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  • Writer's pictureNick Elsey

Goodbye Vietnam

Updated: Nov 14, 2018

2 May 2009

In the morning we take a stroll down the street to check out the river (not overly pic turesque, but sporting a surprising large amount of debris floating down river) and the hotel Majestic (for no other reason than the name, which it lived up to with some aplomb).

Ticking those two off the list, we head north for a decent hike out to the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Along the way we’re discussing the ubiquitous motorcycle  transport in Vietnam and I’m interested to know how everyone can afford to ride one. Passing a bike shop, I duck inside to find out (because I know you’re dying to know). I can report that your run of the mill Yamaha 125 motorcycle retails for about VND16,000,000 (AU$1,260 or US$940) new (before haggling). That’s about ¼ of what you would pay in Australia, which sounds pretty cheap until you read about doctors are making less than 10% of that a month. So now you know, and you’ll sleep better for it I’m sure.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Monument

Back to our Pagoda hike - we managed to walk past the turning a couple of times before a local took pity on us and pointed us in the right direction. It’s only 10 years old, but by the colour of the walls it looks like they’ve burnt about ten million incense sticks in the interim . It’s an interesting place to visit, not least for the people watching opportunities, but it probably only warrants a taxi ride there rather than the rather long and sweaty hike we undertook.

Bamboo for Sale

Heading back, we decide to be sensible and flag a cab.  After a bit of arm waving, one spots us and takes a rather dramatic side swipe across four lanes of traffic and through an amber traffic light to reach us. We jump in, he drives about 20 yards and then pulls over, grabs his wallet and jumps out, leaving the meter running. What the…$#@$ we think. Looking back, we see that he’s cought the attention of a couple of policeman (something I didn’t think it was actually possible to do) and is now busy pulling out over his documents and looking rather worried. Figuring he’ll be a while, we jump out and flag down another cab, feeling only somewhat guilty.

60's Tribute Architecture

On way back we drive by another very inviting looking courtyard restaurant, and feeling a little peckish and thirsty for beer & caffeine, we cut our ride short and jump out. As always, the service was great, the food tasty and good value, and the beer nice and cold. This place was obviously a notch above average as offered valet parking…motorcycle valet parking that is. The good ladies and gents of Saigon would pull up on their shiny mopeds, a liveried guy would rush out, take the bike and wheel it into a parking spot.

And that’s all we have for Vietnam. Lynn and I head back to the hotel to pack and then take a ride to the airport where we’ll split for the next couple of days. Lynn’s heading back to Sydney to begin our move to Adelaide, while I’m taking a couple more nights to detour via Cambodia and the temples of Angkor Wat.

So, Vietnam in summary:

  • A great country

  • Tourist friendly, but with a purpose and energy that goes far beyond tourism.

  • The people are great – friendly and welcoming. Never have I felt so safe in a country.

  • The food is varied and generally wonderful. With a little bit of common sense, you can go without a rumbly tummy the whole time.

  • We have only scratched the surface and will definitely come back again.

  • You’d be crazy to miss it.

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