Our journey to Danang airport for our flight to Saigon took us through the suburbs during morning rush hour. Millions of scooters covered the road (virtually no cars) – the bus driver really knows his stuff as he got us through the chaos without anyone getting bumped and delivered us to the airport.
There are no front lawns here. Just about every yard we passed on the road was intensively planted with vegetables and had a resident chicken population. Orchards of small oranges are also common. Open air cafes were full of people eating the traditional Pho – noodle soup – for breakfast. This morning we were up before dawn and had a chance to look out over the city while it woke up. There are no street lights here, just an occasional light from a house, cocks crowing, and the smell of smoke and incense from the celebrations last night associated with the Lantern / moon festival. The morning sky was lovely and the pre-dawn light gently lit up the red tile roofs of many houses – it is going to be a nice day today in Hoi An.
Noise – that will be my abiding memory of Saigon – 8 million motorbikes (all seemingly on the road at once, honking their horns at the same time) – buses and cars adding to the cacophony – I am amazed everyone here isn’t deaf……. Our flight went seamlessly and we ended up at our hotel by around noon. After a quick lunch we walked to the War Museum which is mainly dedicated to the Vietnam War. This is a very sad, sometimes horrifying museum which charts the war through photos and stories from 1965-1975. I spent quite a bit of time in the gallery which showcased 130 odd photos taken by 11 photojournalists who were killed during the conflict. This is a must see place if you make the trip here.
A city tour of Saigon followed by cyclo – kind of a rickshaw. 11 of us each had our own cyclo and peddlers and toured the city. Our trip took us to the centre of Saigon to the French built Notre Dame cathedral and the post office which was designed by Gustav Eiffel who designed the Eiffel tower in Paris. The central square looks like you could be in France. We also visited the old presidential palace – now called the Reunification palace. The gates of this building feature in the famous photo of the North Vietnamese tank crashing through them on April 30, 1975 – the day that the south Vietnamese government surrendered.
A cycle along the opulent district with high end hotels and shopping, followed by a trip through some slum like areas and roads filled with cheap hotels and foreign back packers – took us finally to the Ben Thanh market in town where our trip ended. many thanks to Carol for the photos today. I left my camera in the safe as snatch and grab of cameras is a big business here in the city.