Xin chào (hello), Vietnam

February 5, 2018, we are waiting in Saigon for our sleep bus to take us to Da Lat. The bus leaves at 21HR and arrives in Da Lat at 6 AM.

We arrived in Saigon early in the morning on January 30th. The driver of the hotel was waiting for us and we were immediately taken in the “hustle and bustle” of the city. About 10 million people live in Saigon alone! Saigon was actually renamed to Ho Chi Minh City in 1976 after the reunification of North and South Vietnam, but the center retained its old name.

The motorcycle is everywhere in Saigon.

Crossing the street without traffic lights is a challenge for a pedestrian but after a couple ofdays we got used to it. You just have to decide when to go and continue walking, without stopping or turning back as this will only confuse the motorcyclists.They anticipate where you are going and drive around you. The only time I almost got hit by a motor cycle was when I did a step backwards. It is fun but also scary to see the constant flow of motorcycles, buses and trucks not to mention the constant noise of blowing horns. We have not seen any traffic aggression or any accident, although Vietnam has a high number of traffic deaths each year, in 2011 about 15000!

We visited the Jade Emperor Pagoda. There were a lot of worshippers because there was a full moon that night.
The Jade Emperor Pagoda is a Taoist temple built by the Chinese in 1909.
About 45% of the Vietnamese practice Vietnamese folk religion which is a combination of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

Most of the Vietnamese in Saigon live during the day out on the sidewalk. The 6 days we were here we did not see a drop of rain. We ate in all kind of restaurants from local to tourist and were never disappointed or did not get sick. Life for a tourist is extremely cheap. We calculated that 15 EUR was a sufficient daily food budget for the two of us.

The street view right in front of our hotel. Fruits and juices are very delicious.
We tried a lot of street food, most of it really good !
Life on the sidewalk.
About 7,5 million motorcycles are registered in Saigon alone.
It is incredible what and how much they manage to transport on their scooters in the chaotic traffic. We saw refridgerators, ladders, live pigs, and much more…
Ho Chi Minh statue in front of the Hotel de Ville in Saigon which was built between 1902 and 1908. It now houses the People’s Committee. Ho Chi Minh was president of Vietnam from 1945 to his death in 1969. He was a key figure in the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The Fine Arts museum is housed in a beautiful mansion built in 1929 by a wealthy Chinese.
The Vietnam war against the US is never far away. The war started in November 1955 till April 1975!
Fun to be the tourist 🙂
After the new tooth, a 2,5EUR haircut in the streets of Saigon.
In the Mekong Delta we observed the process of making rice paper, used for the delicious spring rolls, amongst plenty of other food stuff.
Ingredients of the food rice paper, called Bahn Trang, are rice flour, tapioca flour, salt and water.
Getting the paper ready to dry.
Drying rice paper outside in the sun.
Life on the Mekong River. We already visited the Mekong in 2014 more extensively so this was a quick re-visit.
A Cao Dai temple at Tay Ninh, 2 hours drive from Saigon. It was built in 1927
The Cao Dai religion is an indigenous religion and a mixture of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. They have an estimated 2 million followers in Vietnam.
Practitioners wear white as a symbol of purity.
We went to the 12 AM mass which was impressive. Officials up front are grouped in 3 branches identified by the color of their robes. The Confucian in red, Buddhist in yellow and Taoist in Blue. The practitioners are in white.
The park near the temple was crowded with rhesus monkeys looking for a piece of fruit, here a coconut shell.
We did see the “supermoon”, although not as big as expected…You can already see a little bit of the light coming back on the right side.
Nightlife in Saigon. The Vietnamese love lots of colored lights.

As I write this we are at the pool of our Hoi An Hotel, February 17. We have only had one morning of rain in Vietnam during our motor cycling trip (5 days) from Da Lat to Hoi An. More to come in our next blog