“My hotel room stinks!” I declared to the woman at the front desk.
On my first two days back to Saigon, I was staying in a hotel that had good reviews on Agoda, but my room had a god-awful smell. Every breath I took felt like I was inhaling an assortment of nasty chemicals. When I informed the front desk, they were confused.
“I don’t know what you are saying.”
So I started in with different ways to describe it. “Odor!” Then I pointed to my nose. Then she asked the younger kid who was standing there. He said “Please slow down your speech sir. You speak very fast!”. They finally understood, and then thought it was the restaurant creating the smell.
“You waiting. He go check.” (I’ve been told “you waiting” several times in Vietnam. They like to add ‘ing’ to words where it doesn’t make sense).
So the guy went up and opened the window and said it will be better in a little while.
Not so much. I discovered that the headache-inducing smell was coming from these little pellets scattered all over the room, I’m guessing to keep the roaches away. I tracked down all that I could find and put them outside. But the smell persisted. I slept there and it never got better! I switched rooms the next night and the other room was better, but still had that smell! I made an executive decision to go back to the Lan Lan2 where I stayed before and liked. Here I am a week later and some of my stuff still smells like anti-bug chemicals.
The last week was nuts. It started with a massage (this was a legit massage!). It was similar to a Thai massage, where they literally walk on your back. This woman actually got on her knees, on my back! It was 90 minutes long and really effective. $15- a little more than Thailand, but for 90 minutes I’ll take it!
My last tourist thing I knocked off the list was the Cu Chi tunnels. There’s not a ton of great pics to be had, but it was well worth the $12 the entire thing cost. They started by showing us this silly black and white propaganda movie that looked like something out of the 60’s. Instead of criticizing the war itself, the film glorified the killing of Americans and talked about a couple of their local heroes who won awards by “killing many Americans”. Of course, they were simply defending their land from the invaders, so I don’t blame them for taking up arms against the Americans, but glorifying killing anyone is….not cool!
Having said that, the tour was captivating all the way through. The intricacies of the tunnels blew my mind. What really struck me was their absolute burning desire to survive.
These people lived underground with no toilets!
Crawling through the tunnel they have there was also an experience! Immediately I felt claustrophobic when everyone in front of me stopped. Some girl started crying and we had to back out and let her out! As short as the Vietnamese are, even they would have had to spend most of their time crawling around in the tunnels. You really do start feeling like a rat in there!
I made a new friend who is an expert on Vietnam and Vietnamese culture and teaches Southeast Asian studies at a university in the US. She showed me the town at night, and we ended up in a “seedy” part of town which was sort of a Japantown- but almost had an Amsterdam feel to it. Apparently, the glass doors of all the hotels have smoked glass so you can’t see what’s going on right inside.
What I always say is, it’s always good to know where the Japanese hookers hang out, no matter where you may be.
The next stop was sitting on tiny chairs in the middle of the sidewalk right near a huge Vietnamese family that was having dinner. They sold us a couple of beers for 75 cents and poured them over ice- apparently that’s what they do here. Not bad, but I think they need to be introduced to the beer cuzzi. There was also a fat boxer dog, and someone accidentally lit a small fire on the table. Just another night in Nam!
So that wraps up my last days in Nam. Some random photos to sign off with: