Our first full week in Asia has been excellent, full of tasty food and good company – although we were uncharacteristically affected by time zone issues.
27/9 Monday Despite setting an alarm, we didn’t manage to get up until very very late, so we skipped breakfast and headed straight to a resaurant across the road to get a bit of work done. We spent the evening chatting and helping Matieu cook a tasty vegetarian dinner, then turned in.
28/9 Tuesday It took us a while to get there, but it was worth the effort to find the Museum of Islamic Art. Actually, it’s not too hard to find, but we definitely weren’t on form. We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around the exhibits of Korans, clothes, pottery and calligraphy, then headed back to meet Marisa, Matieu and Liu for dinner out. It wasn’t the best choice of restaurant, but we had a great dessert back home and all of us except Liu went for a cheeky midnight swim.
29/9 Wednesday After another sleep in, we packed up and started the trek to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time and had a short game of Catan while we waited for the plane, which was not only rescheduled by half an hour, but also late. On arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (otherwise known as Saigon), we decided not to mess around with buses and hopped in a taxi to the house of our Couchsurfing hosts Terrina and Matt. They thought we were coming the next day, but let us in anyway! After a tasty sushi dinner we hopped into the largest bed we’ve ever slept in, and were out like lights. (Jet lag = over.)
30/9 Thursday In the morning Terrina took us into Ho Chi Minh City central and introduced us to her favourite tour guides. We booked a tour for the next day and organised our tickets to Mui Ne as well – organisational glory! Terrina headed home and Craig and I wandered around, seeing the sights of the city, such as the Reunification Palace and the church of Notre Dame. Plus, we actually bought Craig a new backpack! It’s a little small but has almost all the features he wanted, so we’ll have to see how that goes. Terrina cooked a great lasange for dinner and we relaxed in front of the TV for the rest of the evening.
1/10 Friday We had to make an early start to meet our tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, but it was worth the effort. It’s a network of tunnels that stretches for kilometres and was built as part of the fight against the Americans during the Vietnam war. We got to go through some of the tunnels that had been enlarged to allow for the larger Western body, and it was still a tight squeeze – I can’t imagine going through one of the original ones with a diameter of 60cm.
On the way back to town, we were dropped off at the War Remnants Museum, which was a truly sobering experience. Outside there’s a collection of vehicles and a mockup of a prison, and upstairs there’s a “then and now” photo essay and a display of how the rest of the world supported Vietnam through posters and the like.
The most striking section was downstairs, in the main hall of the museum – a display of photos and artefacts from during and after the war. All the iconic photos are there, as well as others, just as moving. I found the section about the effects of Agent Orange the most disturbing – there’s lots of photos of people who have been disfigured by the chemical, and a malformed foetus as well.
We went for a bit of a walk before lunch to process all of this, then ate at Pho 24, which we’d had recommended. Then we did a bit of shopping and headed home to prepare dinner – I didn’t think the kids would like pebre, but they devoured it.
2/10 Saturday After a relaxing morning, we joined Terrina and Matt at a bar in the city for a cultural experience – drinking beer and watching the footy. Sadly, the footy in question was AFL but there was an Aussie there so that kind of made it all right. Darts was also involved.
Afterwards, Craig and I went to the local beauty parlour for a massage. It was intense – Craig even got walked on. My back is arguably more sore afterwards but I’m glad for it. In the evening, we ate hamburgers and watched the Amazing Race.
3/10 Sunday A day of supreme laziness and travel. We got up late, stuffed around for a bit, then headed into town for lunch and to catch out bus to Mui Ne, where we plan to spent the next three weeks (come and visit!). The trip took about five and a half hours, 45 minutes of which was taken up with driving around HCMC picking up passengers. It rained all the way but was otherwise uneventful; we checked in to our hotel, had dinner (with local wine!) and plan to go to sleep early.