Ho chi minh, december 24 2009.
Early in the morning we went out to buy some breakfast and found a money changer. We went into a minimart where we bought 2 croissant cheese, 2 packed of cold sandwiches, 2 bottle of mineral waters, and a prepaid sim card. I withdrew another 100,000 dong from ANZ ATM that available in that store, but got shocked with the information of my balance: 400,000 VND only??? Mussa said it didn’t make any sense and i didn’t have to worry about it. It gotta be an absolute mistake. So we had to pay 120,000 somtehing for our shopping, but our dong was not enough. We thought if we pay with our $100, she (the shop keeper) was going to gave us change at least $50 with the rest in Dongs. But she was not, and that made us crazily panic. We omitted the sandwiches, so we only had to pay 100,000 dong. When she wanted to return our money, she fold that Benjamin Franklin. We got panic again! We said, “No…no, don’t fold it.” She just didn’t care. I said, “just give it to us now, don’t fold it please!”
Finally that weir girl give us back our $100. Then we went back to our hotel at 7.50 am, 5 mnts late. Then the land lady guided us and another guest ( a couple, didn’t know where from), to the travel agent to begin our HALF DAY CU CHI TUNNEL TOUR. It costed us $5 each person and we paid it later together with the hotel.
It was a minivan, was able to contained about 10 persons. Most of the tourist were white people. Some from aussie, new zealand, germany and i didn’t know where else they’re from. The only asian were mussa and i, the philipino couple (who stayed in the same hotel with us) and a korean guy. The tour guide was a friendly man (his name was Long) with unfortunately not a very accelent english. It was so hard to understand what he was talking about. It consumed me alot of energy just to comprehend that he was explaining the history of ho chi minh city and vietnam in general. He said “viet nam” actually means “people who live in southern of china.” Their decendant came from 3 countries. On the nothern part came from China, speak cantonees. The middle part came from Cambodia. And the southern part came from Indonesia. That’s why they were commonly called “indochina people”. Their language were originally Cantonees and write in Chinese until the coming of a Preacher from France who tought them the new alphabet.
There was a funny moment after he asked us where we were from. He asked, “what is your religion?”. I said, “Islam.” “So you are Muslim?” he asked again. We answered, “Yes.” Then he asked, “Do you marry?”. We were suprised for a moment. In a second in my mind i thought maybe he thought we were just like nuns. Then i answered, “of course we do. Why do think so? Why did you think we don’t get married?” He said, “I didn’t know. That’s why i asked.”
Before arriving at Cu chi tunnel, we arrived at a craft wrokshop. There they made many craft works from eggshells. But as i had guessed,the prices were so expensive. We didn’t buy anything, taking pics were enough.
The entrance ticket for Cu chi tunnel was 75,000 dong per person. The area was a kind of bush area with some pathways. A big tunnel was made as an entrance. The length was app.100 meters. Then we enter the area. We actually saw almost nothing but plants on the ground. Well, there were some huts used as exhibition places, but i guessed they’re not the main attraction. Beginning our journey we were gathered in a quite big hut. There were rows of chairs. And at the front there’s an LCD TV with Mr. Ho chi Minh and vietnam flag as background. They showed us a film of the history of Cu Chi Tunnel, that the area was the witness of the war between vietnam soildiers and american. They dug tunnels under the ground as secret ways to flee from the US. The tunnels were miles and miles away that it ended up at Mekong river and also Cambodia.
The tunnel was actually so small that it fit only 1 person to half-crawl to move in one way (with no way back). We experienced the 100 meter tunnel. It was so small, dark, quite claustrophobic, and also hot. There’re exits in every 20 meters. But mussa and i could make it until 100th.
The tour ended at around 3 pm. We were dropped on a street that led us to the war museum. But mussa and i got lost in the way, even though we got the map, but the area was very tricky. We did find the museum finally but we decided to go back to the hotel instead. On our way, we stopped by the Ben Than market. We ended buying some souvenirs.
The bargaining in Ben Than market was just the same way as bargaining in jakarta. You have to bargain until 30% of the 1st price offered. And the trick was don’t show them that you REALLY need the thing. Just leave when they don’t take the deal, they will call you back at the end. Well, that’s if you bargain to the right price. If you don’t, they’ll just let you go. But you don’t need to worry, there’re still lots of stores in there. And don’t bargain the price to a non-logical price or you’ll get hushed by the shop keeper with dusty.
Ben than market had almost everything you looked for and they’re in cheap price. They had fresh vegies, fruits, ready eat foods and drinks, pickles,snacks, shoes, dresses, souvenirs, and many more.
Christmas eve in Ho Chi Minh City was so merry. There’re lots of beautiful decorations along the streets. Even though most of the people were Buddhist, they seemed to have it as a national celebration as well. The later the more people on the street. Olds and youngs. On foot or by motorbikes. The street were packed. When i said packed, it was in literary meaning.
Food was our biggest problem. Since we don’t eat pork (and it seemed that all their food contain pork) and could not eat non-halal chicken, we had to eat only at Halal restaurants. On our way in searching a Halal restaurant, we found a mosque and we asked someone there about the nearest halal restaurant. The man was so kind. From the way he spoke, it seemed that he originally came from Malay but had already lived in vietnam for a very long time. We showed him our halal restaurant lists that we got from the internet. Then he told us which restaurant was REAL halal and which is NOT.
Learning from the previous night, we put away curry from our menu. (We stopped at Mumtaz Restaurant. It’s a Indian). We ordered soups and roti prata. It was quite good dinner. The waitress spoke a quite good english and that helped us very much. We spent only around 70,000 dong, and the water was for free.