After feeling very relaxed from a week on the beach we took leave of our sense and headed to Saigon (or Ho Chi Min - depending on who you speak to) to sample some of the delights of the southern Vietnamese capital.
Within minutes of arriving we knew we loved it. Saigon bombards all your senses at once (like any respectable Asian city should) - there are millions of mopeds and people and the heat and noise are almost overwhelming but we loved it. After stocking up on pirate CD's (30p per album!! and Mr P STILL tried to barter!) we headed out to the Cu Chi Tunnels about 50 k outside Saigon. The tunnels were built by the Vietcong during the war. They are a network of underground tunnels and rooms that were used as the headquarters and living quarters for the VC whilst fighting the Americans. The yanks had no idea the VC were living underground and even went so far as to build one of their major camps over an entrance to one of the VC tunnels - poor blokes couldn't figure out how the VC got in their camp each night and reeked havoc!
"Mr P (being of Asian build, Not !) squeezed his bulky frame down a tunnel to escape the invading Japanese tourists - he scrabbled around underground for a good 5-10minutes and then surfaced with very wobbly legs - the cramp stayed with him for nearly two days! Another big attraction at the tunnels is the firing range were for only a dollar a bullet you too can behave like a red neck and fire on of your favorite machine guns. On offer - an AK47, M16, M30 or Rambo stylie M60. Working on the principle that these where very old guns and the other tourists who were giddily thrusting machine guns had absolutely no training or common sense - The perrys decided not to chance their luck on the firing range. Besides $1 with an M60 doesn't go very far and to do it properly you'd most probably be parting with $100 before you knew it.
We spent some time visiting a couple of the war museums which were quite shocking but very informative. We also went to the Reunification palace which used to be the HQ for South Vietnam government. It has been left exactly as it was the day the communists drove their tanks up the drive and declared the palace theirs. Although things are a lot more relaxed there now Mr P still managed to risk arrest by sneaking a seat behind the desk of the general for a quick photo opportunity! (see piccies)
Next we headed out on a Mekong River delta tour - which was nice but not the greatest thing in the world. We visited floating markets where the people selling from boats advertise their wares by sticking them aloft on a pole - so as you float by you see pineapples, yams, oranges etc on sticks to guide you to the right boat.
So after a few days in Saigon we jumped on the bus and headed out to the Cambodian border for what turned out to be the worst border crossing ever. We arrived at the border at about 11am and then spent 3 hours waiting (in the baking sun) to get our passports stamped to exit Vietnam. In true Vietnamese style all the locals were processed with extreme efficiency (and fans) but once they were done the fans were switched off and the work rate dropped to one passport per half hour! It turns out the locals know who to deal with the immigration officers and simply slip a dollar into their passports when they hand them in - no doubt the delay with our passports was due to the frantic hunt for dollars concealed somewhere within the pages. So we were delighted to find that once across the border our Cambodian bus had already broken down before we even set off! With a two hour wait looming we jumped into an alternative minibus which should have had about 6 people comfortably but ended up with 12 very uncomfortable foreigners crammed in.