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Mar 16-18: Siagon

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon)

Most southerners still refer to HCMC as Saigon – its historical name.  We were back to backpacker style hotels here. No one slept very well for the 3 nights here due to all the traffic noise, honking cars and motorbikes.  Hanoi may be the seat of politics, but Saigon is the driving force of Vietnam’s economy, which is the 3rd fastest growing economy in the world. 

Thoughts on leaving Vietnam, compiled by the kids: western toilets (important), toilet paper (very important), very clean, modern, and cheaper hotels with AC (most important), motorbikes everywhere, crowded, touts everywhere hawking their wares – “motobike, you buy, taxi?, where you go”?, service from restaurants and hotels was great (much better than Malaysia and southern Thailand); sleeper buses with beds; economy based on US dollar; back to driving on right side of road, infrastructure (like roads) still very poor; French influence in tailoring, delicious french pastries and coffee; common person with more English speaking abilities than Thailand; everything is smaller – the size of the people, houses, cars, etc; every day uniforms more dressy; greater sense of community – sitting outside on stools eating with family, friends, people – unlike western countries where the home is more the communal place.

When we entered Vietnam, we hadn’t really read anything about it, and really did not know much about where we were heading. After travellig from the north to the south, while waiting at the airport to catch our flight from Vietnam back to Bangkok, we asked the kids how they rated the countries we had seen so far. They rate Vietnam as Number 1.  We felt like the month we were there just flew by. Now that we’re back in Thailand, it almost feels like it was a dream. We thoroughly enjoyed the people, the countryside, the cities (except Josh, who hates cities, although he was our fearless leader when crossing the motorbike clogged streets!).


Reunification Palace: The seat of power for the South before and during the Vietnam War.  Modern architecture from the 1960s by a French architect. Although the capitol is now in Hanoi, this building is still used for conferences and ceremonial government meetings. 


Street where tanks from the northern army came rumbling in and crashed through the gates to overthrow the South – April 10, 1975


This is the first tank that crashed through the fence as described above. It’s commemorated in a famous photo depicting the fall of Saigon.


In the basement, were the war control rooms of the South.  This was the communications room with all the original equipment.


People’s Committee Building with statue of Ho Chi Minh


The Rex Hotel – the hotel where a lot of the war correspondants stayed


Believe it or not – the Notre Dame in Saigon


Left over French Influence- bakery and patries


Street Traffic – cannot get a picture that does justice to all the motorbikes and the lack of lanes. At one left hand turn “area,” I counted 15 motorbikes and a car trying to all turn at once through the oncoming traffic.   The real challenge is crossing a street. The jist of it is: close your eyes, walk slowly, and don’t stop. Somehow,  the traffic moves around you.


War Museum – this picture is the number of US units and where they were located in the South.  There was a wall with the statistics of WWII, other wars, and the “American” war – ie  casualties, deaths, ordnance dropped, etc.  A very telling picture of what happened there  for the 18 years we were involved in Vietnam. (We were in the country directly after Vietnam gained independence from the French in 1954.)  There were 6 halls set up, each with a different emphasis.  This exhibit was not a Hollywood-style romanticism of war. One exhibit was just photos of different war correspondents from around the world that died during the war.  Other exhibits showed the result of all the chemical warfare that was done to the country (forests leveled from agent orange/napalm (against Geneva Convention – and why did we go into Iraq?) and its results on the people.  The photos of the deformity on the kids was sickening.  Another exhibit showed the detention centers/prisons look and life – with photos of torture.  (We didn’t take the kids through here) Ther was also an outdoor exhibit of US weapons, etc.  The take home from all of it – War IS  HELL.  Nobody won – nobody was a saint (north or south or US or Russian) Each side lost – all in the name of what? – Politics?  The soldiers were only doing what was asked of them, but we must be wary of those in political power and their decisions to send our troops into battle. There was a very telling plaque from the US constitution – all men are created equal …… and deserve freedom and independence.  The south may not have wanted to be communist, but did the US have to go to help them? 


A guillotine – left over from the French prison system –


left over US military equipment


This is just ONE bomb – 12 feet high?!


Mar 9-15: Mui Ne

Friday, March 20th, 2009


Pleasant surprise -the trip was to be 4 hours and guess what – the bus type was a sleeper bus.  Everyone had their own “bed” for the trip.  Vietnam has this sleeper bus figured out unlike Malaysia and Thailand where the seats go back like a plane – not very comfortable like these Vietnam overnight buses.


The southern coast of Vietnam reminds me of california coast at times.


Mui Ne (moo-ey- nay)– Josh writing:  Lucky for us the bus we were riding in was a sleeper bus. We didn’t pay for a sleeper bus, but oh well, who is going to complain? When we first got to Mui Ne, it was hot, hotter than Nha Trang, even in the shade. We sat for an hour or so while Mom and Dad went to look for a hotel. They found a good one, and yet cheap for its quality. The hotel was right on the beach and it had good A/C and a clean bathroom (the 2 most important things in Asia). First thing we did was go for a swim (obviously). Then Dad and I went to talk to the kite surfing shops/schools about lessons. They were expensive, but it was definitely worth it.  So the next day was  the kiting class. One thing I’ve learned from that (other than how to kite board) is that Mother Nature always wins. The wind is so strong! Reason is, I was “tea bagged” by the water! If u like tea, that may make sense. What I’m saying is that my kite lifted me out of the water and flung me back into it………..5 times. WAS NOT very fun. But the rest of the class went well. I finally got up on my board, but my Dad didn’t, but I had one more lesson (hour) than he did. The beach is good, the road isn’t too busy and there are plenty of restaurants. I thought that Mui Nie was awesome.

Tim Writing:  as a beach resort, this was the best!  The beach went for miles like a california coastline.  You then had the resorts or hotels, then the road, then the restaurants.  You also were not hassled by touts constantly to buy things.  This coastline is known for its kiteboarding and windsurfing. There was also an internationally known golf course (including night golfing)- very tempting for me, but in watching everyone out there having fun on the water, Josh and I decided to take  kiteboarding lessons – a beginner course was 5 hours.  To summarize – Josh did get up and had about 3 runs over 300 meters long (he did have an extra hour); I, well, did not get up on the board – but with an extra hour I probably would have.  I  think we are hooked to continue back in the US.  Josh’s instructor and myself were psyched that he was able to get up and ride.  This area is known to be one of the hardest in the world to learn on due to the waves and wind – we were training one day in 25 knot wind – no wonder I did not get up on the board.  We were here 7 days and thoroughly enjoyed the time – except the kids had to do homework everyday.  Outside of beach and surf and pool (mainly the girls) we did rent motorbikes and take a tour of the countryside to see white and red sand dunes (and to slide down them).  The road ran along the coastline – just gorgeous.  We were sad we had to leave to head to Saigon (Ho Chi MInh City) and soon out of Vietnam.  – below is our hotel – $40 for room with AC and attached bathroom and pool at beaches edge.munei-1.jpgmunei-2.jpg

Beach views north and south munei-3.jpgmunei-4.jpg

The kiteboarding school Josh and Tim took lessons fromkiteboarding-1a.jpg

1st hour – kiteboard set up and safety; 2nd hour – flying trainer kite then main kite left and right handed; kite-1.jpgkite-2.jpgkite-4.jpg3rd Hour – body dragging in water flying the kite, learning how to relaunch if it crashes when in water


4th hour – body dragging with board and flying kite


5th hour – if you get to this part in that amount of time – land training on getting up on board, then trying it over and over in the water – Here is Josh actually getting up – only 6 hours in the heavy winds and wavy sea – actually a very good timeframe considering the conditions.  Real proud of him.


Josh and Tim with their instructors – English guy (the owner) and Irish guy.  Great Instructors. 


Rented motorbikes for a half day to go to see sand dunes.  Got lost in backcountry.  Here is our gas station!!


Out of context picture = these were the shoes Josh had a cobbler make for him in Hoi Ann.


We usually don’t eat hot dogs when in the states, but Josh was dying to eat one when he found out there was a restaurant that actually made them.  Eat your heart out Josh – over 12 inches long


These next pictures are for Papa Campell or other old car enthusiasts – Ford Farlane?, Mustang Convertable, Mustang Hatchback – if only they knew how much money they have in that lot



French Restaurant – with all these old side car bikes and car – French Restaurant with Spanish music playing with Zebra skin on the wall -?? French, Spanish, African mix ??



Mar 2-8: Hoi An + NhaTrang

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009
street.jpg Hoi An -  a fabulous old city - know for its tailoring, shoe making, restaurants, chinese lanterns, and french pastries.  Natasha writing:  I liked Hoi An because it was a quiet little town but ... [Continue reading this entry]

Feb 27-Mar 1: Hue

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
bus-1.jpg A new experience - instead of a night train with sleeper berths, now we did a night bus - kind of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Feb 25-26: Ninh Binh

Thursday, March 12th, 2009
vietnam-map11.jpg I should have done this earlier - map of Vietnam.  To trace our path -start with Hanoi in the north - trips to Sapa mtns n/e of Hanoi,  then Ha Long Bay - ... [Continue reading this entry]

Feb 19-24: Ha Long Bay & Sapa

Thursday, March 5th, 2009
sights-5.jpg Ha Long Bay, Vietnam  (Unesco World Heritage Site)We signed up for a tour this time to ... [Continue reading this entry]