We bid farewell to Cambodia after an excellent 9 days there. Again we were public bussing it, although there was the bonus of having the same bus direct from Phnom Penh to Saigon. This is preferable to getting dropped off at the border, wandering around aimlessly for a while and then hoping that the connecting coach will be waiting in Vietnam. As an added bonus, UK passport holders can now travel to Vietnam visa-free for up to 15 days. In 2014 this privilege cost £50. The Cambodia/Vietnam border crossing had an incredible number of casino hotel resorts. There must have been at least ten, although there’s still got some way to go before it becomes the new Las Vegas or Macau!
For almost the entire distance between the Cambodian border and into Saigon are flags attached to lampposts. They alternate between the Vietnam national flag (a yellow star on a red background, surely in the world’s top 5 flags) and a yellow sickle and hammer on a red background, synonymous with the old Soviet Union. Whoever manufactures the flags must be raking it in.
I’m aware that nowadays the capital of the former state of South Vietnam is known as Ho Chi Minh City. This is the city’s official name following the fall of Saigon in 1975. However somewhat akin to the Derry/Londonderry issue, most of the locals still refer to their city as Saigon, so that’s what I tend to call the place.
Although I’ve been to Saigon before I’d kind of forgotten how intense and chaotic it is. Bangkok was extremely busy yet fairly well organised. Phnom Penh could also be described as a high-octane sort of place, yet Saigon’s energy seems to be in another league. The aforementioned cities certainly have traffic issues but Saigon again raises the bar both in terms of volume and chaos. This afternoon I saw a spiral staircase being transported on the back of a bike. I wouldn’t have believed it ether but there is attached photographic evidence below! Adherence to traffic signals also appears to be non-mandatory around here. Any available shortcut against the traffic or along a pavement will be likely taken!
Tonight’s hotel was in an excellent location, directly on Pham Ngu Lao Street, the main tourist nightlife area in Saigon. When I say excellent location, it’s great for those looking for a convenient hotel to roll back into following a night out. However it may not be ideal for anyone seeking a bit of peace and quiet. After a pleasant evening out on the last night of the tour, the area was very much still rocking at 1am. Judging by the noise audible from the bedroom, the fun and games went on for a good while longer.