Our bus for Ho-Chi-Minh City leaves at 6:30 AM. It’s filled with Vietnamese people. We cross the Mekong river and stop right before the frontier for lunch. There’s a 30-min procedure to enter the country. Everybody gets off the bus, passports are checked (and foreigners are photographed with a webcam).
One by one, we re-enter the bus only to get off a second time only a few dozen meters further. We enter a building, with our luggage this time, and go through a scanning process (which didn’t seem very efficient as I was able to go through with my camera, my keys, my money… without the officials noticing anything).
Although being close to our destination, there’s still 2 hours left before arrival, the problem being the very dense traffic surrounding the city (the most populous metropolitan area of Vietnam with 9 million people).
At last, we arrive in the european neighborhood, where all our recommended hotels are located. We end up at the Blue River, in a small (and calm!) narrow street, where we’re given a map of the district.
We go for a walk. First stop: Ben Thanh Market. It’s a real maze in there! There are mostly textile and souvenir vendors, with a lots of counterfeits (but who cares?). After buying some cool looking bags, we plan to visit the Reunification Palace but it doesn’t appeal to us. So we wander around, visit a church, and end up at the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens where students are practicing their skills on a piece of architecture.
Watch out! If you pay in dollars, the zoo will cost $2 (40,000 Dongs) but if you pay in Dongs it’s only 8,000! So change your money as soon as you can.
On a daily basis, around 4 millions vehicles (95% being motorcycles) are filling the streets. Considering the ridiculous amount of motorcycles per square metre (or square foot depending on your ISO compliance level), I must say the noise is not that unbearable. As a matter of fact, I figured that a single vietnamese motorcycle is far less noisy than a single one here in Paris. It must have been a de facto engine specification, as higher noise level would probably turn a thousands of Vietnamese deaf.
The zoo is big but rather old-fashioned. We leave around 6 PM and are surprised by the huge crowd waiting on the sidewalk of the adjacent street for something but we don’t know what! A few minutes later, we understand what this is all about: school’s finished! Hundreds of children come out of the buildings like ants rushing for a piece of cupcake, getting on their parent’s motorcycle and going back home.
As we manage to get through this huge traffic, we approach the Opera area where classy hotels and luxurious buildings have taken place. And though we’re melting in this hot weather, we encounter tons of Christmas decorations everywhere ; it’s a weird feeling and a curious sight.
Back at our hotel, we buy our bus tickets for Mui Ne and go have dinner at the Allez Boo. Food is great.
As we’re looking for a bar, a couple of teenagers, with “Go Go” and “Crazy Buffalo” branded t-shirts, surround us and try to convince us to go to “their” bar. It’s kind of funny so we tell them we’ll go to both, and that’s we end up doing. Although being across from one another, the “competition” is really friendly. They both have the same cocktails, the same music, and surely the same clients.