11th - 15th April: Ho Chi Minh City

Accommodation:  Duc Vuong Hotel  -  £19 per night, double room

I’d taken an evening flight to Ho Chi Minh City so it was dark by the time the taxi delivered me to the Duc Vuong Hotel, slap bang in the middle of the girly-bar district. It proved to be an unlikely oasis in the chaos as my room, while not overly spacious, was comfortable & well equipped. The top floor restaurant was pleasant to enjoy breakfast in and the rooftop bar had panoramic views of the area. In reception there were computers free to use and all of the staff were friendly & helpful.  I was soon checking out the area and happened upon The Spotted Cow, a sports bar showing wall-to-wall football, rugby & AFL. Heathen as it may seem, after two weeks of solid Asia it  was a welcome bit of home comfort, the barramundi & pasta making a nice change from noodles. 

Next morning it was out into the stifling heat & humidity to check out the War Remnants Museum, which had much the same captured artillery as Hanoi but totally surpassed it inside, where the story of the war was told in graphic detail. The top floor gallery especially proved too much to bear for many tearful American visitors as its story was depicted by US journalists & photographers, carefully chosen, I hasten to add, for maximum effect by the Vietnamese. On the way back I had a peruse around Ben Thanh Market, which busily assaults all of your senses and you very much need to be in the mood for. I was actually more in need of a beer so spent the rest of the afternoon near my hotel at Universal Bar talking rugby with some (abundantly ever-present) Antipodeans.

Ever the fun seeker (?!) I was up bright & early next morning for the trip to Cu Chi Tunnels. Fortunately I had the front seat in the packed bus so got most benefits from the fan. It also meant I had my back to our guide, Mr Bien, so could thankfully zone in or out of his recollections of the war as, after a while, his self-aggrandisement got very tiresome. Unfortunately one guy in particular was lapping up his every word so encouraged him to talk the whole way there AND BACK!!! On the way we stopped at a workshop for  the disabled where much of the disability was, even now, due to the effects of Agent Orange. The tunnels are a testament to the ingenuity and dogged determination of the Viet Cong, stumbling along a specially widened 200m section was about all I could take yet they used to live down there! There was also the opportunity to shoot a wide range of weapons while there, though it’s not something I’ve ever felt the need to do.

Back in HCMC the bus dropped some off at the war museum but, as I'd already done it and I was hot & thirsty, I opted to try one of the most popular bars, Allez Boo. That should really read notorious as the place was awash with old Aussie blokes salivating over the bar staff, of which there were way more than needed, if you get my drift. I got chatting with three guys from Byron Bay who were regular travellers throughout Asia. Their motive for being there aside they were a good craic and it made for an enjoyable afternoon. Given that the bar was twice as expensive as any that I'd used, there was definitely nothing to recommend it. That night, after a final hit of delicious Vietnamese food at the nearby Five Oysters, I was back in 
 the Spotted Cow to watch the footy, Liverpool v Man City. Every scouser in Asia must’ve been there, at least I knew my valuables would be safe in the hotel that night! In some way they did me a favour as I had a very early bus to Phnom Penh next morning so was driven to have an early-ish night as I couldn’t take that god-forsaken whining accent any longer!