After our cancelled flight in the morning, we finally managed to get out of Dalat airport and on our way to Saigon at seven in the evening. Saigon was very different to anywhere else we had been in Vietnam, lots of neon lights, fancy shopping malls and drunk westerners.
We took a walk from our hotel in the backpacker district, it was a bit like Magaluf, lots of drunk ozzie men and women in ‘two for one’ bars, and lovely young ladies offering us massages (I am contractually not allowed to have a massage from a lovely young lady, trust me I checked this several times!), but the atmosphere was very friendly, if a little full on. We found a very nice restaurant where Dawn had some noodles and I had a spaghetti bolognese, still in fear of spicy food.
Next day we went for a long walk. As Vietnam was a French colony there was obviously a lot of French influence in the architecture (as in everywhere else here. The Cathedral was called Notre Dame, and the post office was designed by Mr Eiffel (of the tower in Paris fame). Both buildings are beautiful and are right next to each other. Just down the road from there is the Opera House building and several iconic hotels, including the Continental and the Rex. In the 1970s, these were the hotels where western journalists would drink and wait for briefings from the American army about how the Vietnam war was going (they were generally told it was going great, even though most of it was a disaster).
The next day we went to the War Remnants museum, a very grim place about the history and the after effects of the Vietnam war. Well worth a look, but you need a strong stomach. On arrival there we met a man near the entrance who lost both his arms as a child when he found a land mine. It was odd shaking hands with his stump. I bought a book from him and thought how lucky I was to grow up in Romford (not often I think that!).
Afterwards we went to Reunification Palace. A beautiful building and home to the last president of Southern Vietnam, before it was overun by the communists. We loved this building, it has been preserved as it was, and there is still a helicopter on the roof, the same kind that whisked the president away before he could be captured by the communist forces.
That evening, we found an amazing litte restaurant, just round the corner from our hotel, that served delicious food, and we didn’t get ill (which was becoming a bonus!).
We then had a final day of wandering around, strolling by the river and taking it relatively easy, and that was it. Vietnam is an amazing country, with a different look and feel in every town you go to. You could easily spend a couple of months and not run out of things to do and places to go. Hanoi and Dalat are stand outs for us and I couldn’t reccomend Vietnam highly enough, whether you go the back pack route, or opt for high end luxury.
So now to our next stop….Cambodia on the Mekong Bus (8 hours – should be fun)….