Putanga – Life on the Road

Stories from my journeys around the world…

Weekend in Saigon

Posted by Monica Johansen on December 15, 2009

I have just had a couple of great weekends. On Saturday December 5, my American colleague Bill –  who I met for the first time in Bangkok in July last year – came to South East Asia for work, and he decided to take the opportunity to do some sightseeing.

Mekong River

Bill is a bit like me, he likes to spend some time exploring the places he visits for work, and I was lucky enough to be his local guide in Singapore on the weekend. He is quite adventurous, especially when it comes to food, and he had heard about the infamous Southeast Asian fruit durian, so he wanted to try it even if he had been told that it tastes like shit. For some strange reason, the locals love durian and they eat it in cakes, pancakes and other desserts, and I have tried durian in many variants before, but I just don’t get used to the awful taste. Anyway, Bill wanted to try, so we bought a durian pancake in Chinatown, and while I had to spit out my small bite because I couldn’t stand the taste, he actually ate the entire pancake!

On Wednesday last week Bill continued his journey to Ho Chi Minh City (or commonly called Saigon) in South Vietnam, and he invited me to come over for some sightseeing on the weekend in the areas outside the city. I never turn down an opportunity for an adventure, so I booked my flights and flew over to Saigon on Friday afternoon. Friday night we walked around in the city and had a look at the chaotic traffic and the excessive Christmas decorations. Early Saturday morning we were picked up by our guide for the weekend, and we drove about 3 hours south of Saigon to jump on a boat on the Mekong River and cruise down to see the floating marked and the villages. Our guide was a funny, smiling Vietnamese guy with a name it was impossible for us to pronounce. His English was quite good, and he happily answered all our questions and informed us about the plans for the weekend.

Local workshop

Our first main stop on the river was in Caibe, where we visited a local workshop and learned how to make pop rice and pop corn. There is also a floating marked in Caibe where the locals were trading different products. At the end of the trip we tried out one of the small water taxis on the river, where the boatman is using oars instead of engines. The boatman left the oars with me so I could try to row for a little while, but it was more difficult than it looked since the technique is quite different from what I am used to. After the Mekong River cruise was over we were transported back to Saigon and dropped off at our hotel. We ended up having dinner in the hotel since the city was very busy and stressful and we wanted to go to bed early in order to be ready for the next day.

On Sunday morning our guide met us in the hotel lobby, and we drove about 1.5 hours to Cuchi to see the famous tunnels used by the locals during the Vietnam War. The area where the tunnels are located has been made into some sort out outdoor museum, and it was interesting to see how the locals used different tactics against the American troops. The only thing that I really found tasteless was the introduction video we were shown before we entered the area. The video was made several decades ago, but it indicated an intense hate against Americans, which I think both Bill and I found a bit repulsive. Apart from that the experience was mostly positive, and we both learned more about the Vietnam War.

The People's Committee Building

Sunday afternoon it was time for me to say goodbye, and I headed to the airport to catch my 5:30 PM flight home to Singapore. Usually, I look forward to getting home after a weekend in a third world country, but this time I was actually quite sad to leave. I love traveling, and I am used to be on the road all by myself, but nothing beats having great company while exploring interesting places.

Now I am back to the loneliness in Singapore, but hopefully it will not be for very much longer. By the way, today I have lived in Singapore for exactly two years, so I guess I have a small anniversary to celebrate… 🙂

By the way, here are some more photos: http://monicaaj71.vndv.com/20091212/index.html

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