Friday, 1 April 2011

The Arrival and First Impressions

I arrived in HCMC yesterday, as you know because you've all read my first blog entry. And if you haven't then you bloody well should.

HCMC is absolutely manic! You've probably heard about the millions of motorbikes, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer chaos of it all. HCMC, or Saigon, is a city on the move. Everything that gets done, gets done in a mad rush and you can't help but get sucked into it. The city is, truly, alive.

And extending my "HCMC is alive" metaphor: Its heart beats at 1000 beats per minute. I arrived in HCMC, went to exchange money and bought a Vietnamese SIM card at 100mph. Then jumped in a taxi with a Dutch man I met on the plane and split the taxi fare to Pham Ngu Lao street, backpacker central. Having not been remotely prepared for my arrival, I didn't have a place to stay. However, within 5 minutes of stepping out of the taxi I had been offered rooms at 3 different guest houses. Telling myself that an astute traveler should never choose the first option on offer, I refused these rooms and headed further down the alley. After another 5 guest houses/hotels I settled on a room at Linh Guesthouse for $10.

I knew that I could get a cheaper room, but for the first night all I needed was to be able to put that damn backpack down and relax. Almost every place offers free WiFi so I've been able to tweet. Strangely enough, I can't access facebook. It appears facebook is blocked in Vietnam or something, because I've tried a number of times from different places to no avail. When I get back to SA I'm going to have way too many notifications.

My first full day in HCMC was today. I decided that the best course of action would be to have breakfast. I didn't sample the local cuisine, or any cuisine for that matter, last night because I fell asleep as soon as I lay down to rest. The cheapest option for a sit down meal is Pho, which is a kind of noodle soup with beef. It tastes strange, but in a good way. I took a picture of my first meal in HCMC and I would love to share it with you, but the computer I am typing this from doesn't have a USB drive as it is 400 years old. You'd think the internet would be slow, but it puts SA to shame.

During my distinctly Vietnamese breakfast I met an Italian traveler and got chatting. We decided to share the costs of a room for tonight so I've successfully organised accommodation for $6. He and I then went looking for the bus terminus and found it. I'll be investigating intercity bus travel tomorrow.For the rest of the day I found a motorcycle taxi, xe om, and experienced Vietnam as the locals do, clinging for life on the back of a motorbike.

Okay, I exaggerated, I wasn't clinging for life and taking a motorbike through the traffic and mayhem to Saigon river, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame (yes, they have one too) and the War Remnants Museum was an incredible experience. I'd recommend it to everyone.

My stomach is now growling. So I must leave you all to ponder whatever it is you want to ponder. I'm heading out for some more pho and perhaps a beer and maybe not pho, but something else. Who knows what other wonders HCMC has in store for me.

It hasn't rained yet, so my dong is still dry.

P.S. If I find a computer which will accept a USB I'll upload some photos for your enjoyment.

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