Breakfast at 7:30am on the deck of the Mekong Eyes, the endless Mekong delta stretching in front and behind us, made for a very special start to the day. Muffins, toast, and omelette with fruit to finish. Wonderful. What a way to wake up. All too soon, we had to pack and vacate our cabins. We got a sampan to take us around a lively, colourful floating market, where hundreds of boats were gathered selling fruits, corn, drinks. Some boats were transporting huge logs slung over the front of the boat in the water, which required a boy to keep running from side to side of the log holding a rope to stop the log sliding down the side of the boat. It looked like a new extreme sport to me, Mekong log-surfing. As well as this, there were numerous boats transporting bricks from the brick kilns up the river. The whole thing was very much for locals, and has no doubt been very much in existence for hundreds of years. This was, thankfully, not a tourist trap. We were not overwhelmed by people trying to sell us things. In fact, we were largely ignored as the locals went about their daily business. Vero bought an ice coffee with less sugar, and I bought a regular one which tasted like condensed milk with a hint of coffee instead of the other way round. We headed down a small channel to a place to see how rice noodles are made, and it made for an interesting diversion. After this, we headed back to Saigon, and to District 1, to the infamous Pham Ngu Lao Street backpacker area.
It was chaotic, to say the least. A woman who had an ‘official tourist helper’ badge on, took me to a hotel I asked about – something cheap and cheerful. She then asked me for money for doing so. Brilliant. I fell straight into the trap. I didn’t have any loose Dong about my person to give her. She screamed in my face, called me all the names under the sun, then walked off to find another victim. It left me a little shaken, and I hoped she wouldn’t be waiting outside the hotel late at night for me. This was the kind of person I met a lot on my last trip to Vietnam, but it was a surprise as this kind of person doesn’t exist, or at least doesn’t outwardly show their disdain for foreigners, when you are out of the budget backpacker circles. Welcome to backpacker life in Saigon.
We found a clean looking hotel with no windows down this little alley that seemed bursting with local life. Small shops everywhere, people in the streets, women cooking from big pots in the road, chickens running amok, motorbikes….authentic enough. The room was windowless, which was probably a good thing, and it was fine for a night. We went out that evening to a few bars. In one bar we were sat looking up at a skyscraper on the other side of the road, and saw what looked to be disco lights from the top of the building. Could there be a cool rooftop bar here? 15 minutes later we were in it. It was a brilliant bar, full of the beautiful people. The outdoor area had a circular bar and looked over the city. It was intoxicating at street level, so this made for a nice change. It was a cool spot.
We wandered back around the hotel area, and had a sheesha and beer outside the popular Buffalo Bar. It was a lot of fun sat here people watching. So much life out there on the streets….a million times more interesting than soulless Singapore. Then it was time for bed – we had to catch the boat to Vung Tao in the morning for some beach time.