Vietnam, first impressions

Hi all, well my border crossing at Moc Bai was easy.. if not long winded (took about an hour and a half just to get stamped out in Cambodia and back in at Vietnam) - so I didn't end up in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City till about 4 in the afternoon (left Phnom Penh at about 7:30am).

First Impressions

First impressions of Vietnam are... well, great!  I wasn't really knowing what to expect.. but so far it seems like a fusion of everything I've seen in asia so far, but with a personality all of it's own.

There's a strong chinese influence, a bit of the pushy cambodian spirit for tourism and definitely a fading french colonial (like Laos) look to alot of the buildings - and so far the people themselves are lovely, the foods not too pricey and the digs are nice - I've set myself up in a swish $8/night room which has air-con, TV with cable, fridge, warm shower.. nice bed.. all the mod cons - I even indulged in watching TV in bed this morning (they had a 2 hour animated "star wars - the clone wars" on, it was tolerable... probably because I've had TV in so long).

Poverty seems less "in your face" here then anywhere else I've been except maybe Thailand, the streets are all very clean and though many still wear traditional clothes, carry baskets on their heads and ride bicycles there is a definite abundance of technology in any peoples hands - obviously this is a bustling city, with me in the heart of it (well the stomach probably) - so my first impressions are really of HCMC as opposed to Vietnam, but I feel strangely at home here - maybe it's just because it reminds me a little of China (Which has been my favourite country so far) - but I really don't feel any culture shock - I definitely think I'll enjoy my last 3 or so weeks of travel here, and my stomach is back on form so that will hopefully include loads of local cuisine :)

Rain and art museums

Well today I decided to go and check out the art museum... it was pretty cool - an interesting mix of war related art, with uncle Ho featuring in many aspects (I love his goatee)... ancient artifacts from the last 1800 years and some pretty cool pieces of porcelain, bronze work.. oh and some modern'ish artwork, of umm... varying qualities, but it was insightful to see how various techiques and styles have been adopted and changed/chanelled into truely vietnamese works.

The museum is set in a old french colonial building with stained glass windows, dusty tiled floors and poor lighting... but it's truely gorgeous it's own quaint way - I probably spent as much time looking at the bulding itself as the exhibits... which was enhanced by the amazing electrical storm taking place outside - mucho goodness - then again I'm always happy when it rains.

Fruit vendors

Oh.. and early this morning I bought some fruit (granny smith apples from NZ, and oranges from California.. apparently) - I'm not sure quite how, but the lady at the market somehow managed to sell me almost entirely bad fruit... but I would've sworn as I watched her pick them that they looked great, I'd even inspected them earlier.. which leads me to believe I was actually attacked by some harpy who hexed me into buying her foul and fetid produce... I'll have to be on my guard next time - maybe I should've taken a 20?

Oh and tomorrow I start my tour of Vietnam with intrepid, so that should be interesting - hopefully the group is as good as It was in China.

Written on May 21, 2005