VIETNAM

Vietnam was all right.  It had good food and natural beauty but with a few exceptions I found it too touristy and somewhat unfriendly.  The ubiquitous foreigner prices got annoying quickly and I thought many hotels and such were way overpriced.  I traveled by bus from Saigon to Hanoi over 3 weeks.  I would have liked Vietnam much more if I had just done the Saigon area and then flown up to Hanoi to see it.  Saigon was a fun, bustling, urban area while Hanoi was full of old world charm and winding alleyways.  The center of the country had a few pluses, Marble Mountain and Dalat for example, but on the whole was just not worth the long travel times and hassles involved.



 

Dalat
Dalat is a former French hill station and is still a very French place.  Now the honeymoon capital of Vietnam, the main street is full of coffee and pastry shops and many restaurants feature good French food at very un-French prices.  Try the frog legs.  It is also much cooler then the rest of the south since it is up in the hills.  Rent a motorcycle and drive around its almost traffic free environs.

Dalat

The Vietnamese seem to have a penchant for the pseudo western.  This waterfall had giant fiberglass animals and mushrooms (like the one I'm leaning on) in the style of Disney etc. and ponies in wild west getup where one could dress like a cowboy and have ones picture taken with the pony.  While mysterious to my fellow westerners, the Vietnamese tourists appeared very enthusiastic.

Vietnamese children
These kids were playing around the Buddha statue and were very interested in how a camera works.  My camera has a strong zoom so I let them look through it and zoom in on each other.  This was apparently very cool and had to be repeated several times. 

Scenery from Cham temples

Buddha
It's hard to tell from this angle but this Buddha statue is HUGE!  If you look very closely at the base of it, near the center, you may see a small, light colored dot.  That dot is a person.  Inside the Budda is a large room with an alter.

Behind Buddha statue
This might give better prospective on the size of the Buddha. This is me at the back of the statue near the door, in front of a warrior relief.  The door beside me is about half the height of just the base (as seen in the photo to the left).  In case you're wondering why I'm barefoot, its because I just stepped out of the temple inside where of course, one cannot wear shoes.

Saigon temple inside
Saigon is an easy city to bike around as it is flat, well, easy if you can deal with the gazillion motorbikes swarming around you randomly, and there are lots of pretty little temples to explore.

Saigon temple outside

Eating at a market in Saigon
The food here was great.  If you want to try market eating in Saigon, I highly recommend not visiting the toilets while at the market and definitely don't do it before you eat.

On the roof of Reunification Palace, Saigon
The "Palace" is a fascinating piece of propaganda.  Its not anti-American in an insulting way but in more of a hilarious way.  The coolest part is going into the secret passages and bunkers under the large building.

At the Cu Chi tunnels
My mother has this picture hanging in her office; I can't count the number of times someone has stared at it trying to figure out
how she has a kid old enough to have been in Vietnam.  I guess they don't notice the weeds growing around its tracks.