Our travel to Saigon from Bangkok went smoothly. The walk from our friends condo at Waterford Rama IV to the Phra Khanong BTS Sky Train took about twenty minutes carrying our packs. This sounds so simple but it really is amazing that we made it in only twenty minutes, alive!!! The walk itself is a tasty slice of Bangkok life with side streets, open air markets, street food, massage parlors, convenience stores, and a myriad of other businesses. The challenges are the pot holes, flooded intersections, uneven/broken pavement, dodging scooters, motorcycle taxis, no street rules, horns sounding off constantly, and roads too narrow, all while carrying heavy backpacks.
We squeezed ourselves onto the train which was packed. This is actually quite a sight as I was carrying a backpack and a wearing a computer bag in front. It makes me feel like I am as wide as three people. Thirty minutes later we stepped onto the A1 bus for the 30 minute drive to Bangkok’s Don Mueang International airport. Arrived at the airport two hours before our flight. Thai immigration was a breeze. Flight was smooth and on time. Obtaining our visas and getting through Vietnam immigration was relatively easy. Hailed a cab, put the driver on the phone with our airbnb hostess for directions and quickly we were on our way. Our airbnb was beautiful. After checking in our hostess took us on a little tour of the neighborhood. I share the step by step of this trip because we have had some very chaotic travels.
Our first meal in Saigon and it was amazing. We walked a few blocks to sample Bánh Xèo , a dish this part of Vietnam is known for. Bánh Xèo (pronounced “boon say-oh”) means “sizzling pancake,” and it’s just that. The savory, crisp-edged, crepe-like pancake is best enjoyed straight from the pan. The batter is made with rice flour, coconut milk, and turmeric (hence the nice golden-yellow hue) and is pan-fried altogether with pork, shrimp, and a heap of bean sprouts. Wrap up the pancake with lettuce and herbs and it is so delicious!!!
We were waiting for our food at Banh Xèo 46A Restaurant when we met the folks from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Thanks to their encouragement we ate the fresh vegetables served with our Banh Xèo.
After our first night we realized that we needed to find a different place to stay. Most places in Asia have extremely hard beds. Laurie was at a point where her body said we needed to find a place with a softer mattress. So off we went on a quest. This nice man came to pick us up to take us to his mother’s airbnb. Laurie’s first time on the back of a scooter!
Unfortunately, this “nice” man pulled a “bait and switch” on us and took us to a different listing. After negotiating to get our passports back we went in search of a place to stay. Hours later we arrived at “The Manor II” and met Vincent, our host for the next four nights.
We had a great time with Vincent. He is a Chinese businessman doing strategic planning for an international firm. His roommate, Nathan, is on assignment from South Korea. We spent several nights with Vincent down by the pool enjoying happy hour. Vincent’s pride and joy is the coffee he roasts and markets on the side.
Finally settled, we set off to explore Saigon!
We visited the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica twice and both times we were unable to enter. Closed for lunch and then it was closed for cleaning. Oh well, next time!!!
The Pho 24 restaurant was one of our favorite places to eat in Saigon. We were allowed to crash the private opening of their newest restaurant. After lunch with the owners we took this photo with the staff.
I posed for this picture in front of the Saigon History Museum.
I posed for these pictures with my eldest son, Jordan, back in 2006! Jordan was finishing up his time at the University of Oregon with a Semester at Sea trip. I met up with him in Saigon and we explored Saigon,Vietnam and Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Siem Reap, Cambodia together. We had a great time and it was one of the reasons I wanted to include these places on this trip.
Jordan was traveling with his buddy, Mason Tichinin. Mason had hurt his leg badly in India so he was really hobbling along on crutches. This really sucked as we were staying at the Madam Cuc 64 on the fifth floor, with no elevator!
After meeting the boys at their ship, getting past the cadre of guards, we were off to explore Saigon!!!
Top on their list of things to do was to experience drinking live snake blood in Vodka. Our drivers were game, so was I, and off we went. I know its not safe, cruel to the snake, and in today’s culture definitely not PC. That said, we did it anyway! Our drivers took us out to a distant neighborhood. When we got close to the snake restaurant we had to pass through some very flooded streets. Jordan and Mason picked out the snake. The snake was quickly dispatched and in short order we were served glasses of vodka and snake blood as well as spoons with still beating hearts. We toasted, we drank, and sat down to eat the three-coarse meal prepared from the snake meat. The food was delicious, the company was great, and the one and one-half cases of Saigon 333 beer we drank with it was pretty good too!
Special thanks to withhusbandintow.com for the snake dish pictures!
After our snake and beer feast we headed off to explore more of Saigon. We came across a kite festival on our way, satiated, and slightly intoxicated, the atmosphere of that moment in time still gets to me. It was moments like this that drew me back to Vietnam. This time I really wanted to share this intoxicating country with Laurie.
Anyway, I digress, so back to Saigon with Laurie!!!
Traffic in Saigon is really something to experience. Scooters are everywhere and it really appears that all the traffic laws do not apply to them! After a while it becomes apparent that there is a common consciousness kind of like with schools of fish.
We took a guided tour to the Mekong Delta. I had done this on my last trip here and I really wanted to do this with Laurie. It is almost a two hour bus ride to get to the boat departure point. On the way we stopped at the Vinh Trang Temple. Vĩnh Tràng Temple is a Buddhist temple near Mỹ Tho in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. This temple has so much history, such as how the Vietnamese fought the French here in 1859 attempting to fend off the French invasion of IndoChina. Unfortunately we didn’t fully appreciate it until after we left.
Finally ready to board our boat!
Yes, these bees are real!!!!
I am so proud of Laurie for overcoming her fear and holding this snake!!!
Laurie paddling down Mekong tributary towards Coconut Island.
This is me on the same excursion back in 2006.
After the first island stop where we held bee hive, drank honey tea, held a big snake, ate fruit, and listened to girls sing traditional songs, we headed off by boat to Coconut Island. On Coconut Island we learned about coconut candy and then headed off by horse and buggy to a restaurant for lunch.
The meal was amazing! One of the courses was this Mekong Elephant fish.
The pictures above the urinals were really funny!
Getting the men to step back so I could take this picture, even funnier!
I have always been a history buff. The Vietnam War, called the American War in Vietnam, has always interested me. Probably because I remember watching the nightly news with my parents as a boy. I discussed the history of the war with Laurie prior to arriving in Vietnam. This country has suffered so much over the past thousand years. The American war just added additional injury. Nothing really prepares you for the War Remnants Museum. Walking out you are shell shocked. So many pictures of so much injustice and carnage. We can be so isolated in the USA from the impact of war, any war. If we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. This museum is a painful reminder that American intervention, right or wrong, comes at a horrible price.
Vietnam has come so far since the end of the war.
Next stop is Hoi An!