26.11.2008 - 26.11.2008 28 °C
So I thought Saigon was a hectic city in the day....well tonight I went for a wander around at 6pm (when it's already dark and I suspect rush hour).
I can honestly say I've never been anywhere in the world so chaotic. The sheer number of mopeds on the roads at night is just unbelievable...I mean really unbelievable...I can't even put it in words. They drive on the right here (sometimes!)...and at major junctions with lights, hundreds (no joke) of mopeds turning right will just hop up on the sidewalk/pavement to get round the corner...just walking down the sidewalk is a nightmare, let alone crossing the road. At one point I just stopped and started laughing....I was completely surrounded by hundreds of mopeds moving all around me...I don't know whether I was on the road or the sidewalk, I couldn't see my feet. I just started shuffling as gaps opened up in front of me and eventually reached an open area. It's just insane. You mustn't change your mind about where you're going, you just have to keep heading in the same direction...if you hesitate or change course, you'll get hit. Surprisingly I've only seen 4 accidents since I got back here, but I noticed tonight, that people are bumping there mopeds into each other the whole time...glancing taps, rather than full on collisions.
I was heading nowhere in particular, but stumbled across a big night market. Kind of reminded me of Marrakech, Morocco on a smaller scale. There was an interesting variety of foods for sale some of which I have to say looked pretty tasty (although I didn't partake....maybe at some point this week)...there were obviously the usual "squidito on stickito" (dried squid on a stick) and steamed pork buns etc, but there were also hundreds of fish tanks containing various species of live sea creatures, lots of fresh looking fruit and veg, and what I'm pretty sure was squirrel on a stick (a whole, skinned, uncooked animal with a skewer stuck up its butt and coming out of its mouth...if it wasn't a squirrel then other possibilities are rat, cat or small puppy).
From there I headed to the expensive part of town...posh shops and hotels. Seems Christmas has reach Saigon...there were many window displays and outside the Saigon Shopping Center, there were throngs of Vietnamese people taking their pictures alongside model snowmen and santas set amidst a big snowy xmas scene as an asian version of Jingle Bells rang out.
Seems at night you no longer get hassled by motorcycle riders (well not as much anyway), but you get offered a massage every 5 steps by a young lady, dressed in traditional garb, with a bunch of leaflets in her hand. At first I thought it was fairly legit (and am sure it was), but the further I got towards the river the seedier it got as the traditional dress seemed to disappear and they weren't just offering massages. I made it in one piece to the river where I cut back towards to the hotel. The river at night is full of dinner cruise ships it seems with bright lights and load music....seems a bit of a nightmare to me. I did actually have a purpose in that I'd read about a small restaurant, down a side road, that serves (and I quote) "the best burgers in world"...this was from a number of (supposedly) independent reviews, and whilst I am skeptical I thought I'd see if it was indeed there. I did find it and it looked reasonable but the place was empty tonight and I didn't fancy sitting in there on my own. I think I'll head back there in daylight tomorrow for lunch.
I returned to the "backpacker neighborhood" where the hotel is, and stopped at a little italian place for pasta...it was not bad, although Kim will be glad she's not here as they went a bit heavy on the garlic. I'm feeling very uninspired with food at the moment and am looking forward, I hope, to a change in the Philippines next week.