It’s Boxing Day in the UK and its cold outside but I’m heading towards Heathrow airport for a flight to Hong Kong. I’m going to Hong Kong as it’s far cheaper than flying direct to Saigon, but at this moment in time I’m wishing I wasn’t such a tight-arse with a worrying total travel time that is going to be somewhere in the region of eighteen plus hours. But alas the dye is cut as they say and I’m now stuck with the journey come hell or high water, it’s eighteen hours like it or lump it!
Hong Kong Airport comes and goes in a flash but I manage to grab a quick drink at Starbucks to keep me going. Eventually many many hours later the fabled Saigon begins to draw closer below me as we rapidly start our descent towards the hot tarmac runway in the land once known as Indochina.
After the usual airport chaos of baggage retrieval and customs checks we get our first taste of Saigon’s infamous traffic. A million mopeds and bikes jostle us for position on the road, even though we are in the relatively safe confines of a taxi cab it’s a heart-rending and scary journey to be sure.
Tonight we are staying in The Blue Diamond Hotel near to District 1 the popular ex-colonial part of town and thankfully not too far by cab. The hotel is a mix of garish south east-asian styling and concrete communist architecture, I’m glad we’re only staying here for a couple of nights.
Unpacked and ready to explore we venture outside onto the city streets to experience Vietnam for the first time. It’s hot, damn hot, to quote Robin Williams, as hot in fact as portrayed in the Hollywood films. Mopeds beep incessantly at us and the pavements are almost unnavigable packed full with parked bikes, mopeds, part built oily engine stacks, street kitchens, over-flowing bars and street corner games of mahjong being played out under the street lamps. We end up jaywalking in the road more often than not an unhealthy pastime given the street chaos! It’s pretty mind-blowing after twenty odd hours of travel and such an extreme change of climate!
Eventually we emanate as most do towards the vast covered Ben Thanh Market thats also got a smaller night market operating around and outside its walls. The madness continues as the vendors try to flog us everything under the sun played out to a background cacophony of ice-cream vendors pedalling around with binary 8-bit sounding music tracks thumping out from outdated 1980’s looking tape players stuck with gaffer tape to the handlebars.
We settle for a Tiger beer at one of the market outdoor eateries and just people watch as the madness plays out all around us. It’s a crazy introduction to Vietnam! Tomorrow we intend to explore Saigon!
You can see more photos from my Indochina Adventure on Flickr by clicking on this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jameshandlon/sets/72157629031722105/