who ... moi?

a social butterfly: scared of much, but not of many. never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. not a fan of acronyms, snakes and angelina jolie. a HUGE fan of Fathead.

this blog is black for ENERGY-SAVING reasons.

thanks for your understanding.
if it's too dark, put your glasses on old one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

good morning saigon

travelers will tell you that if you start in the north of vietnam you'll love hanoi and hate saigon, and if you start in the south - vice versa. i think that because we'd mentally prepared outselves to be disappointed, we were not.  it turns out that ho chi minh city (saigon's formal name, according to nobody other than the vietnamese government) is more modern, clean, pretty and open than we had expected.

it's very similar to hanoi, but in the kind of way that your older, cooler, smarter, stronger brother is "very similar" to you. the throngs of motorbikes and cyclos are there.  as are the book vendors with their shamelessly photocopied replica's.  the conical hats have diminished in their numbers, as have the narrowed streets and tightly packed buildings. 

in saigon, there were enormous intersections and wide, green, peaceful parks.  here the buildings were not as charming as they were in little bro hanoi - but they were more modern and it felt like we'd suddenly stepped back into the real world, where they have the interwebs, and petrol stations and BBC world news.

and holy moly, do they have the most jaw dropping electrical wiring system in the world.  you have never (and i do mean, never) in your life seen so many millions and trillions of black wire nests tangled atop every lamp post.

because saigon's a little more 1st world, it's also a little more pricey.  nothing earth-shattering, but it did mean we had to spend more time than usual looking for good rates and cheap eats.  one of these spots was in a small alley off the main backpackers district - a characterless hole in the wall called "punjabi" and rrrun by a rrreal hindian, eh!  hey men, i tell you wat - it was a hellova ting 'n all  (if you're not reading this in an indian accent, go back and read it again).  by far the best indian we've ever had - and i remind you all here that Fathead and i both worked in a spice-shop for several years.

one of the days we spent in the war remnants museum (previously named "the museum of american war crimes").  it's not what you'd call objectively representative of both sides - but it is a harrowing, distrubing, eye-opening exhibition of what the war did to this beautiful country.  of the many museums i've found myself standing in, no other has effected me with it's exhibitions quite like this one did. it should be compulsory for every visitor to vietnam to spend a day in this place.

the parks are enormous and in the afternoons the locals gather for champion-style tournaments of hakkie sack.  well, i say "hakkie sack" only because i have no idea what the real name for it is.  but it's basically a few plastic disks which are loosely connnected like a ring of keys, with a few colourful feathers poking out the middle.  you then kick the disks to one another, in exactly the same way you would play with a hakkie sack.  anyway, these guys are incredible and we spent several hours watching in amazement as they pelted these things for miles across the park.

the people in the south are a lot more ready and eager to join the rest of the world.  they wear brandname clothes.  they get around on 4 wheels.  they have read the latest dan brown novel and are desperate to improve their english so that they can get out there and explore the world.  this means that they are also a lot more friendly and willing to talk to you, and we found ourselves on several occasions with a group of students who'd corner us in the park and wanted to chat for as long as we'd let them.  it was a really cool way to meet the locals and get a better feel for the flavour of the vietnamese.

admittedly, most of the conversations were spent convincing them that we were definately from south africa, yes we sure were born there, no we are not from america, definately africa, yes the place with the world cup, yes we watched the soccer, yes we know that they only saw black people on the tv, but there were white people in our country - and we were two of them.

we were several days in this vibrant city, and then suddenly we had all but completed our journey through vietnam. what a shame to have to leave this incredible country, but saigon was an appropriately warm, fuzzy and energetic send-off.

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