Asia | South East Asia | Vietnam – Week One – From one big city to a couple of others
Well it’s only been a week and already it feels like we left London a lifetime ago.
Hong Kong was hectic to say the least. Day one was spent trying to get our bearings. I was either being stupid, or jet lagged, but couldn’t get to grips with the layout. To combat it we took the ferry to Hong Kong Island and went up the 100-year-old cable car to Victoria Peek. Ascending the 500 metres it looked like all the buildings were on a slant, of course they weren’t, we were just climbing at practically a 90-degree angle. The view from the top was quite spectacular. Skyscrapers, lined like dominos, lay below us. Huge villa’s, homes to the rich, dotted the hillside, and across the water, through the haze, you could just about make out Kowloon, the area we were staying. The only down side was you had to share your experience with hundreds of Chinese tourists, all fighting for the prime photo spot. Although touristy, I was glad we did it as it helped put Hong Kong into perspective. Finding our way round was far easier as the guidebook now made sense.
Day two we literally shop till we dropped. Twelve hours were spent trawling shops and markets for cameras, gadgets and trainers. Dehydrated and hungry we realised wed got a bit out of control. After all its not normal behaviour to find yourself running from shop to shop at ten at night to find those rare pair of size six Jack Purcell’s! We never did find them. Thank god we didn’t start shopping for clothes; I don’t think we would’ve made the flight to Vietnam otherwise. I enjoyed Hong Kong, and would definitely go back, but was pleased to leave as it felt like we were on a weekend shopping trip.
Descending in the aeroplane to Saigon couldnt have been more of a contrast. The city appeared flat, and the buildings looked ram shackled and small. Its strange because even though its nearly ten years since I was last in Asia the moment we left the airport I instantly felt at home. The tropical heat, combined with the exhaust fumes and sound of horns awoke senses that hadnt been stirred in a while, and I liked it.
Saigons roads are a mass of bicycles, mopeds and cars heading in all directions. The air pollution is dreadful; I dont think MOT’s exist here. Ladies drive round with handkerchief style masks covering their faces and conical straw hats hiding their heads, leaving only tiny slits for their eyes. I’m surprised they can see where theyre driving. And if you thought being a passenger sounds hair-raising, being a pedestrian is definitely not for the faint hearted. It’s an art form in itself, the trick of it being, go against all your instincts and keep moving, stop and youll cause an accident. Pavements, where there are any, are either potholed or crowded with mopeds and food carts. Shops, in typical Asian fashion, are clustered together according to the goods they sell, or services they provide. Flowers, fruits, clothing, electronics, restaurants and mechanics all vie for business. Its a wonder they make any money, as competition is high.
We didnt do any tourist sight seeing, instead we sat at roadside cafés, eating noodle soup for 50p, watching the world go by. It really is amazing what you see! On a roundabout, in the middle of busy junction, an enterprising local sat with a compressor pumping up tyres. Women fed toddlers whilst walking home. Friends squatted for a chat on the pavement. Families overloaded mopeds with what seemed like everything but the kitchen sink. In short everyone seemed to have a purpose of some sort.
Two days of observing Saigon was plenty for these London girls. The rest of the cities delights would have to wait until we returned. Beauty and nature were needed and Phu Quoc Island was calling us.