidebooks, before boarding boats to go up
the river and visit Thien Mu Pagoda. It was the
home of the monks who protested against the Catholic government
of S. Vietnam of the 1960's by self-immolation but looks and
feels just like any other pagoda which makes its history somehow
more prominent. On the boat ride expect to offered something
to buy, namely little metal statues of buffalos and old men.
After the boat ride, we continued on the bikes, seeing the
countryside, battlefields, the tomb of Emperor Thieu Tri
and the abandoned holiday home of S. Vietnam's Catholic president.
The back of a motorbike really is the best way to get around.
25/7 HOI AN
Hoi An is a Vietnamese Yangshou, with plenty of shops catering
for the tourist dollar. It has a great deal of history to it
and plenty to see when walking around, such as the Japanese
Covered Bridge, Chinese Assembly Halls, the market place and
the river life. Near the Japanese bridge are plenty of art
galleries, whilst tailor shops are everywhere, selling
just about any kind clothing you want. If you want something
made for you, just pick any shop you like the look of, I used
Shop TU'O'NG, 27 Hoang Dien St.
ACCOMMODATION - Thien Trung Hotel, 63 D Phan Dinh Phung,
isnt the best location but is still clean and comfy.
Restaurant King (next door) has lovely spring rolls, although
I'll admit I never found a spring roll I didn't like.
Mermaid Restaurant - good, standard fare in a nice environment.
I don't know the name of the other restaurant but its next to
the back entrance of the Champa Bar and Cafe, facing the river.
Champa Bar and Cafe - has a large choice of music to choose
from and provides pool and Jenga for some fun with the drinks,
including good fruit shakes.
26/7 THE CHAMPA KINGDOM
If you're going to visit the ruins at MY SON (and you
should) you have two options - morning or afternoon. For the
morning, when its cooler, you can book a bus trip through your
hotel, or they can tell you where to go to book one. What I recommend
though is going in the afternoon, when there isn't any bus groups
tramping around. Four of us used Honda Om (motorbike taxis) for
the trips out there and back and it was well worth it, seeing
the ancient ruins of temples and altars in the seclusion and
Didn't do much on this day except take the train from Danang
to Nha Trang, an 11hr journey. Fortunately we were in the soft
sleeper class, which meant that we could relax pretty well, although
there was pretty terrible (western) music and food provided,
so make sure you have your own food and entertainment! In the
evening we arrived at the beach resort of Nha Trang.
- Hai Au II Hotel, No. 4 Nguyen Chanh St., we were given
rooms that opened out onto a joint balcony, shame there was no
-Hoan Hai Restaurant, 6 Phan Chu Trinh St. has amazing beef
marinated with pineapple.
-No. 58 Ice Cream Shop (Quang Trang/Thanh Ton) has lovely
sundaes and offers plenty of travel services.
-Bombay, 15 Biet Thu, provides great Indian food for a
break from noodles and spring rolls.
We had a lazy day, cruising around the islands off Nha Trang
and lying in a deck chair on a secluded beach. We got to see
the Vietnamese idea of tourism by walking past a tacky aquarium,
shaped like some kind of pirate ship, that no one suggested visiting!
The boat tour company was Papa's and claimed to be "the
second best in Nha Trang" (Mama Hanh is the main one for
drinking and smoking it up.) and it provided plenty of food and
drink as well as equipment for snorkelling, although you had
to be careful of jellyfish.
Had more free time for wandering around and seeing the sights,
which I did by bike! Surprise surprise! As always, it's the best
way to get around when you're not in a rush. Worth cycling out
to are the Po Nagar Cham Towers, similar to My Son but
on a smaller scale and still in religious use, and the Hon Chong
Promontory, which provides spectacular views and the opportunity
for a cool drink. Both places provide bike parks for leaving
your bike at.
That afternoon we flew down to HCM City, which we had to do because
the train times had changed and it wouldn't have been possible
to spend a decent amount of time in Saigon.
30/7 - HMC
The morning provided a cyclo tour of the city, taking in the
post office, Notre Dame Cathedral, the War Remnants Museum, Cholon
and the river (so polluted its black in colour and very stinky)
amongst others. The afternoon was free time and a couple of us
checked out the CD shops. For more details check out the Saigon
section at the end.
31/7 - 3/8 MEKONG DELTA
- Thuan Loi Hotel, 18 Tran Hung Dao, Chau Doc
Lam Hung Ky, 71 Chi Lang St. Has a great atmosphere
and will offer a good meal.
The Market Place (Near the hotel)
The hotel has a terrace out the back that overlooks the river,
giving a great view of the delta life, its also right near the
market stalls and other shops.
We had 4 days in the delta, about 3 days when you take out all
the travel time, Chau Doc is near the Cambodian border so it is
on the far edge of the country. The first night we were there,
I went walking around the market and down streets. I ended up
finding an arcade of sorts, a collection of Playstations set
out in a shop, you pay per hour and the selection of games is
extensive. I had great fun playing games with all the local kids
who seemed very keen to play against me. It's a great way of
mixing, even though you don't speak directly.
SAM MOUNTAIN - This is an excellent place to view the
sunset and look out across the delta into Cambodia. The road
up is decorated with bizarre dinosaurs and shrines, both of which
should be seen, after all the Vietnamese put both there, so surely
both are valid?
BA CHUC - Due to the state of the road out to this village,
you will have to take motorbikes and even then you will have
to be prepared to get off the bike and walk past the mud puddles
that cover most of the road! Ba Chuc is the site of a Khmer Rouge
raid in 1978 where over 3000 people were killed. There now stands
a "Skull Pagoda" housing the skeletons of most of those
killed, plus you can visit the temple where some of the villagers
tried to hide but were still murdered, you can still see the
blood stains on the walls. What really strikes you is that while
you are learning all this, children are running around you laughing
Our time in the delta also included
a cruise, which is a very cool way of seeing it, going down man-made
canals and across vast stretches of open water. The sights of
Cham villages, floating markets and all the churches and
temples that dot the banks are well worth seeing. We took the
boat back some of the way towards Ho Chi Minh City and stayed
in a homestay, in the middle of nowhere, for the last night.
HO CHI MINH CITY
- EMBASSY HOTEL, 35 Nguyen Trung Truc St., Good hotel
except it is a little far from the main places you want to visit,
so you'll be relying on cyclos or motorbikes.
-HOTEL 64, Bui Vien St., Cheap, clean and plenty of coffee,
although the food isn't great. Its right near the Backpacker
Alley of De Tham St. so the location is pretty good.
-RESTAURANT 13, Ngo Duc
Ke. Great food, at normal prices and with excellent service.
-TAN NAM, 60-62 Dong Du. Pricey but the food matches it,
although service was slow (though we did have a large group.)
-SAPA RESTAURANT & BAR, 26 D Thai Van Lung. Quiet
place with large servings.
-LEMON GRASS, 4 D Nguyen Thiep. Got good reports from
other guys on the trip but not the tour leader.
-BASKIN ROBBINS, 128A Pasteur. Only if you really want
ice-cream and have spare money.
-PHAM NGU, LAO ST./DE THAM ST., have plenty of places
to eat in, mostly offering western food along side Vietnamese
food. Also has plenty of bars for the nightlife.
-HARD ROCK CAFE, 24 Mac Thi Buoi. Impressively fake bar
with music that doesn't quite match the name.
-APOCALYPSE NOW, 2C D Thi Sach. Always busy and fun, although
the music is the same each night, ie in the same order! Drinks
are relatively expensive.
The bars are interesting experiences, some more so than others,
due to the hookers (both the number and their age) that operate
in most of the bars.
Sunday Nights are a good time to be in Saigon as hundreds
of people go out riding around the streets on motorbikes, bikes
or cyclos. What it is actually like on an ordinary Sunday I can't
say because the night I saw it Vietnam football team had won
a match in the SE Asia Soccer Tournament. This meant that thousands
of people were out waving flags and cheering, so many that I
couldn't cross the street! It was such an incredible sight to
THINGS TO DO
XA LOI PAGODA - Has an
interesting history but there isn't much to see.
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL + Main Post Office - Both are odd
sights and right next to each other. Theres nothing particularly
special about them, although the former is odd to see in Asia
and latter looks like a train station.
By this point in my trip I had had my fill of temples, so I didn't
bother seeing that many.
REUNIFICATION PALACE -
Going on a guided tour is the best way to see this building and
learn its history. Worth visiting, even though it does look like
something out of Stingray.
WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM - This is the one museum you have
to see in Vietnam. Admittedly it is a little one sided but the
pictures (from western sources) are horrific, the results of
chemical herbicides on both vegetation and unborn babies. The
displays of weaponry and equipment and the prisons used by South
Vietnam all add up to a scary and singular experience.
HISTORY MUSEUM - If the Champa ruins were your thing then
this will be cool for you. It gives a history of the beginnings
of Vietnam 3000 years ago, right up to modern eras but not so
much the 20thC. Displays include a 1000-year-old body, vignettes
of western forces attacking in the 19thC. and pieces of Champa
ART MUSEUM - Will fill your attention for a few hours,
unless you can look at a single painting for 30 minutes. It is
worth visiting, with its collection of propaganda paintings and
other categories of Vietnamese art to see.
CONG VIEN VAN HOA PARK - If you get here early enough
in the morning you can see people carrying out their Tai Chi
practice. It's quite a large park so you can escape the traffic
but you won't escape the curious children who want to check you
out or practice their English.
SAIGON WATER PARK - This place is so good and so much
fun that I went twice! If you've been travelling for a while
or you have a load of time in Saigon then spend an afternoon
here and kick back. It has loads of slides, (some with rubber
rings, some that are amazingly fast) a wave pool, western and
Vietnamese food stalls (not the best value of either in Saigon)
and plenty of deckchairs for sunbathing. This is what the Vietnamese
do - when I went there were about 6 other westerners but a couple
of hundred locals, so join in as the locals relax as well. Busses
run to the water park from the bus station near Ben Thanh market.
There are lockers but if you don't get there early on a busy
day then you'll miss out.
BEN THANH MARKET - Is the main market for District 1,
a large concrete structure, with adverts around the top. (Mobile
phones when I was there) It mainly sells everyday items such
as food and household items. There isn't much for the tourist
souvenir but you get to see something of everyday life.
ANDONG MARKET - Has a fair amount of stuff that could
serve as a souvenir, ie paintings or ornaments. Plenty of clothing
and material is also available, along with food in the lowest
level. When buying souvenirs be careful - I almost bought something
made of elephant ivory!
The other markets listed in L.P. aren't much cop, although if
you're in Cholon then Binh Tay Market is worth a visit.
DE THAM STREET - Offers plenty of stuff for the backpacker
(naturally) from T-shirts to backpacks to CD's. Everything is
cheap, especially the CD's which go for US$1-2 and are pretty
good quality, so people say, the sleaves are the only really
dodgy part. De Tham street also has the cheapest Internet access
(300dong/min ) found in the country.
CU CHI TUNNELS & CAO DAI TEMPLE (Sinh Cafe Tour)
Sinh Cafe is based on De Tham and offers a variety of trips,
ranging from 1-3 days in the Mekong Delta, to busses heading
north. Two of us booked onto the Cu Chi Tunnels/Cao Dai Temple
day trip and joined the massive number of people doing the same.
We all crammed onto 2 coaches and 2 mini-busses and went to see
the Midday Mass at the Cao Dai Great Temple. The temple needs
to be seen to be believed, a massive riot of gaudy colour and
pictures, although the mass itself is not that great.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are the main part of the day. The tour around
them is well presented and conducted (they split everyone up
into about 3 groups to make it easier for us to get around, although
that made it a little rushed as the other groups always seemed
to be right behind us.) At the beginning you do have to sit through
a video, which is a bit fuzzy, and there is a totally unnecessary
caged bear at the end of the walk. Apart from that, the display
of traps and entry/exit points for the tunnels and the (widened
for Westerners) tunnels are interesting insights into what the
VC did for their cause.
And that is that. I've covered
just about everything I did on my trip through China and Vietnam
but if you have any question of any kind, I am more than willing
to answer them or discuss anything you like.
Thank you very much for excellent report. We really enjoyed it.
Especially as you covered a lot more areas which we have not.
I think this report will help many travelers.
Thank you very much again from all member of ITIS.