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Good Morning Vietnam! I'm a $6,000,000 man...

overcast 33 °C

Okay, so it's not really six million dollars, but we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday morning and hit up the first ATM we could find. When the exchange rate is a whopping 21,000 to 1, it doesn't get you much cash for 6,000,000 Vietnamese Dong. Nat has a friend from South Africa here on a work contract, so we grabbed a cab and headed to her house. She had mentioned something about hoping that the water level was low when we arrived so the taxi could actually drop us off at the front door. We weren't sure how to take that news, but after our flight from Cambodia showed us so much flooded devastation in the country side, we were a little weary of what we were in for. Luckily our timing was perfect and the cab had us at the front door just after noon with dry shoes and dry luggage. Last night we were treated to a roof top bbq at her house while we watched the sun go down and the water levels rise until the street was at least a foot deep, if not more.

This morning started slowly as the water level rose earlier than we did and it was easier to wait for it to subside then for us to swim. Nichola didn't have to work today and with her boyfriend, Bastiaan, in town, the four of us headed out to explore the city. We are staying in a suburb just outside the downtown area, that is heavily populated by French ex-pats, so the restaurants here are all top shelf and right up our alley. We headed into the city to a market that was a feast for all of the senses. First we walked through the meat market, then the fish market and then the vegetables. Everything was so fresh that a lot of the fish was still swimming. Next was the restaurant section that was simple stalls with a few stools each, it was chaos and it smelled amazing....except the couple of stalls selling the durian fruit. Durian fruit really should be outlawed, it smells worse than the dumpster behind the market (I checked). It is a prickly husked thing that looks like a spiny breadfruit with the worse smelling contents imaginable. Despite that smell, I tucked into a breakfast of clear noodle soup with pork belly and prawn...absolutely delicious. After, we wandered through the rest of the stalls of various stuff. It can't have been that good because I only remember a lot of t-shirts and tiny people grabbing at me to look at their wares.

Of course Vietnam has some sad history and we went to the War Remnants Museum after the market to take in a little bit of history. As a Canadian we don't study a lot in school about the Vietnam War, but the museum was a pretty grim reminder of how horrible human beings can be to each other. It is also interesting as I have read a little bit of the American version of the story and now to read a little of the Vietnamese side of the story how each government has their own version while millions of soldiers and civilians on both sides get caught in the middle.

The rain started to fall as the museum closed for lunch, so we explored some shops along the streets, It is very metropolitan with every shop you can imagine and probably ten more shops for each fancy one, knocking off the same stuff for a fraction of the price. Nichola and Bastiaan then took us to the top of the city for lunch. The menu was a wide variety of international cuisine and the 23rd floor rooftop view of the city made for a great backdrop to an amazing meal. To look across the city is great as you can really see how integrated the river is and how much green space they have here as well. We actually grabbed a water taxi back to our neighbourhood and relaxed a little in the late afternoon while the heat and humidity were peaking. We went back out for a little bit to grab dinner and fought the rising tides on our way home.

So far, Vietnam is great. Always good to be with friends and the food is great too. And, of course, it is good to be a $6,000,000 man!

Ps. If you send us anything on Facebook right now, we apologise for not responding. Our Ipad app lets us read what you write, but we can't reply through that and we can't log on to the regular site as it is blocked by the government here...something about not being so fond of social networking...

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Posted by colincampbell 08:36 Archived in Vietnam

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Things are looking up for you after India. I read up on Cambodia and was enlightened more by your pics and prose. It does seem a gentile place with a rich history.
Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City are becoming a "to do" item on lots of folks agendas. I'm sure your explorations will produce many more pics...looking forward to the beach and river shots.
The food also sounds exciting...not a lot of fat, grease and fried stuff, the soups and combos thereof at all times of the day are different and I don't feel bad now about opening up a pack of Top Ramen for breakfast!
Keep it coming, thanks for sharing and enjoy ! Den

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by Jackie

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