Day 3 – Saigon to Phan Theit – 240KM

16 04 2012

I  slept reasonably well considering both the time shift and the incessant blare and cacophony of horns outside the hotel. Use of the horns is such an international topic. To us Brits it’s almost apologetic to have to use the horn. “Terribly sorry old chap, but you were about to run into me”. Compare this against most of the world, and there is indeed a different story to be told. Consider Egypt or Vietnam. Standard procedure is to drive with your horn fully engaged. Ot never grows old I can assure you !

The Tan Son Nhat hotel’s breakfast was a standard Asian affair. So I ate what I could consider to be dinner for breakfast, and finished it off with fresh fruit. Avid readers of this blog roll will know my feelings toward Asian breakfasts. Suffice to say I wasn’t left disappointed. After taking pictures around the hotel, and noticing that security seemed to be watching my every move I decided to check out. I even managed to squeeze in a quick 10 minute meditation before going.

I met my tour guide Toan Lee in the hotel foyer. I go a great deal on gut feeling, and I could tell that he was a warm and genuine guy. Five minutes later I am hopping on the back of his bike to go and find mine. I haven’t been a pillion passenger for years, and for those unlucky enough to have been on the back of mine…I apologize.

My first impression of Saigon traffic is…this is complete chaos. Rules of the road seem to be completely ignored. Want to go that way, but the traffic is busy…drive that way against the oncoming traffic ! A simple solution to an age old problem indeed.

Soon we amazingly arrived at the location for my blue “Bonus 125”.
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What a beauty I thought. This was where my problems began. I had always been in the naive assumption that all motorcycle gearing systems are the same. How wrong I was ! This one was the complete opposite to every other bike I had ridden. Up for neutral, then down to go up the gears. So cue a couple of bone crunching gear changes, and locals laughing and I was on my way ! The bike has some unique features such as :

1. Key falls out of ignition
2. Dangly left indicator
3. WIWO gears (Will It Won’t It)
4. Ability to jump into neutral if I move on the bike
5. No power whatsoever

Our first stop was the ‘War Remnants Museum’ in Saigon. This was a fascinating insight into the other side of the Vietnam war. We are so used to the shiny and heroic American memory of it, but this put the working man’s view forward. Of course I say this with a healthy side dish of Communist propaganda, as perfected by the Soviets. There were some amazing machines in the museum, such as a UH-1 Huey and various tanks. There were also prison cells on site, showing the dreadful conditions that prisoners were kept and tortured in. There was even a French Guillotine, repleat with head basket.

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There was also a section on the use of Agent Orange. To be perfectly honest I am disgusted that mankind could use such an horrific agent against mankind. Pictures were shown of the horrendous fetal deformations that Dioxin use caused. I took pictures but I won’t put them on here. You wouldn’t sleep tonight.

Next on the agenda was the Revolutionary Palace in Saigon. That is after a brief pause to watch a group of locals fighting for no apparent reason ! The palace was a fairly staid affair, lots of huge dining rooms and discussion rooms. Troops of Chinese tourists seemed to be enjoying it. More interesting to me were the crisis rooms downstairs in the basement showing all of the radio equipment. This nerd parties hard !

We then left the craziness of Saigon pushing towards Mue Ne. This was a very long ride, and I fear that my backside may never forgive me. I did take a video of the traffic and riding but it didn’t come out so well. We stopped for lunch and ate Pho. Pho is a very basic noodle soup, and is consumed in vast quantities every day by Vietnamese peoples. Apart from the nuclear looking chilli sauce, it was amazing.

We then pushed on towards Mue Ne, occasionally stopping for coffee or to take a look at a sight. We stopped at a beach resort, didn’t catch the name..but what was really interesting was locals drying tiny shrimp on the roadside. Zipping past at 60 k/m it just looked like piles of sand, stopping and looking closer it was tiny shrimp. What a fantastic use for a road, drying shrimp !

Pushing on towards Mue Ne, we changed our plans and decided to pit stop for the evening in Phan Theit. Seems like a busy seaside town. The Phu Gia hotel was clean and reasonably appointed in the 1970’s. Still, clean and reasonably comfortable.

Tomorrow, Phan Thiet to Delat.

I am going to start a new feature of this blog “What I have seen carried on a bike today” !

Today’s best…

1. A glass display cabinet
2. A fridge
3. 2 x Air Con units
4. A small tractor (my fave) !

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