The big Indochina trip: The start

I spent the last two days in Taiwan packing my stuff. I tried to minimize the amount of stuff I brought but still ended up squeezing it into my bag. I feel pretty well prepared however so I’m happy I could fit it in.

Everything laid out on the bed 

Packed and ready to leave 

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh city late yesterday evening and I spent most of the day today trying to buy a motorbike. There were plenty of bikes for sale but none of them were to my liking; if the engine and gearbox worked well, the lights and speedometer were broken and if the lights were working the gearbox was kind of wonky. After a lot of searching and deliberation with myself I finally decided to go for a “brand new” Honda Win. The price was double compared to the old broken ones but I figured it was worth it to get a strong engine, distinct gears and a full set of functioning lights and instruments. If you are wrapped for cash, there are used ones out there that are rideable,  but if you have the money,  I would recommend a new bike.

My transportation for the coming months. 

After I got the bike I went out for a ride in the city to see what it was like, and checking off some of the sights on the way. The traffic is chaotic, and I wouldn’t recommend inexperienced riders to try it, but with the training I got from riding in Taiwan I could manage pretty well.

As for the sights, I went to the Notre Dame cathedral (a legacy of French colonialism), the Jade Emperor Pagoda  which was less impressive than the name suggests and the Mariamman Hindu temple.

The cathedral looks very European 

The combination of a French style cathedral and masses of motorbikes passing by gives you a very special feeling. A kind of summation  of modern Vietnam, at least in my mind.

Two shots of the Jade Emperor Pagoda. 

I like this green lion(?)

Outside and inside the Mariamman temple 

For such a major city, these sights were surprisingly… dull, I kind of expected them to be more majestic.

When I got back to the hostel after my impromptu sightseeing I went out to grab a few beers together with two of my roommates. As we walked through the streets in search of a decent bar, it was interesting to note how much they changed in the few hours between my search for a motorbike and now. What had been more or less empty shops and restaurants in the morning had turned into well populated bars with girls standing outside offering “massages” (needless to say, me and my companions selected a much more laid back bar).

It was a good start, tomorrow I will see what else HCMC has to offer.

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