Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
We are now about halfway through our Asia leg and so far no sunburn, no mosquito bites and, as we have not been bitten by any feral dogs, cats or monkeys, we probably don't have rabies. I'd say we've done pretty well.
We were excited by the chance of grabbing a sleep in this morning, but then a rooster went and woke us up at 5 a.m. A real rooster. In the middle of the city. We weren't impressed.
Today we toured through the Cu Chi tunnels, an underground network of tunnels over 200 km long that was used as a hideout during the Vietnam war (or the American war as the locals call it). On the way to the tunnels the bus stopped at a factory selling Vietnamese art, for the sole purpose of reeling in the tourist dollars. We managed to make it through the endless stallholders without parting with our money.
The tunnels were really interesting. There were three levels of tunnels, each one more narrow than the one above it. We had the opportunity to crawl through one of the wider tunnels for a short distance (about 20 metres). By the end we were puffing hard, due to it being so hot and muggy inside. I couldn't imagine staying in there all day.
Next there was a demonstration of the various traps the Vietnamese made to ensnare the Americans. Some of them looked extremely nasty, and I got goosebumps just thinking about the effect it would have when it went off. There was also a shooting range, and we could hear shots being fired as we walked through the jungle (it felt like we were in a war movie). We couldn't resist having a go of a couple of the very real guns, loaded with very real bullets. Of the dozen or so weapons available, we opted for the big boys: an AK-47 and an M16. The M16 was definitely easier to handle but I still couldn't hit a target. It was pretty cool.
When we arrived back in HCMC we discovered the best food outlet we had seen so far. Yogurt Space: self-serve yoghurt in a variety of flavours (including cake batter flavour!), to which you can add nuts, fruits, lollies, chocolate, biscuits, toppings, plus some miscellaneous Vietnamese food and in the end you pay for the total weight. We miss dairy so much that this place was heaven. They even had free water, which was also heaven.
We took a quick walk up to the Reunification Palace but it was closed when we arrived. It was an impressive building though, with tanks and old aeroplanes on the grounds. We then wandered through a nearby market and bought some cheap clothing that would probably fall apart after wearing it once.
We underwent our first pho experience. Pho is the national dish, which is basically a beef noodle soup that you can add a variety of condiments to. We found a restaurant that Bill Clinton visited when he was in HCMC, as all the photos on the wall informed us (their slogan is now "Pho for the President"). The pho was great - definitely going to find some more while we're here.
After an average pizza for dinner we kicked back with a few drinks on a rooftop bar, which was really cool and reminded us a little of Melbourne. Actually a lot of HCMC reminds us of Melbourne - the traffic is more ordered here than in other parts of Asia, the buildings and shops are similar to Melbourne, trees line the streets and there are parks and gardens all over the city. It's good to have reminders of home sometimes.
On our way back to our hotel we stopped by a hairdressing salon, where I experienced my first haircut by a qualified hairdresser in living memory. It cost a whole $4. The hairdresser styled it as though I should wear it out but, of course, as soon as I left I put it right back in a ponytail.