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Review: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

City/Town/Region/Island

Vietnam

THE CYCLO –RICKSHAW

  • By SilverTraveller SilverTravelUser_3757

    2 reviews

  • Apr 2010
  • Friend(s)

15 people found this review helpful

It is our last morning in Saigon. I should call it Ho Chi Minh City, but that doesn’t have the romance does it? It’s over thirty years since reunification, but you only have to look at the shop names to realise that the locals must agree with me. Saigon Fabrics, Saigon Motors, Saigon Properties. The word Saigon is everywhere. Our plan is to visit the Reunification Hall. We could walk but it’s hot and it’ll mean a lot of roads to cross. Crossing roads here is an adventure. There are four million motor bikes in Saigon. They hoot and steer round you, but they don’t stop. There are young people, old people and whole families on motor bikes. And if you want to carry the kitchen sink, or a pig in a poke, why not? Girls dressed in the traditional au dai – loose trousers worn with a long tunic – also wear face masks to protect themselves from pollution and long gloves to protect their skin from the sun. We decide to take a taxi, but this time there is no taxi outside our hotel. A cyclo crosses the surging mass of motorbikes to reach us. I catch the eye of the driver and shake my head. He smiles a wide toothless smile and continues undeterred. “No. We are two,” I say. A cyclo is a tricycle with a seat above the front two wheels. It is for one passenger. Just one. “Yes, yes,” he says. “Two.” He directs my companion to sit down, spread her knees, and for me to sit in the space between. She asks for the Reunification Hall. “How much?” I ask. I know you should establish the price first. He ignores my question. He is peddling into the traffic and I am perched where if there is the slightest bump I will fall off and be run over by this surging torrent of vehicles. In addition I feel awkward about being in my companion’s lap. “Don’t worry about me,” she shouts. “Just hold on.” Our driver is making his way across the traffic stream. This can’t go on, I am thinking. I am terrified. “He’s got a friend,” shouts my companion. I realise there is another cyclo across the road. Relief! We are going to have one each! My fear dissipates now that I have a vehicle of my own. Never mind the lack of a seat-belt! I chat to my driver. He’s from Cambodia and has been working here since Pol Pot wiped out his family. I snap photos of my friend in her cyclo and she takes photos of me in mine. The Reunification Hall has an imposing façade with spacious gardens. Now we have to negotiate the price of our ride. But when a bank note of a million dong is worth about four quid how can you know whether you’re being conned or not? Life is far too exciting to worry!

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