Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saigon and Shenanigans

Vietnam 1

Vietnam has been a whirlwind of actives, places, and experiences. Hence the lack of posting, plus I've been sick with a cold.

I was quite sad to leave Cambodia, having enjoyed the country, culture, history, and people immensely. I had also heard a very varying report of Vietnam from fellow travelers, so I entered the country with a good amount of trepidation and low expectations. Not to mention the tour group was losing a few people, gaining a couple new people, and a new tour leader. To make matters worse, my first afternoon in Vietnam left something to be desired. It started with the bus breaking down at our lunch stop near the Cambodia-Vietnam border. They got the bus going, but it had to be in motion, so we had to literally hop on a moving bus! Next the Vietnamese immigration official refused to stamp my passport in my desired spot. Which means I had to change plane tickets (that I had of course just purchased that morning) to stay longer in Bangkok to get more pages sewn into my passport. I may have yelled at this immigration official and the guys at the following checkpoint. Not the greatest move, I admit, but can you blame me? If he had just listened to me...anyways, I decided to go for a run to vent my frustration when we arrived in Saigon. Upon arriving at the park it immediately started pouring, determined I continued. While slogging through the downpour I had an attempted scam! Vietnam is great! Beyond my first afternoon Vietnam has exceed every expectation immensely and has been wonderful so far.
Saigon is an interesting busy city, typical in many ways with tall building and tons of traffic. Spent a day sight seeing, hitting the major sites like the Reunification Palace and a museum on the American War. I will admit to leaving the museum feeling a bit of an asshole for being an American, especially with the exhibit on Agent Orange. It's interesting seeing a war from the other side, particularly one that occurred more recently in history. Of course a museum in Vietnam is going to paint a certain picture of The war and Americans, but it gave me a better understanding of why countries/people have the opinion of Americans that some perceive of us. I was also surprised to learn how Agent Orange is still effecting people, Americans and Vietnamese alike, 40 years later.
While in Saigon I also indulged in getting my hair shampooed and blow dried with a head massage, all for $7! Oh my word! We need this in the states. Seriously, if they started doing this I would get it weekly. They scrub your hair while you lie flat on a plush bed with your head fully supported. None of the awkward 45 degree angel that I usually get when I get my hair rinsed at home in the salons. During the shampooing I had the usual random thoughts zipping through my head, but the moment she started massaging my scalp it was like the lights went off, my body went limp, and I started drooling, it was that good! At one point she pressed on my anterior fontanel for about a minute and I so wanted to say is my soft spot bulging? Do I need to be tapped?:) (Sorry, little medical humor for my nursing buddies!) Afterward I couldn't stop touching my hair to a point where I almost got hit by a motorbike! Ops! Gotta pay attention!
After my amazing massage I joined the group for a few pre-train cocktails. I may have gotten a wee bit tipsy, along with several others, which led to an interesting train ride. Thank goodness for Charlie, our new tour leader, or we never would have made it! It only took us about 10 minutes after boarding to tick off the family next to our group and the other Intrepid group in the carriage! Score one for us! The train conductors loved us as well, running through the corridors laughing. We were the picture of civilized and classy people. About 10 of us crammed into one carriage with red wine and Johnny and coke poured into stolen glasses from the hotel, complete with pate and crackers. Then I whipped out my mini speaker for some tunes and chocolate biscuits. Like I said, the height of classy and civilized! if it wasn't for the hanging off the bar above the doorways and the dancing in the corridors, I think we could have pulled it off.

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