Thursday, February 4, 2010
the moto view
The Hotel I stayed at last night had issues with cookies or something so I was unable to post until now....
What a day. I am enjoying life in Vietnam. I got to sleep in a bit, had breakfast and then a massage compliments of the hotel I was staying at last night! Checked out with my backpack all set up at 12 and hit the streets in search of a backpackers place to stay at for the next few nights while in HCMC. As I was walking, a few taxi's or scooter riders approached me to see if I wanted a lift but me being indendent me was determined to do it myself. It is quite warm and quite humid here so after probably 30 minutes of walking around I think I was on the verge of heatstroke!!
Another scooter rider spoke with me then and we chatted for a while, asking where I am from where I was going. There were 2 streets I was intending to walk to as they were full of backpacker's places and I was about 3/4 of the way by this time. but with the heat and fluid loss I started to get a bit lightheaded and sat down on the side of the street and decided I'd give Phung a go, giving me a ride. I knew that chances are there was some sort of commision involved and that it woud end up with other tours being offered and things, but i thought why not support the local people in the tourist industry rather tahn paying the money to big companies.
He took me to a little hotel in a side street alley somewhere in District 1 (which i have just discovered is pretty much the street i was trying to get to anyway)where I left my stuff and then he took me out sight seeing for the day. Its fun whizzing around the city (at like maybe 5km/hr max) with a million other scooters going crazy with their traffic rules (or lack of). I was trying to figure out why sometimes people stopped at traffic lights and other time's they dont. It seems this rule is a bit flexible or up for interpretation. The traffic lights in the city centre itself has a little countdown for both green and red telling you when it will change - but it appears that you can go through red lights if you want to...
First stop was the war remnants museum. Definitely worth going to - they have tanks, helicopters, warships and a few different kind s of US military fighter airplanes out the front, Very eye opening as to the impact the war had on the Vietnamese people here. Next stop was the independence palace, I had a quick wander around here. i believe it is where the president used to do all his business - there were specific meeting rooms for specific people in government. Very grand and impressive to look at. In the basement downstairs they had all the control rooms where during war times they had meetings, controlled radio centres and the like.
Phung (my moto guide) then took me to the hong kong markets, which are the older ones. I've barely seen another european face the entire day - saw I think 2 people during this market. There are the odd curious people wanting to know what I'm doing but on the whole the local Vietnamese in the market let me wander around without any notice.It would be very easy to get lost but luckily this market seems to be separated into sections where they all sell specific things, theres the shoe section, the fabric section, the shiny sparkly hair clip section, the plastic container section, the makeup section, the pots and pan section..... i particularly enjoyed the food markets. During this time i started to question myself, wondering what is appropriate culturally and what isn't. For example, photographs. I want to take photos of this experience, but how appropriate is it? i mean, if i was at home in australia doing my own business, would i appreciate random people coming up and taking a photo of me in the midst of my usual work? It is a challenge trying to fit into this society.
Next stop was a couple of the major temples in the city. This reminded me of how futile life is without Christianity. The sacrifices here are never ending. outside the temples there are people selling goldfish, turtles and incense (which i was offered to buy).
On my travels today i have tried a few different new foods, some better than others. All meals have been on the street and yes I have been having drinks with ice in them... so we'll see how strong my stomach is in time! Lunch was a rice dish with a sort of egg omellette and a chicken bean dish. I had some durian which is a bit sloppy but not awful, a fruit shake and soem sort of roll which had processed meat (you may be aware of my dislike of processed meat...), cucumber, mint and chili sauce. Minus the meat it was not a bad meal. THe breads here are amazing!!!
The city is busy in preparation for TET (Chinese new year) with lanterns and beautiful decorations everywhere. As the city got dark they all light up and make for a spectacular view.
I have managed to get myself a mobile phone SIM card so I am contactable, not sure exactly of the service or how much credit I have on it or what it costs for me to send messages but I can definitely send and receive to Australia.
Another thing that has challenged me today is who I want to meet while I am here. I want to have a truly cultural experience, however when looking for accommodation I was wanting to meet other backpackers like me - made me question what I was really looking for. Phung has been very helpful, showing me the sights of the city. Tomorrow we are off to the Mekong Delta for a few days.