They're baaack. The scooters. And they've multiplied.
Our chill time along the water in Ha Long Bay and Danang came to an abrupt end when we returned to Vietnam city life in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Turns out if you "liberate" a country, you get a city named after you.
4 million scooters line the streets, sidewalks and driveways in Ho Chi Minh. They actually have a designated "green team" to help people walk across the street, though I can't say I ever saw anyone from there.
There are no stop signs in Ho Chi Minh, but rather traffic lights that count down the time you have to formulate a plan on how to get across the street. They are in the process of building a subway system, but it's going to be a while.
Ho Chi Minh's premier market, while indoors, put all others to shame. The Binh Tay Market is in Chinatown, or Cholon, and is a 2 story behemoth of shops selling spices, produce, sweets, pots, pans, silk, dresses and so much more.
It's not exactly tourist friendly as you won't hear much English spoken and you will be jostled through the narrow passageways, and possibly run over by delivery carts, but that's half the fun.
Other spots to visit while in Ho Chi Minh are the Opera House, Central Post Office and Cathedral, but if you were as sick as I was at this point, I'd say rest up for the must-see Cu Chi Tunnels.
Cuchi is northwest of the city and contains an extensive network of over 155 miles of underground tunnels. Did you hear me? 155 miles...underground. The Viet Cong used these tunnels to hide and communicate during combat, while fighting the French and then, well you know who, us.
The tunnels could fit 10-12,000 people, but it usually had about 2,000 for 1-2 weeks at a time. Entrances were hidden and camouflaged with traps around every corner, making it a fairly secure structure, but making it so is not without its problems. It's definitely not a place for the claustrophobic as the passageways were extremely narrow and often you couldn't stand up straight in them.
We received an overview from a former VC guerilla who spent time in the tunnels, which seemed a wee bit awkward, but he spoke freely with an interpreter talking about life there. They believe that they were largely successful with the underground offensive, which allowed them to hide out, transport necessary materials and even treat patients in their makeshift hospital. Obviously that success was a bit relative and the tunnels couldn't hold up to the chemicals and bombs the US started dropping. We were told that 4.8 million people are still affected by agent orange.
On that somber note, our time was finished in Vietnam. Next stop: Cambodia.