Battle of the incredible dong and unidentified food.
Anyone who's visited HCMC, seen travel TV Shows or read other blogs will tell you about the traffic. Nothing will prepare you for it.
A sea, no, an OCEAN of mopeds ride tandem across heaving junctions seemingly with absolutely zero concern for any Highway Code.
It's a harrowing experience just crossing the road. You have to just walk out and the traffic moves around you.
You will be offered all sorts of products/services while you drink or eat at a pavement cafe. From peanuts to shoe shining, every possible street hawker will pass by. It's very interesting.
Jason got roped into having his flip flops cleaned and repaired while we had a beer at a pavement cafe. He didn't really get a choice in the matter. The shoes were whipped right off his feet! The guy actually did an amazing job the beat up leather sandals were for the bin really but they came back like new. He carefully glued the loose bits back together and shined the ancient leather to within an inch of its life. We were a bit worried about the cost as we stupidly hadn't agreed a price first (we didn't get a chance) so when he came back quoting 200,000.00 dong we just laughed as said we were "poor backpackers" and agreed to pay 100,000.00 VND ( 3€) which probably WAY over the going rate but who cares? honest though, the shoes are like new! (Even though they were originally brown and now they are black - brown Polish must be hard to find)
After walking around for a while looking for a bank we soon realised that unlike Thailand and Malaysia, English is not widely spoken.
Everyone we asked thought we were asking for "taxi to airport" (this must be the most popular question asked) until in the end I mimed the action of entering a pin code into an ATM machine, complete with sound effects:
"BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP - Money come out" which seemed to do the trick.
Before arriving, it's probably a good idea to learn some phrases or at least a few dish names. We hadn't done this research so were ordering food in the dark when we stopped at a busy cafe.
The menus are in Vietnamese and English but even by pointing to what we wanted we still found it difficult to make ourselves understood. In Thailand the kids learn English from a young age in school and are happy to practice with you, most of the time you get by with *Thai-lish.
- note* I speak fluent Thai-lish ( just apply a "love you long time" accent to any question and bobs your uncle)
The restaurant was really cool and vibrant and we were enjoying the atmosphere until the food came. It turned out what I'd ordered was actually side dishes. Himself found this hilarious and while he tucked into his huge main meal of noodles and vegetables, I chowed down on ONE spare rib and some green beans. We both cracked up when we realised I'd also been drinking the finger bowl.
We should have done some research about Vietnamese food. This would have helped.
The mighty DONG.
Regarding the currency - we haven't got a clue! the denominations are so high it's very confusing. The more zeros on the notes the better.
Here is a million Dong.
Next morning after another food disaster at breakfast, (turns out you are NOT supposed to eat the paper wrapped around the little pastry things)
We headed to find a coffee shop. The Vietnamese adore coffee and we were keen to sample the goods.
We ordered delicious hot banana cake and strong black coffee with condensed milk as an extra.
They also served us complimentary hot green tea (we think as a palette cleanser but God knows!)
Everyone smokes inside which is bizarre after the smoking ban in Europe it's weird to be breathing in the second hand smoke but it all added to the experience.
Posh hotels are really cheap here and it's really very very clean compared to Thailand. During the day walking around we saw street sweepers and dustbin men - a rare sight in Thailand.
Our money is going a lot further here so we can afford a few treats which is nice for a change.
We have got a lot planned for tomorrow which is New Years Eve so I will fill you in later this week.
When you get to Saigon one thing is 100% certain - you will know you are not in Europe anymore and that feels bloody marvelous.
Happy New Year to my close friends and family reading this, leave me a message so I know you are there x x x