Vietnam: Motorbikes to Ghost Towns

Chaos in Ho Chi Minh City | Big Days Out

We said farewell to Cambodia and headed east to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, our third country on our adventures. So far, it’s been very enjoyable with huge contrasts in the places we’ve been to.

Our first stop on arrival into Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City or for the more mature reader, Saigon. At first glance, it seemed as chaotic traffic-wise as Bangkok but on closer inspection, despite having more traffic control systems in place, it was in fact worse due to the sheer volume of vehicles. I’ve never seen so many mopeds and motorbikes!

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City | Big Days Out

During our first exploration in the city, we experienced our first rainfall of the trip (didn’t sign up for that) and Francesca was the victim of three mosquito bites in the space of 30 seconds, which would go onto to expand and join together to create a bright red surface area spanning a diameter of about 5 inches! It’s one thing after another!

To drown her sorrows, we headed out and sampled the never ending happy hours. Buy 2 get 1 free on beer and a good evening was had.

Accompanied by the big painful bites, we headed out to explore the city on day 2 stopping off at Ben Thanh Market to pick up the essentials including a decent imitation Borussia Dortmund shirt for £7 (I later discovered there was also a pair of shorts inside… result!) We continued onto Ho Chi Minh City Museum, Ho Chi Minh Square and Ho Chi Minh Statue (where are we again), whilst discussing how I never have the urge to buy a football shirt in the UK but I’ve now bought two since we’ve been away. Sucker for a bargain!

After strolling down the grand and pedestrianised Nguyen Hue Street, we failed to make it across the road to the river as rush hour was taking place. Instead, we made our way to Saigon Burger Joint for perhaps the best burger we’ve both ever had! Although this was soon overshadowed, as we witnessed a man pull over in front of our vantage point to take a selfie with his dog whilst on his moped.

Dog selfie on moped | Big Days Out

The following day we took ourselves to the War Remnants Museum to learn more about the Vietnam War. As we walked through the rooms, we learnt about the horrifying effects that Agent Orange had on many Vietnamese people as well as viewing hundreds of harrowing photos from the war and reading the stories of the brave photographers, who didn’t make it back alive.

After reflecting over some food, we quickly visited the Independence Palace and Saigon Notre Dame and on the way home stopped in Saigon Square, a market which may as well have been five stalls and a load of mirrors such was the duplication of products available.

The next morning, we made our way to the ferry port to hop on a boat down to the city of Vung Tau, situated on a peninsula. After a smooth journey, barring one crazily aggressively turn met by gasps from the passengers, we arrived in the ghost town.

Prior research had told us that Vung Tau is a weekend destination for the workers of HCMC so we expected it to be quiet as it was midweek but we weren’t expecting it to be this quiet…

vung-tau

Vung Tau is probably one of the most surreal places I have been to. Not only is it deserted, the roads are also extremely wide, which is a complete contrast to anywhere else we’ve been. It felt almost American or something out of The Truman Show. That analogy was quickly quelled though as it was extremely windy. We ate lunch on the sea wall looking at slightly murky sea water whilst struggling to hold onto the contents of our meal and we both commented that it felt like we were in Bognor Regis!

As the afternoon progressed, it got weirder as we took a walk along the main road by the beach and entered a deserted shopping centre to discover five boyfriends sat around in classic shopping centre poses waiting for five non-existent girlfriends.

Boyfriends in Vung Tau Shopping Centre | Big Days Out

However, this was surpassed by the deserted fun fare…

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Very creepy, like Banksy’s installation!

That night we went to a bar/restaurant that seemed out of place with the rest of the street and we ordered Ravioli and Lasagne. Ravioli and Spaghetti Bolognaise arrived at the table. As I was hungry, I couldn’t be bothered to get what I actually ordered so I tucked in!

Five minutes later a lasagne arrived at the table of the only other people in the restaurant. As they had been there for some time including when we initially walked past the restaurant, I didn’t think the Spaghetti Bolognaise could have been theirs. After a sarcastic bon appetit from the Russian man, I finished my meal contemplating how they could get two orders wrong in an empty restaurant and how they must have thought I was odd for just eating it anyway!

Day two in Vung Tau saw us back on a moped and driving around the biggest and emptiest roundabout in South East Asia. That is a fact but why are people measuring roundabouts? We sat overlooking an islet called Hon Ba, which you can walk to during low tide but we did not and shortly after I bottled a cable car ride. Too windy! Instead, we hiked up one of the other smalls mountains to reach a statue of Jesus Christ reminiscent of the one in Rio De Janeiro. The view from Jesus’ right and left shoulders was fantastic but again it was very windy!

Jesus Christ Statue Vung Tau | Big Days Out

Departing Vung Tau, required another bus journey this time to fellow ghostly destination of Mui Ne, four hours up the coast. Our journey involved the usual loud music, phones (why does no one have headphones?) and conversations. An additional nugget for this journey however, involved a man randomly standing up with a microphone and speaker to start selling a product but neither of us could decipher what it was. Shortly before arrival in Mui Ne, we were greeted with the now mandatory vomit but on this occasion the female in question managed to contain it expertly in a carrier bag. Once again though the person was sat right in front of us so the stench was pungent. It was perhaps caused by the men at the back of the bus, who insisted on relieving the bowels throughout the journey.

On arrival at our hotel, we were told we were a day early. As a man of detailed and pedantic organisation, I was shocked but it turns out I had made an error. I’d previously cancelled the booking and rebooked it but had not brought it forward by a day instead had merely added an extra night! Thankfully, it was resolved easily but a room change on our second day was required.

pool-mui-ne

We now have one more day of relaxing before heading back to the madness of Ho Chi Minh City and then onto Singapore!

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