The Mekong river delta

Fom Saigon we took a 15USD/person day tour to the Mekong river delta. The boat first took us to the floating market (where merchant’s boats are joined together allowing shoppers to come aboard). Then we visited a manufacturing area (various rice and coconut based sweets). After some canoe trip through the narrow canals we got lunch at a local family, followed by a short program of Vietnamese music. Then we were provided with bicycles to visit the village. Very interesting experience altogether!

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The Cu Chi tunnels

As opposed to the Vinh Moc tunnels (built to host families) these were build to support the guerillas harassing the US garrison near Saigon. Therefore: meeting rooms, storage rooms, traps and observation posts and no more family rooms.

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The War remnants museum, Saigon

As opposed to other war museums (which focus on the fighting itself), this one focuses more on two different aspects: the international support received (including the protests within the US) and the aftermath of the war: unexploded bombs (still causing deaths every year as of 2011) and health problems resulting from the use of chemicals by the US during the conflict.

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Officially named Ho Chi Minh City, but still called under the old/short name by most people, this is the economic center of Vietnam. A mixture of French, communist and modern styles dominate the architecture. Very crowded. Overpopulated. Not as crooked as Hanoi. Tries to have a modern look, with straight and wide avenues, large plazas and parks. But all streets are packed with traffic. Air is unbreathable, if not toxic. And just like the rest of Vietnam, it’s worth coming once but not worth coming back.

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Traffic in Vietnam

Traffic is a madness, a “free for all” where the motorbike rider has no rights and no obligations. After being stucked in city traffic together with million other motorbikes, we finally hit the roads, only to find trucks and buses passing with total disregard to the incoming 2 wheeled vehicles, including us. If this was just annoying on most roads, on the main North-South highway it felt more like every minute someone was trying to kill us.

Still, of great surprise, the rate of accidents seems very low. During 30 days spent here, we only saw 3 accidents. Furthermore, cars and motorbikes have no collision marks on them, not even tiny scratches. It looks like the Vietnamese mastered the art of driving without rules. Wondering what would be the result if you could spice up this traffic with some extra horsepower 🙂

Another interesting thing, more than 95% of the motorbike and car fleet appears to be newer than 5 years. Were did all the pre-2005 vehicles go? Were there any?

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