Good Morning Vietnam

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With the exception of Jeremy Clarkson off Top-Gear and adventurous backpackers, Vietnam is a country that most of us only know through books, films and diverse history hours. After seeing the pictures that Stig has taken, you might wonder why people are not heading to Vietnam.
ABAX and the Stig in Vietnam

Vietnam or to be more precise, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a country in South-East Asia that borders the South China Sea to the east, Cambodia to the west and China in the north. The country is known the most through a number of films, books and maybe Top-Gears daring ride on the moped from south to north.. This blog post focuses on the first part of the journey. Remember that you can follow which route Stig travels via Google maps here.

Basse's Fun Facts about Vietnam:
    • For those who are very fond of Cashew-nuts it may be worthwhile knowing that Vietnam is the world's largest exporter with almost 33% of the world exports of cashew-nuts
    • Currency in Vietnam is called Dong
    • Football is the most popular sport in Vietnam
    • Nearly 10 million motorcycles drive on the roads in Vietnam - every single day
    • The most common surname in Vietnam is Nguyen
    • The Vietnamese have no fixed date for New Year's Eve but estimate it from the lunar cycle
    • Some of the world's most beautiful beaches are in Vietnam
    • Vietnam is considered to have the world's healthiest cuisine
Stig says:

It's like driving around inside a wasp table. They come around you from all sides; right side, left side, crisscrossing and even opposite. Especially at large roundabouts, there is room for MANY motorcycles. I grin from ear to ear, and am very impressed by how many people and not least how many goods they are able to load, balancing on the small motor bikes. I've come to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and really enjoyed myself in the traffic, it is terribly fun. HCM is Vietnam's largest city with 8 million inhabitants, and most of these seem to be in traffic... I have also run in bustling cities previously. Especially, in the south of the continent, which has a slightly different traffic culture than we are used to at home in Norway. My favourite cities with fun traffic have been Beirut, Tel Aviv, Palermo and maybe even Istanbul. But cars are a little easier to keep track of than small motorcycles. But I have learnt the technique. One must simply not care about motor bikes. "Go with the flow" said Roger when we parted at the airport in Phnom Penh. He prepared me for the traffic in the city. Cognitive is quite the opposite of what we are used to. It seems that it is "survival of the fittest", no motorcycles mess with big minibuses.

Before I came to Ho Chi Ming city, I spent two days in the Mekong Delta. Mekong is one of the world's largest rivers and starts in Tibet. From there it flows through Yunnan Province in China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and then to where I am in Vietnam, before it flows into the South China Sea. It follows much of my route, after coming through Northern Vietnam and crossing the Mekong several times. Mekong Delta is spreading through a huge area that I now have driven through. There is lots of brown water everywhere. I stayed in the town of Can Tho. There was a small friendly lady where I stayed, who transported me around on her boat to the Mekong tributaries and a liquid market. In 2001 the first bridge in Vietnam over Mekong was built, and many more were to be built. So trucks were able to access Vietnam.

Cu Chi Tunnels Vietnam War is today a relatively large tourist attraction outside Ho Chi Minh City. During the war there were approximately 250 km of underground passages, dormitories and hospitals. We had a guide, who was a funny guy and we had a good tour. At the end of the tour he asked if anyone would go down into one of the narrowest hallways. There were 5 of us: Anna, Rene, Will, Dan. The guide had warned that it might not suit everyone ... The hallways were about 50 cm wide and 60-70 cm high. And the time we were through was 30 meters long. Probably doesn’t sound as bad. But the guide did not tell us that it was full of bats. And I honestly admit that I do not like bats. The guide turned off the lights and I wondered why, but I continued to be creeped out. Then I felt it fly over my head. I must admit that this was far beyond my comfort zone. I asked Anne to turn off the lights, but then we would simply not be able to see, and she agreed.

On the way back to Saigon, all five of us were in my car. Rene is a photographer and wanted to take pictures of the traffic, so we drove with the side door open. We now have great vibrant images of a city I have become very fond of :-). Now we have all just been out for dinner and brought some beer. Tomorrow I will continue to Nha Trang – a city that Russians settled in after the war.

Do you have tips for Stig about places he should see or visit, restaurants he should try? Send us an email to kha@abax.no or sal@abax.no.

Click here to follow Stig's route in Google maps
ABAX and the Stig in Vietnam
ABAX and the Stig in Vietnam
ABAX and the Stig in Vietnam