Dedicated to a wonderful Mother Jean Noble 31/5/1929 - 20/8/2007 - may we never take our mothers for granted. - Goodbye Mum
VIETNAM PAGE 2 FEBRUARY 2009
Vietnam Pages:   ….......| Cambodia- Vietnam border crossing + “Quick Facts” Cambodia.
Prices in Aussie/US Dollars
Sunday 8th to Friday 13 February 2009. Saigon – Ho Chi Min City. Continued...
The last few days have been hectic... It is getting increasingly difficult to get out and about, due to the traffic. It has to be seen to be believed. Lee and I have been hit several times (nothing serious, thankfully), by Motorcycles, with countless near misses... It is now at a point where we are almost too afraid to leave the hotel.
Motorcycles “race” out of hotels, shops, homes, etc.. with heartless indifference, to who may be on the outside. NONE of the pavements (sidewalks) are safe to walk on. Even in our hotel, we have had motorcycles drive up to reception and push us aside. As hard as this may be to believe, you are not safe inside some shops or restaurants... In fact some shops and restaurants are difficult to get in, due to motorcycles parking directly in front. Both of us cannot understand this mentality and have never witnessed this phenomena – at least to this extent, anywhere in the world.
It is difficult to get verifiable statistics, however, from searching on the net, the consensus seems to be, over a thousand deaths per month – a staggering figure. The World Health Organisation quotes about 12,300 deaths per year or 33 per day on the roads.
If you are reading this and intending to come and cycle, we hope you are one of the many, that have cycled Vietnam and got home safely. But PLEASE, do not take it flippantly, just because others have successfully done this. Take all the advice you can, and make sure you are properly equipped. Also make sure you know the emergency numbers (check this page), the location and number of your embassy AND that you have studied what to do in an emergency. It may never happen, but if it does................. are YOU prepared?
The last thing we want to do is put people off visiting these warm friendly people. There are a plethora of reasons to visit, it is a vibrant warm society. The 200,000 or so that have chosen Australia as their home are known to be good, hard working citizens and have added their skills to our country – making it a better place. We do want people who cycle here to be aware and plan for these obstacles, with a mixture of common sense and pragmatism.
We went back to the “Vegetarian Buffet”, simply because we may never get the opportunity to experience a spread like this again – certainly not in Australia. We asked them if we could take a few pictures inside, told them what we do and they agreed... so here is a “sample” (forgive the pun), of just some of the dishes available.... There is a lot more than what are in these pictures...
It is beautifully presented...............
The use of bamboo as place holders, adds nicely to the décor and fresh appeal
In this picture (above), the food is as far as the eye can see.... All the food on this side is hot, whilst all the other tables are cold buffet.
A big variety of fresh spring rolls with succulent fillings.......... each plate is different and none are fried.....
As well as the delicious dishes, there is an abundance of dips and sauces........
It really is incredible how they can offer this feast for less than US$7.00 (About AUD$11.00)... It comes with drinks included, plus an assortment of “teas”.... Alcohol and “mineral water” is extra.
Friday 13th February 2009. Saigon – Ho Chi Min City.
Since we have changed hotels, we have now had access to some English language programming, including an all too infrequent ABC (Australia) news bulletin We have now been presented with the full impact of the Victorian Brushfires and the horrible loss of life.
Like all Australians and caring people everywhere in our world, we are VERY deeply saddened... Whilst it is not yet completely over, we can only hope that those who have survived this terrible tragedy, can resume their lives with some dignity and the support of the world community. Our hearts go out to you all........
Thursday 19th February 2009. Saigon – Ho Chi Min City.
Never realised how much we miss cycling – it probably has just hit home, with only a few days before we leave Vietnam.. Not much in the way of pictures the last few days as we have been tidying up all loose ends.
A sad story (for us) today. Over the last few days we have relied on our “English speaking” hotel manager, Martin Phan. He has given us directions, translated a few words, fixed our printing problems – generally very helpful. He is single, 26 yrs old and has a Bachelor's Degree. He gets ONE day off a month and is required to do a 9 hr day. His MONTHLY salary is 1,500,000 Dong. (About US$85.00)
Wednesday night he fell asleep in his room and forgot to lock the door. Someone entered his room whilst asleep and stole his recently purchased laptop. He had saved for three years to buy this at a cost of around US$1000.00. He was devastated to say the least. We asked if he had informed the police, did not think it was worth it, he said, (actually said more than that but I will not put to print). This young man is the last person anyone (who has met him) would want, to have suffered this terrible loss. I am sad I cannot help him – I would if I could.
Catchya at the airport Monday morning........
Sunday 22nd February 2009. Saigon – Ho Chi Min City.
Thought I would compile a “few” good and bad points about our stay here.
Traffic – Roads etc..., Has to be some of the worst in the world, The road from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City, was of course the only one we cycled. It is a better road than most of Cambodia's roads. The big “but” here is the drivers... They travel both ways on either side of the road, perhaps not in equal numbers, but, in significant numbers. This creates chaos for the uninitiated...
The roads in “District 1” are the worst in Saigon... District 5 (upmarket tourist area) are better... The other areas of the city are all poor, it does mean, that what YOU read, will be different than what we write... It depends where the writer stayed whilst here.
Crossing the road can be almost impossible for the elderly, infirm and young children. A point to remember is “traffic” ALL types, comes WAY ahead of humans. A motorcyclist will think nothing of pulling in front of you whilst walking... Driving at you and expecting you to defer on EVERY occasion... It does not matter if you are attempting to escort the elderly, carrying a child, or bogged down with luggage – MOVE OR DIE.
Crossings, traffic lights, and all other road safety innovations are entirely “optional” for all drivers. We experienced rage, at becoming an obstacle to an illegal manoeuvre, on MANY occasions. - None of which were deliberate on our part.
The pollution from exhaust, was, at times, very debilitating, causing headaches and shortness of breath.
Pavements (sidewalks) are parking lots for Motorcycles, cars and trucks. Walking on them can in fact be MORE dangerous than walking amongst the traffic.............
Hygiene The level of hygiene is woeful and sickness is rife.... Water is contaminated with “heavy metals” and bacteria. It is important you choose a “quality” bottled alternative... Any bottle is probably better than the tap. Food sold on the street is heavily polluted with exhaust particles (even if they are not visible) and germ carrying dust. Vegetables are soaked in “insecticides” and should be peeled before use. Do not buy “pre-peeled” veggies or fruit, as you do not know how well the person who peeled it washed their hands, preparation surfaces etc..
If the leafy veggies have insects on OR evidence of insect activity, these are usually SAFER. (Less insecticides). It really is “Russian Roulette” when you eat... 5 Star, is no guarantee you will not get sick. Use your common sense and if you are “long term”, consider paying more, by buying a few meals from the supermarket. Tinned food from the US, Europe or Australasia is probably OK, if it has not been substituted. It DOES happen that labels are removed from products and placed on inferior (cheaper) products. Bakeries are plentiful and some have their baking areas in full view of the public – these of course allow you to see the process and make your own judgement.
Budget hotels vary greatly throughout Asia... We found a significant percentage did not supply clean linen, glasses, etc.. – in some cases the room itself and ALL surfaces were thick with grime. You CAN prepare yourself with a few light cleaning materials in your kit. As previously stated, we carry “Silk Sheets” fashioned as a sleeping bag, with “pillow pocket” - expensive but, we feel indispensable. Light, small (When packed - Fit in the palm of your hand) easy to wash, quick to dry.... and feel great sleeping in.
Scams You can expect “scams” everywhere and then again YOU may not get any. The small meal “thing” is common. We went into KFC to get a coffee, some chips and mashed potato. The mashed potato came in three sizes Normal, Large and Jumbo... We were shown pictures of the three, ALL “heaped” with their contents and we looked at the containers. Having seen the pics we asked for no gravy, as it contains chicken fat. The “Jumbo” came with literally a scraping on the bottom of the container... I was outraged and put it in Lee's “normal” container, (Together with hers) filling it half way... I went to our table but was so upset at ALL the food that I lost my appetite. The manager came out and asked what was wrong... I told him lying and cheating were “alien” to me and I found it very upsetting. …...... After some “discussion” our bill was reduced by 24,000 Dong and a free coffee was given to us.
I very rarely use McDonald's (There are none in Vietnam) KFC or any of these fast food places, except for an occasional coffee. However, they pride themselves on “consistency” throughout the world... Meaning YOU, the customer, can expect similar, wherever you travel. Not here.......
ALWAYS ASK what size meals etc... Price – don't fall for the “per person” scam in taxis, hotels etc...... They will give you a fare then ask double at the other end..... The “per person” hotel scam is common in Europe, Australia, etc.. but in Asia you get a “room price”, and a limit on the number of persons. Almost all of Asia works on a price per room, single, double, triple, etc... We were hit with the “extra day” scam in our hotel, however, knowing this scam exists, we insisted on a receipt for EVERY day we stayed... They said “no-one asks for receipts”, however, we stood our ground. Sure enough when we payed our last three days – after the third day we got a call saying we had “missed a day”. We produced the receipts, much to the disgust of the owner! - the matter was “settled”.
The manager, was “delighted” we had kept them, as he did NOT want any part of the scam. After he “lost” his laptop, we took him to the “Vegetarian Buffet” for a treat... He was quite depressed. He appreciated this and gave us valuable insight into our thirst for knowledge of this country... We had done this a few days before... At the time neither he nor I, knew we would be the subject of this scam. (BTW he has only worked here a month).
I just wonder how many tourists in the 3/4/5 Star hotels, have an extra (what-have-you) added to their bill? AND how many would actually know, given the vagaries of the exchange rate on the various credit cards – even if they did check when they got home?
The People Without a doubt the people of Vietnam, makes all the above fade in ones mind. We experienced incredible kindness and courtesy in the most unlikely of places. Help with all manner of things – with NEVER a request for payment.
Vietnam also has a rich history, the buildings, museums and of course the relics left behind by the war with America and France are all worth a visit.
There is “hope” in the hearts and minds of many we meet. Plus there is a very good sense of humour displayed often. Vietnam's transition to a market economy is evident everywhere – some succeed, we saw “Rolls Royce”, Merc's, Lexus etc.. in large number. Opulent dwellings and well heeled business people everywhere... It will take time for the benefits to translate to ordinary people. There is a sense this will happen, clearly they do not want to be at the lower end of the world rankings.
To be continued.......................................
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