Picture
A street vendor in the 'foreigner' district
[Editor's Note: Due to illness, our usual writer, Beth, is taking some time off. We welcome guest blogger Dan as he fills us in on the latest Alaskan Kangaroo wanderings.]

T
he airport bus snakes through the traffic. The city is a balmy 33 C – 91 F and it is humid, but after Kolkata, this is a nice break.


Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, a bustling metropolis of made of Lego concrete. Its roads are full of scooters and mopeds. Honda is the big winner here in the transformation from bicycle to motorcycle. The mind-boggling, eye-crossing thousands of scooters are zoom-zooming and the only road rule is to not hit what is in front of you. Flashing past, zig-zagging through the traffic, most bikes end up driving on the sidewalk. Chaos as order only works when everyone is as skillful as these riders.


Pham Ngu Lao is the centre for backpackers. At night, bright neon signs beacon the US dollars from the the leather wallets. A grandma walks by carrying twenty pirated best-seller books which have been cleverly tied together. She would be happy to sell to have one less to carry. Beer at two for one. Happy hour is every hour! Most are here to relax and have a good time. Most are succeeding.

“You want a cyclo?” ask the man in the beige baseball cap. One chap hands us a flyer for the Taj Mahal Restaurant. No way, but thanks any way! We were just there there, at the real Taj Mahal!


Pizzas, hamburgers and steak are the popular dishes. But I just wanted some fresh spring rolls and some pho. Local food is easy to find with local restaurants and street food almost everywhere. It's cheap and tasty and healthy and a Saigon beer straight from the Alaska (brand) refrigerator to help the food down. Ice cold beer full of flavor washing away the heat! Awesome!



* * *


One day we wandered through the town to the War Remnants Museum for a peek at not-so-distant history.


Near the museum we saw a T-shirt with the slogan, “Vietnam is a country not a war.”


At the War Remnants Museum (formerly the Museum of American War Crimes) in downtown Saigon, it's easy to forget that.


It was a humbling place full of war pictures, statistics and weaponry. A memorial, I believe, is to act as a warning beacon to any and all who shall pass it by. The message should always be simple and clear-- “War is bad. Everyone suffers and many people die.” There is good and bad, but mostly it is just stories of pain from those who are touched by war.


Unfortunately, this got a little lost at this museum. A war memorial should not have for sale pirated copies of Dan Brown books and Lonely Planet:Thai Beaches guides, glossy picture postcards of the war, and placards of the cartoon character Tin Tin next to fake fallen soldier GI dog tags. Ironically, all the prices at the gift shop were listed not in the local currency, the dong, but in U.S Dollars.


We decided to skip the city's other war remnants, even the famous Chi Chi tunnels. We'd rather look at Vietnam today, and with that in mind we headed south, to the Mekong Delta's Can Tho.


* * *

Click here to see our photos of Ho Chi Minh City!

Picture
At the War Remnants Museum
 
Delhi is big, chaotic.

It's the perfect melding of Cairo and China—you can feel the geography inherent in the culture. We are here where the East slowly turns to the Far East.

It has the chaos of Cairo, the street stalls and smells. Yesterday evening we walked to the Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in Delhi. During the call for prayer, as the sun was settling behind the 2-story buildings ringing the mosque, Dan and I walked through the traffic, by eateries selling kebabs and bookstores specializing in Arabic. It reminded me of Egypt, of Turkey, even Morocco.


But that's not the whole city. Also, there's a bustle in the air, a sense of commerce and focus on the future that reminds me of China. The traffic and street sellers have more in common with their eastern neighbors, I feel.




Yesterday, on our walk, we passed a group of restaurants that could have been in any city in China—except for the features of the people running them and the lack of chopsticks. They were that garage-style restaurant where the door opens, a long low table is built all the way around the edge, the food is cooked on a movable propane stove at the front of the store and customers perch on small plastic chairs while they eat.


New Delhi's residents seem proud of their home; on the train we sat next to a man who told us that we could see Delhi in two days. Then, however, he started to explain all the things we could do. The two days would stretch to two weeks, it seemed, if we followed all his recommendations. Then, there was the couple we shared a table with at a busy kebab restaurant in upmarket Connaught Place. They saw us searching our Lonely Planet for cafes graced with wifi. They suggested a few more spots, making sure we knew if they were "in" or not.

So far, we haven't done much official sight-seeing. The city is overwhelming enough just looking at things from the streets. We're staying in what seems to be backpacker central, a less commercialized version of Bangkok's Khao San Road or Yangshuo's West Street. Amid the shops selling wry T-shirts and hookahs, past the cafes touting Italian, Mexican and Israeli foods, there's still a lot of local action here. Cows wander slowly through the impatient pedi-cab and motorcycle traffic, tiny temples waft incense to the streets, and local women in saris and delicate gold nose-rings do their shopping next to young European tourists with dreadlocks, tattoos and a different kind of nose-ring altogether.

We did spend an afternoon at the Indian National Museum, a four-story walk through time, from the Harappan Civilization to present day. Most fascinating were the exhibits on miniature paintings and ancient armor. The museum entrance fee for foreigners included an audio guide, which was interesting. All tourist attractions we've been to in India have different prices for locals and for foreigners.


Today or tomorrow we hope to check out the massive Red Fort and the city's famous bazaars.



**Click here to see our photos of Delhi!**