Friday, September 25, 2009

Saigon, Where Beauty and Awesomeness Are Caught in the Same Blink of an Eye

Written on the boat in Mekong Delta whilst relaxing and enjoying river view - Sept 20, 2009

Spending 2 nights in Saigon was just so awesome. I'm on the boat somewhere in Mekong Delta now, giggling imagining how fun, crazy and relaxing the city was.

The first day I arrived in HCM, I was welcomed by the warmth of Vietnamese smile. Mr. Khai, which is Viet's driver, picked me up from the airport to his apartment. Viet used to be my ex-boss in P&G and he graciously opened up his apartment for cheap bastard traveler like me. Not only did he open up his door for me to stay, he opened up his refrigerator; full of beer and wine, as well. But since I went out a lot, I only managed to drink his Budweiser.

If you were in the city, I might have been drunk in your apartment, Viet. :)

The one day city tour in HCM was awesome. It all started in Pham Ngu Lao, a backpacker street in the downtown of the city. It is basically street full of hostels, tour agent and bar/resto/cafe. Spending just 1 hour in this crowded area, I booked everything for my one day trip to Mekong Delta and Chu Chi tunnel trip.

Then the smile of Mr. Khai welcomed me again somewhere on Pham Ngu Lao street.

Rest of the daytime, I visited some must-see spots in HCM. Independence Palace is the place where the head of this country lived and led its people. It is basically full of rooms to welcome high-rank guest from other countries, to conduct meeting, dinner and some other government occasions. The place itself was initially used by former South Vietnam government, which was controlled by America.

On April 30, 1975, the troops from Northern Vietnam, called North Vietnamese Army (NVA) invaded the building, took over the formal government led by USA and pushed army to get out from the country. That was when Vietnam reunification started.

The highlight in Saigon for me is War Remnants Museum. If I had only 1 hour and needed to pick one place to see, it must have been only this museum. It tells story about the sufferings during USA colonial repression. They co-led with South Vietnam government to build its position in South Vietnam, with Saigon as its capitol. Later on they changed Saigon to Ho Chi Minh, after reunification.

What special in this museum, on top of story about USA colonial repression, is the story about Agent Orange and the suffering it created for that particular generation and one generation ahead after USA threw that toxic chemical material to Vietnam land. It killed many people, created birth defects to many babies and destroyed healthy environment. The museum itself is a bit depressing, but worth to visit though.
The rest of the daytime I visited Notre Dame church, Post Office building and Ho Chi Minh museum. The first two are the buildings made by French, which was built under French colony started on 1883. Notre Dame is very nice, standing in the midst of business district in the city. Post Office with its interesting detail inside is good as well. I sent postcard to a close friend. You know who you are. :)

As for the lunch, I brought Mr. Khai to try popular BBQ Pork Broken Rice in Nguyen Du Street, opposite to Coffee Bean Metropolitan, right at the Notre Dame Church. The place was recommended by Viet and Willy. I tried Pork BBQ + Chinese Sausage + Pork/Egg Paste + Vegie Soup and Passion Fruit - a full of awesomeness in very hot day in Saigon.

In the evening, I met Bill and Yani who are Indonesian I met on the plane to Ho Chi Minh a day before. We went to Natasha's Boat/farewell/birthday party, which was on the boat on the Saigon river.

There are crazily around 50 people, most of them are couchsurfers, having great time with all drinks, foods and positive party attitude. We ended up the night until 5 AM in the morning, doing club-hopping. I managed to sleep only 1 hour at Viet's apartment. I headed to Mekong Delta in the morning.

Very relaxing day in Mekong Delta - most of the time I am on the boat, at the back of the boat - stretching, laying supine.

Having said that I had great day tour in Saigon, it was just nothing if I didn't meet great people in Saigon. Mr. Khai with his warm personality of Vietnamese. Viet, who I couldn't manage to meet, who graciously offered his very nice apartment for a cheap bastard traveler. For all couchsurfers I met on the party; Natasha the superstar, Alex 'pa*e ta ch*tt*' guy, Anju 'the only member of tonic-tonic club', Adam and Steven who were the party magnet, my lovely gin-apple juice friend Kat, and many more couchsurfers who brightened up my day in Saigon.

I had a blast there and I hope you too have a blasted day! My last words in this note: drink responsibly. :)

Have a blast!

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