Saigon to Vung Tau

Day 106, Thursday April 19 2012, HMC – Vung Tau

Felt completely wasted after yesterday, we spent a lot of time walking in the heat  and it does take it out of you. I am going to have a couple of days by the beach at Nha Trang soon, hopefully will get a couple of dives in as well, but my main aim will be relaxing , rehydrating and fueling and getting some detail into the planning for the next few weeks and then booking some of the transport and accommodation.

Even feeling whacked we were still up relatively early and back on the street for the short, but always chaotic walk to the Reunification Palace. The palace was built in 1966 as the presidential palace for Sth Vietnam as we renamed the reunification palace after the war was over in 1975. The palace is now a museum with exhibits from the site over the years. As a museum it was not my cup of tea as there was very little information at each exhibit, tour guides were offered which would probably have made it more informative – then again I heard one of the guides talking about the rectangular table being a dining table, and that kinda almost describes the museum – lots of furniture!

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My favourite part was the basement, which housed a Sth Vietnamese military head quarters, though the rooms had little in them and signs that said ‘communications room’, they were so spartan.

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The highlight was walking through the narrow passage way – in what appeared to be the wrong direction and meeting a massive school group coming the other way, 100 or so hellos were exchanged with the kids.

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The palaces main claim to fame (in my head) is a photo taken when the Nth Vietnamese T-54 tanks broke through the gates at the very end of the war, this isnt one of the original ones sadly.

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From the palace we went for a walk to find a Hindu temple that we saw from the tower yesterday as it appeared to be close to the market, I found this great street art on the way.

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And then we found the Subramaniam Swamy temple (and motorcycle park!) which was interesting, but small, there are some distinct similarities between some of the symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism and I must do some reading on them one day. This statue is definately Hindu !

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On the way back to the hostel we found this small Buddhist temple that I must have walked past ten times without noticing, we were looking through the gates and were beckoned inside by a man sitting on the street.

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It was a nice little modern temple, not sure if this was a real monk or someone hamming it up as he had a photographer friend with him and he was being a bit silly…

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When we got back to the guesthouse I found my boat to Vung Tau was leaving at 12.30 rather than 1.00 so it was a quick pack of some clothes into the day pack, and chuck the rest into the big pack as that was staying in the hostel until I returned. I said a hurried farewell to Leonie – had a great time hanging with her in Saigon, thanks : ) and then off on a quick – but horribly sweaty fifteen minute walk to the ferry terminal, where I must have gotten one of the last seats on the hydrafoil to Vung Tau (VT).

The boat ride was OK, I had a backward facing seat in a corner with no view, so it was headphones on and head down for a rest (no – I didn’t sleep) for the hour and half journey. I arrived in VT and hour early and had lunch in KFC on the wharf – I was being picked up from the wharf, plus it had free wifi and it was the first KFC I have had in years!

Vung Tau is a beach town and is so much quieter than HMC – especially during the week, though it did not appear to be much cooler ! While I waited I went for a short walk along the water front and checked out a couple of temples. The Vina express was the boat I came in on.

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I met Trish and Chris, an English couple, in Borneo and they have been living and working in Vung Tau for a few months now. Their son, George who is in his late twenties, has recently joined them there.

Trish and George picked me up in a cab and we went back to the house they are renting in the expat part of town.The neighbour’s wall and the power lines blew down in a typhoon at the beginning of April – the power lines are at garrotting height !

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Trish was teaching a class in the afternoon so I spent a couple of hours chatting to George about music, we both like punk rock and he was playing drums in a band – Cannons and Tanks back in England. When I told him Meliesha (my daughter) lives in Bristol he said I had to go live there too as it had a really good music scene with loads of good gigs.

When Chris arrived home we had dinner and a drink up on the deck. Lovely chicken dish with baked spuds and beans – very nice to eat some home cooked food for a change. Dessert was a fantastic lime meringue pie – yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….

http://cannonsandtanks.bandcamp.com/