rod mclaughlin

Vung Tau (22 apr 18)

My South Vietnam trip is coming to an end. It was great, but I still believe what I did when I was fifteen - North Vietnam is better.

I rode up to the Cu Chi tunnels, where the Viet Cong (don't call them that) had their underground headquarters. It was amazing - the NLF obviously learned from the Japanese experience in world war two. Make your tunnels so long and complicated they can't get you out with flamethrowers, poison gas and molten tar. When the Americans tried to go in, they fell into fiendish traps, with bamboo spikes at the bottom, and in one version, on display in the museum, you fall through a nest of spikes onto the ones at the bottom, and the ones you fell through are now pointing downwards, so you can't go up. It's a nasty business, war. 

On the way there, I stopped at a fiveway crossroads with no-one around, leaned my bike against the wall of an unoccupied cafe, and crossed the road to buy an orange juice. This took about three minutes. When I got back to my bike, my phone was missing - it had been attached to the handlebars for navigation. A guy used charades to indicate that he'd seen men on a motorbike ride up and snatch my phone. It's shocking how dependent I'd become on it. I was still able to find the tunnels, as they are signposted. It's a worthwhile trip, well guided, and you get some idea of what the tunnels were like to live in and fight from. But I wouldn't recommend the shooting range - it is far too expensive.

After the Cu Chi tunnels, I was lost, as I'd become completely dependent on Google Maps. The sun went down quickly, as it has a habit of doing in the tropics, and I was out on the highway in the dark. I couldn't find a decent hotel, though there is one in the Cu Chi Tunnels national park, which I should have stayed at. In the end, someone from a little cafe took me to a backwater Nha Nghi which was the first place I've stayed with no wifi since remote areas of northern nam. However nearby was a cafe with great pho.

I rode back to Saigon, and stayed in the New Saigon inn in the backpacker area. I decided to get a boat to Vũng Tàu, which is where I'm located at at this time.

I must mention Gartenstadt restaurant, which has Vietnamese waitresses in German waitress outfits. That's not why I went in - it was for food and beer, and I wasn't disappointed. I'll go back there when I get back. I went there while waiting for the boat to Vũng Tàu. It's a jetfoil, so quite fast, and the views of the end of the Saigon river are something.

Because I don't have a phone, I have to stop and ask directions to get around Vũng Tàu. Two women in a liquor store could speak English, but were clueless how to use Google maps on their iPad. Just down the road, I found a guy in a phone store, and he showed my where my hotel was - it was 400m in a straight line. How did we get around before phones?

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