We finished off our time in Vietnam in the former South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City (though, confusingly, most people still call it Saigon and the central district is still officially called Saigon). We were somewhat surprised by how much more cosmopolitain it is than Hanoi, with modern architecture, skyscrapers, and posh shopping malls. The traffic actually managed to be even more crazy and intimidating that Hanoi as well, as this photo and video hopefully illustrate (if you’re reading this by email, please visit the website to watch the video).
When we were in in Ha Long Bay, we met a guy from New Zealand who had a funny story about Saigon traffic. He, a pretty experienced traveller, was standing at the side of the road waiting for a break in traffic big enough to brave crossing when a little old lady came up, took him by the hand and led him across the street!
We visited the War Remnants Museum, which, as you can imagine, didn’t provide the warm, fuzzy feeling that the cat cafe we visited in Tokyo did. The exhibit on the effects of Agent Orange was particularly disturbing. The accounts of the war in the “Historical Truths” section were not as unbiased as the exhibits at the Hiroshima Peace Museum, focusing on the atrocities committed by the Americans and the South Vietnamese, but conveniently not mentioning anything the North Vietnamese did. But then, as they say, history is written by the winners. I’m sure that if the South/Americans had won the war it would be recounted quite differently.
After being thoroughly depressed by how utterly brutal people can be, we walked outside to see a bus load of tourists in Hard Rock Cafe Vietnam t-shirts posing for glamour shots in front of American tanks and helicopters and taking photos of them all jumping with huge grins on their faces. It seemed in extremely poor taste.
We then flew from Ho Chi Minh City to London, England. It was a long haul, including a two hours to Kuala Lumpur, then 13 and a half hours to London. We landed in London at 5 am and actually managed to get in a reasonably full day before crashing at 8 pm. That first day was a long and tired one, but it was worth it to stay up because we’ve suffered minimal jetlag since them.
It felt weird, after more than two months in Asia, to be in a country where we speak the language and have a strong understanding of the culture. I still find myself thinking in advance about transactions the way we’ve needed to so many times, only to remind myself that we speak the same language.
We had four days in London before heading to the mainland (we’ll be back to the UK later). We saw some of the obligatory London sights such as Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge. We even tried to go the the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but if was so packed with people that we decided that we didn’t care enough about it to deal with the crowds. We even saw platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station and, for the Harry Potter fans in the audience, no, you cannot walk through it (silly muggles).
As I finish writing this, we’re beneath the English Channel riding the train through the Chunnel and we’ll be in a Paris in about an hour and a half which is très exciting.