The final leg of the Reunification Railway and the terminus is Ho Chi Minh City. The journey started in spectacularly dodgy style. I get to Nha Trang railway station nice and early and I go over to the desk and the woman on the desk checks my ticket and says for me to wait in the seats until the train comes – usual story.
I have a chat to the guy next to me who is Vietnamese lives in Philadelphia, I guess this is something that would happen a lot, I know where I live there is a large population of Vietnamese now in the second generation. Anyway a fair bit before the train is due the woman from the desk says I should go out on the platform – no one else does though, she gets me a chair to sit on and the realization dawns on me she doesn’t work for the railway.
Anyway she’s seen that I’ve got an extra ticket and she wants it. “no no no no no”. “it’s my friends”..: Where’s your friend” He’s coming”.
So then she says when she comes back she wants some money.. so anyway I gave her some fuck off money and she was gone. I get on the train and the conductor had sold the spare seat to a Vietnamese woman in 15 minutes flat – I should have sold it myself in the train station.
So at about 6 in the morning I’ve arrived at Ho Chi Minh City after not much sleep at all.
Now I have to disclose here I didn’t like Ho Chi Minh City very much at all.
Here are some of the reasons:
1. The noise of the traffic is incessant, people continually beeping their horn. Even if they were the only ones on the road.
2. Saigon is noticeably more expensive than anywhere else in Vietnam and its not better.
3. When you walk around, it is on the edge of being dangerous. Crossing the road you need nerves of steel and on the footpath you occasionally need to dodge a motorbike or two.
4. A 2 inch cockroach ran across our table at a Yakatori restaurant we went to in the Japanese area – District 1.
5. Not being able to walk 50 metres without some guy trying to sell you sunglasses.
6. You get to Vung Tau from Saigon to escape the heat and Vung Tau is a very ordinary place.
7. The heat made it difficult to walk around that much.
So other than all that Saigon was really good. One thing that we did right was stay in the Japanese area (District 1) this was full of good restaurants and nightlife.
The highlight for me was having having a drink at the Rex Hotel because even though the bar would be nothing like it was 40 years ago you could feel the history being there.
Another good find was Pho 64 which was reasonable Pho but you could get it for lunch and in most other places Pho is breakfast only dish.
So it was with much reluctance I got the taxi back out to the airport for my flight home and reflecting back I know I will be returning to Vietnam sometime soon.