7:30 am bus to Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City. Just so happened that Julian, Rivana and Oskar were on the same bus so we at least had some company for the long ride and the long stops.
Checked into Madame Cuc's Guest House. Splurged for the $15 a night - but that included bfast and dinner! Bargain!
This city is even crazier than Hanoi when it comes to traffic. If Hanoi had 2 million motorbikes, this city had at least 8 million. Though we had become pros at crossing the street by this point, we basically had to learn all over again here -- more lanes, more bikes and no rules!
We ran into J and R again at a cafe! Searched for a place to have drinks but here the bars were a bit pricey and also loud - so we all ended up at a streetside restaurant where we sat on the sidewalk on miniature red plastic stools (L calls them little people stools) and drank beer from a huge vat for 20 cents a glass. The crowd also got bigger and the space tighter as the night went on. This is because we kept seeing people on the street who we had met on different bus journeys through the country and they joined us. When it got too crowded there, we moved to another bigger corner restaurant -- this time we got beers (Bier Nieu) in plastic litre bottles for about 80 cents each. I was tired from the day so I went back to Madame Cuc's around midnight -- guess who stayed out til after 2???
The next day, we went on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. In case you didn't know, the Vietnamese Army dug a 250 k tunnnel (fully equipped with litchens, hospitals, meeting rooms, beds, etc...) in the shape of a spider web 3 and 6 meters underground to hide from the Americans. They even dug part of it under an American base because they knew that would never get bombed! Apparently the Americans never knew about it.
During the tour, we had the opportunity to crawl through a part of the actual tunnel ourselves. You wouldn't believe it until you see it how small these tunnels actually are. First, they let us go down into a small hole and come back up about 3 m later. So small L couldn't fit through it. (no, wasn't the gut -- he got stopped a the behind...) After they let yuo crawl through 120 meters of tunnel. The only thing the guide said was if you have trouble breathing, don't do it. He failed to say if you have a fear of small spaces and/or pitch dark, bats and dirt and heat, do not do it. So most of the group descended - L was in front of me. Started walking like ducks - that is, until the tunnel got smaller and smaller. Couldn't see him but could hear that L was on his hands an knees. Then all of a sudden - WHACK! A bat hit L in the face and then headed straight for me! That was when we could see. Soon after, L disappeared and we were left in total darkness, didn't know where to go - this "short distance" seemed to go on forever and there was no way out! So we had to continue. You've heard of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel? Well we were so relieved to see it, I believe L kissed the ground when he got out! Needless to say, it was not a fun experience. Granted the soldiers were smaller and in far better shape than us - but how in the world did they survive down there?? Apparently a lot of them didn't as a lot of the tunnels caved in - but it saved so many of them as well. L and I both agreed we're glad we did it - but never again.
The saving grace after the nightmare was that we were able to displace our fear by firing weapons. There's a firing range at the end of the tour where you can pick your weapon -- from a handgun to an AK47 -- and shoot as many bullets as you want for $1 per bullet. We went for the daddy -- the AK -- needless to say the adrenaline rusheds right back into our bodies. L fired 7 bullets and even hit the target once. I fired 3 and never cam close. But in our defense, it was a lot harder than it looked!!!
As it also happened to be St. Patty's Day and to celebrate the fact that we survived the day, we decided to go to the only Irish pub in Saigon (at least that we knew of...) for some well-deserved and festive beers. Trekked across the city only to find out that we needed a ticket to get in, which we of course didn't have. Oh well, probably out of our budget anyway.
So, we headed back across town and ended up at the same corner restaurant, where lo and behold, some of the same crowd of the previous night had the same idea. They told us they heard of another Irish pub in town and asked us to join them. We were happy to -- only when we tried to explain to the taxi drivers we wanted to go to O'Briens pub in the Red ight District, it they just didn't get it. After a good 20 mins of trying many taxis, one of the guys, Patrick, went to an Internet Cafe, got the address, had it written down in Thai and off we went. We did indeed find O'Briens Pub, but it might as well have been Thai Pub. Not an Irish in sight, no Guinness draught, no green and orange flags! Oh well. We had our own celebration, and as the night moved on the place did get more crowded and they did play a few Irish folk songs for the occasion. We closed the place at 1am, go figure...
Next day we decided to have a day of rest - no tours, no museums, no culture. In fact, for the first time since we left, L and I parted ways or the day. He went to the waterpark with Patrick, Fred and Lottie. I stayed behind to catch up in some emails and to shop.
We met up again at 6, grabbed some dinner, then went to the corner bar yet again to meet up with the gang. Must be something in the air there (or the cheap beer) because minutes very quickly turned into hours and we stayed til 1! And for once we went home at the same time.