EXPLORE! Cycle Saigon to Hanoi. Day 1.We met the tour leader and the rest of the 12 strong group in the lobby of the Huong Sen Hotel in Saigon.
The tour leader introduced himself as Tran Van Hoan, he then explained the way names work in Vietnam and advised us to call him Hoan ( sounding like Quan). we then had to introduce our selves. There were 12 of us, 3 couples from the UK, 4 men, three from the UK and one from the USA, 2 ladies one from the UK and one from Canada. A mixed group, as some people had only just arrived there was an optional walking tour of the city, not many did this as most of the group had jet lag, but the group was told that we were to meet in the Lobby at 19.00 for dinner, Hoan had booked this.
Hoan then took quite a long time to tell us not to complain at the end of the tour that we did not get chance to take photos or stop at locations; I felt there had been complaints in the past regarding this issue. The greeting also consisted of asking us to contribute to a 'kitty' of $45 each for tips for bellboys / porters etc. Also to contribute to money for water and fruit I think that was another $15. It was odd being aske to tip up front and a few of the group did question this. I didn't have US$$ so paid in UK ££.
Saigon central is quite an easy place to walk around, despite the mad traffic. Crossing the road ?? If you wait for the traffic to stop you will wait forever as it doesn't, you just walk into it! Just step into the traffic and let it avoid you, it took some doing but we did get the hang of it. We walked to the War Remnants Museum, to see among other things weapons of War including Guillotine that was used until recently!! As history is always told from the side of the victor, this was our first exposure to what I later called ' the daily propaganda', this Museum was overflowing with it, war is horrendous and this is a reminder of just how destructive it can be.
|War Remnants Museum, Saigon.|
|War Remnants Museum, Saigon|
Later that evening the group met up and Hoan took us to a restaurant located in The Palace Hotel, the food was good but expensive, the cocktail a 'Saigon Martini' was one of the best I have ever had. But the restaurant lacked the atmosphere we had experienced on the food tour the night before, really in this hotel I could have been in any city in the world.