Strap on your helmets and get ready to scoot
16.04.2008 - 21.04.2008
Welcome to Vietnam! Vietname boasts a long, narrow geography stretching North to South and emcompassing an amazing range of mountains, valleys, deltas and endless beaches. We didn't realize the name "Vietnam" came from the Chinese. It means the land beyond the South (the beyond the southern border of China). In the South are Ho Chi Minh (once Saigon) and the fertile Mekong delta. Mid country are beaches and the ancient capitals. North is Hanoi and the mountain areas that border with Laos and China and home for many indigenous, non-ethnically Vietnamese people.
We arrive in Ho Chi Minh to learn that we forgot to pack something very important: our scooter helmets. Here on the streets you're either riding your scooter, siting on it or you're just in the way :-) More so than any other country in SE Asia, Vietnam is scooter central. And the scooter capital in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh. Look up any street and you'll see an endless sea of scooters spewing dirty, black, two-stroke engine fumes. Most everyone wears masks while scootering. Sidewalks for pedestrians? Think again. Any pavement is fair game for scooters. This was our first impression of Ho Chi Minh. Sadly, we're not exaggerating.
Ho Chi Minh highlights:
+ Near here are the famous Cu Chi tunnels dug by the Vietcong for the "American War". These tunnels highlight how tough guerilla warfare truly is. Vietcong would attack US soldiers and dissappear into tunnels. Booby traps are spread through-out. Most traps involve a US soldier falling into sharp wooden sticks. His weight would further impail the dirty sticks into this legs, torsoes, everywhere. Its horrible to imagine. Of course, any tour of such areas isn't complete without explanation of how heroic, honorable and brave the Vietcong “American killers” were. Its a one-sided view of war around here. No doubt.
+ The Mekong delta was quite interesting to visit. We took a 2 day trip in the region where the mightly Mekong river finally lets out into the ocean through the vast mangroves and delta region. Its a super fertile rice growing area (Vietnam is the #2 rice producer in the world). Saw lots of silly stuff (e.g., coconut candy making, puff rice cooking). We recommend the Sinh Cafe tours to the delta. Top notch for the price.
+ And we saw a lot of poverty. Based on what we witnessed, Vietnam is solidly in the third world. There may be a few, special economic areas where production and wealth are manufactured, but thus far that's escaping us.