Ice and water
I still see a lot of people refusing ice here, don't worry, expect for a few dodgey street vendors, everywhere does sell clean ice. I've seen some postings saying they saw ice in big blocks sitting under tarps of the street or being carried on the back of a bike, this is cooling ice. The drinking ice is transported alot more safely.
Tap water on the other hand is very much to be avoided, ok for brushing teeth, but if there is a heavy down pour avoid this aswell (especially in Hanoi or smaller cities). The fresh water and sewer systems have a tendency to mix if it floods.
45 minutes to enter Vietnam
Brace yourself. It took me 45 minutes to clear customs to enter Vietnam. There was only a full queue of 6 persons ahead of me. You have to give the Vietnamese authorities full points for thoroughness. Each counter is manned by 2 officers. The prodecures go something like this: One officer will take a look at one page of your passport, pass it to the 2nd officer to take a look, who will then pass it back to the 1st officer...for every page they deemed important to check. All the while casting glances at you and the occasional scowl. And PRAY do write down the name and address of your lodging (if you had booked ahead) - it just bogged down the queue again if you don't as the officers are very particular about knowing where you will be. So brace yourself for a long wait, just in case....Related to:
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- Business Travel
If you are thinking about visiting the HCM Zoo....
Don't do it! We took the kids to the zoo - as you do - and we were all a bit mortified by the quality of the environment and the state of many of the animals. We saw the saddest, skinniest lion you could ever hope to see - and the monkeys were all a bit tragic - the general care and condition of the place and the animals was a bit upsetting in places - especially the lion.
The elephants were doing OK - lots of visitors up close and feeding them - so it wasn't all bad. But, in general, not a highly recommended spot.
I just wanted to come home to Australia and contact our intrepid animal loving protector and crocodile hunter, Steve Irwin, and get him onto the cause!Related to:
- Family Travel
Bikes, Bikes & More Motor Bikes
HCMC must be the home of the motor bike, you cannot go anywhere without seeing them and when inside you cannot escape them as you will always hear the traffic noise and continual horn blowing.
However the real concern is that they regularly drive onto the footpath to avoid a red light or traffic snarl, they weave between pedestrians. You must be aware that this will happen.
In the middle of this photo you will see a lady on a push bike riding sideways through the traffic.Related to:
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Watch out! The locals, especially the guys, just "do it" anywhere, anyplace. Be prepared to see the sights of guys facing walls and hedges, doing the deed. I had seen one guy doing his deed next to a traffic pole at a busy traffic junction in HCMC, oblivious to the passing human traffic.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Wildlife at Risk
This is one of the charities I strongly support, The illegal trading in animals is something that has to be dealt with, these guys are doing a great job. Pictured here are two Orangutans that were captured in a raid on a private zoo here, that's about 4,000km away from their natural home, both have now been repatriated to Borneo by W.A.R and the Vietnam Forestry Protection Department.
Please think carefully when in local "game" restaurants, often you can be offered "exotic" dishes, these are wild animals and often are on the danger list. Bear bile is still farmed here, with the bears in horriffic conditions, please don't encourage this by buying it.Related to:
When getting a taxi from Tan Son Nhut, ignore the touts that will immediately ask you if you need a taxi when exiting the terminal. They will charge you 150,000 VND to get downtown (it's only 60-75,000). Instead, walk straight to the curb where you'll see a row of taxis. Tell them your location and ask them to use the meter. If they refuse, take a different one. You now have to pay a 5000 VND toll fee when leaving the airport (used to be when you came to the airport).
TICK PARALYSIS (??) at Cu Chi Tunnels! Scary!
I traveled with my friend, a gastroenterologist, to the Cu Chi Tunnels and he had quite an experience! There is much jungle foliage and he was wearing shorts at the time, and he noted a reddish insect bite on his shin which enlarged and then subsided after a few minutes. He did not know whether he got this from walking through the jungle or through crawling through the tiny tunnel (he was the smallest in our group and so was the one chosen to go into the tiniest of tunnels).
About 30-45 minutes after the bite though, he suddenly fell down and we though it was just him tripping. But this was followed by periodic episodes of falling down (every 20-30 minutes) and he had about ten episodes of this scary “falling down” during the tour.
We asked the guide if this has happened to anyone before and he is unaware of any such events. But, with both of us being doctors, our analysis was some kind of neurotoxin from the insect bite. There was no sensory loss - just pure motor weakness occurring on and off. We were suspecting a spider bite then, and re-inspected the site of the bite and it had already subsided (not red or swollen) but the “fallings” occurred on and off for about 9-10 hours. We did not bring him to the hospital since we decided to bring him only if he developed more scary symptoms like difficulty of breathing (can be from diaphragmatic paralysis). Besides, the falls were occurring farther and farther apart indicating resolution of toxin from his body.
After further research later and consultation with a neurologist friend, we concluded it could have been a form of tick paralysis (especially since it was summer and the Vietnam ticks are out and about). But still, some spiders can release such neurotoxins....I was wearing pants and was fortunately not bitten.
Better words from Wiki:
"Tick paralysis is the only tick-borne disease that is not caused by an infectious organism. The illness is caused by a neurotoxin produced in the tick's salivary gland. After prolonged attachment, the engorged tick transmits the toxin to its host...Removal of the embedded tick usually results in resolution of symptoms ... within several hours to days. If the tick is not removed, the toxin can be fatal, with reported mortality rates of 10–12 percent, usually due to respiratory paralysis. The tick is best removed by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and applying firm steady pressure...Individuals should therefore take precautions when entering tick-infested areas, particularly in the spring and summer months. Preventive measures include avoiding trails that are overgrown with bushy vegetation, wearing light-colored clothes that allow one to see the ticks more easily, and wearing long pants and closed-toe shoes. Tick repellents containing DEET..."
Vendors outside the Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple
The Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple is located at Truong Dinh Street - close to the Ben Thanh Market. Outside the temple where are vendors selling oil, incense, candles, flowers etc. When you enter the temple they will handle out incense sticks and candles for offering to the gods – and then demand a ridiculous amount of money when you leave the temple.
My friend and I visited the temple without a guide – and we were the only tourists around. We got a few offering gifts in our hands when we arrived and were charged 25 USD at the exit!!! I have no problems paying for the offering gifts – but charging 25 USD was way out of line… We refused and gave them 5 USD (which was still too much!), but the vendors were not happy and we were followed for a while and shouted at when we left. Not a happy experience… Later we spoke with a couple of Canadians who visited the temple with an official guide – and they were only changed 1USD!!!
Dealing with authorities...
One thing to remember when travelling to a foriegn country is the differences in judical system. In Vietnam the laws are certainly way different from many Western countries. When you have trouble with the law authorities, try to keep a cool head. Let, me assure you, giving them attitudes won't help one bit. The authorities (Police) in Vietnam, without a doubt, will beat the crap out of you if you resist arrest. I suggest if you have any trouble with the law to keep your cool and request to see your country's consulate in Vietnam. You shouldn't have any problem while you are in Vietnam but it's always good to know... Like they say, "Knowledge is power." Ignorance is not a valid excuse for breaking the law.
Writing this one as I saw it happen yet again. If, for some reason, you get into an arguement with a Vietnamese guy in a bar or nightclub, over prehaps the pool table cue, just because you are bigger than him and can easily beat the hell out of him DON'T. What will probably happen, as did last night, is: Big foreigner gets into arguement with smaller Vietnamese guy, it gets heated, swearing starts, foreigner pushes Vietnamese, Vietnamese goes for the foreigner, foreigner smacks him one, Vietnamese retreats with bloody nose. Then about ten minutes later he comes back with his friends (or sometimes waits outside) and they all set on him.
It is down to the loss of face, so best thing to do is back of, it's their country and we are guests.Related to:
Traffic in vietnam has the highest mortality rate of any other country in the world and you can easily see why when you see the hundreds of motorbikes zooming past you. Not even traffic lights can stop these babies! Trick is to just walk out into the road and ignore the traffic if you want to cross. Ignore all the rules you were taught about looking left and right... just plough through! They'll drive around you!Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Beware of fraud in HCMC, especially if you are alone. The best place for them to get near you is in the park. There are a lot of small gardens and parks in HCMC.
I met 2 people complaning on their bad experiences in this city. One of them just rest in the park, relax, putting his back down on the ground. I assume he may look somewhere else and shift his attention fro his bag. The second moment he found that his bad is lost. So fast! Luckily he had nothing valuable in the bag except a japanese guidebook. And he got it back when he walked back to his GH, the theft sold it to a bookshop. Is exactly his book, he said.
The second case is similar, a middle aged taiwanese guy sitting on the bench in the park, a girl approached him and ask if he need special service. She said she needs to do this because her husband had passed away and she has a few kids. The second moment a few men approached him and seem to discussed something with him, but he doesnt understand vietnamese. Suddenly they just left, and he found that the money in his wallet gone half (surprisingly they didnt take all?).
So, just becareful.
There are lots of illegal selling on endanger species.
That day I was walking with a French I met in HCMC, we are heading to Notre Dame Cathedral. When we was at Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, we saw a vietnamese woman squate beside the road with a few cages of animals. We approached it and found that those are some endangered species.. there are monkeys (aye-aye), rare tortoise, bird with colourful comb etc.. they are all in great pressure we guessed. Under the sun and next to the busy roadside with those smoke from exhaust pipe and engines noises..
We were wondered what can we do. My friend shout at them and told them this is illegal. But the lady doesnt understand and keep telling us, the monkey is 400,000D. More and more people surrounding but no one is taking legal action towards the lady.
At last my friend bought the monkey with 150,000D. We sent the monkey to WWF in HCMC. However, we were so regret that we bought it. We indirectly encouraged these people to catch more next time.
In WWF, the authority told us that there are different police responsible for different crime. Selling endangered species is a serious problem in Vietnam but they are hard to arrest because of corruption.
What to do??
Visa at the Airport
Armed with our agency letter which we arranged online and brought with us ,we had only a short wait to get our visa.
Honestly I don't think they even read our application or letter. If you don't have a photo ...no problem they take your picture with a digital camera and charge an extra $2.00.( beats the $17.00 we paid at home).
Getting our Visa on arrival saved us $65.00 each fromthe cost to send to our embassy before leaving home!!
We used ,http://hotels-in-vietnam.com/ to get our agency letter..they were less expensive than some of the others. They also arranged our us to Cambodia and to Mui Ne.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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