Tag Archives: motorbikes

“Bike, bike, bike” (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Standard

We’ve already mastered the art of crossing the road with ‘the boy’ in the sling, now we were going to have to master crossing the road with the buggy. This was not a task I was looking forward to.

Ho Chi Minh is a manic city and in a city of just over 9 million, there are over 5.6 million motorbikes on the road.  Our visit to Ho Chi Minh also coincided with ‘the boy’ finally differentiating between moving vehicles, until now everything was a car.  We’re normally over the moon when a new word is used correctly, but when you’re in a city with one of the highest concentration of motorbikes in the world, and the word ‘bike’ is shouted every time he sees one, let’s just say that by the end of day one we were a little tired of the word!

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Emerging from the Chu Ci tunnels

Top of our list in Ho Chi Minh was to visit the Chu Ci tunnels, an underground maze of over 121 km of tiny winding dark passageways, which were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tet offensive in 1968. We were shown many types of booby trap used by the Viet Cong to entrap both men and sniffer dogs and were given the chance to crawl into the tunnels, which although still small, have been widened to accommodate the Western build. A few people within our group didn’t want to experience the tunnels, so a nice German lady took ‘the boy’ under her wing whilst my hubby and I crawled a few hundred yards underground in the darkness.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' takes us on a tour at the War Museum to show us the 'cars'

Another place on our list was the War museum.  My hubby has written a blog entry about our visit (click here to read), but the highlight for me was finding a children’s playroom on the third floor.  If you’re on a two week holiday with kids then finding a playroom probably isn’t going to be the highlight of your day (or week), but when you’ve been on the road for 5 ½ months and you find a secure, clean, friendly playroom, well, it’s truly exciting.

‘The boy’ wasn’t quite sure what to do at first, surrounded by books, balls, building blocks and cuddly toys.  To my surprise, after surveying his options, he chose to pick out the cylindrical building blocks and roll them around the playmat, something he normally does with our water bottles.  One hour later and fully settled in this new environment he was running around throwing plastic balls around the room having a great time.  It was lovely to watch.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' having a ball with lots of balls!

Ho Chi Minh was also the point in our Vietnam experience when we began to tire of the constant hassle and scamming. Unlike other Asian countries where a taxi driver or local shop might try to increase their prices to the tourist market, in Vietnam, the scale at which it is done means you’re always on your guard. In one week we’d had to deal with taxis with faulty metres charging over four times the rate it should be, inflated bus tickets, numerous occasions where no change was given or the wrong change, menus showing one price outside the cafe and a completely different higher price on the menus you order from, ridiculous prices for water or basic items and the constant hassle of people trying to sell you something you’re not interested in.  It can become very tiring, particularly when you’re travelling with a baby and you’re already more tired than the average backpacker.

Our next stop is the beach, so hopefully we can re-charge our batteries and view Vietnam in a more positive light.

Top tip of the day:
Even if you’re not interested in visiting the war museum, the playroom is certainly worth a visit. It’s away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets and with an entry cost of only $1.50 (circa a £1) per adult (free for babies) it’s very good value.

War Museum, 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

 

 

Advertisements

Just keep walking (Chau doc, Vietnam)

Standard

After many days sitting in a tuk tuk and on coaches, and our most recent long journey being from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh to visit the Killing Fields (click here to read about our experience), the decision to take a coach or boat to Vietnam was easy, by boat. We decided that after many days of ‘the boy’ having to sit still on our lap for long durations, the boat would be fairest on him as he could walk around and move freely (within reason of course).

The six-hour journey down the Mekong River was very pleasant and well organised and the border crossing was the easiest to date. ‘The boy’ was happy running up and down the boat with his toy cars and we took it in turns to sit out on the deck.

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

'The boy' has a snooze on the boat to Vietnam

We arrived at Chau doc in the early afternoon and as we set upon dry land we were bombarded by a huge number of locals touting for business for their cycle rickshaws.

After some negotiation we secured two rickshaws and headed off into the town centre to find some accommodation. The rickshaws were different to the ones I’d previously seen in Asia. The cycle was at the front with a very small shallow carriage on the back. It’s hardly big enough for two adults, but the locals manage to stack them high with goods for the market and entire families who perch precariously on the edges of the seat. ‘The boy’ loved this new mode of transport and spent the entire journey waving to the huge number of motorcyclists who drove past at speed.

Accommodation was easy to find, so after dumping our rucksacks we put ‘the boy’ in the sling and headed out to explore.

I’ve been intrigued to find out if the traffic in Vietnam is really as bad as people have warned us. It is. 95% of the vehicles here are motorbikes, so the streets are a manic mess of bikes weaving in and out of each other, pedestrians and the odd car. This takes me to the art of crossing the road in Vietnam. Unlike India where you walk out, stick your hand in the air to make a stop motion and the traffic slows to allow you to cross, the traffic in Vietnam does not stop. We had been advised by a couple of backpackers that in order to cross safely you shouldn’t falter, just walk confidently from one side to the other. Apparently this is what the locals do, so when a bike sees you step out into the road they anticipate where you will be when they reach you and either nip in front or drive around the back of you. If you stop or hesitate this confuses them and that’s when accident can occur. Simple hey!?

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Walking around the busy local market. Even here you can't escape the motorbikes!

I have to admit that this strategy goes against everything you’ve ever been taught about crossing the road in the UK, so feeling very responsible for ‘the boy’ we decided to see what would work best for us.  After many attempts to cross the busy streets I can confirm that the advice we were given was indeed correct.   It’s a bit nerve wracking to start with, but after checking that there’s nothing in your direct vicinity you just walk and the bikes weave effortlessly around you.

Not so bad when you’re wearing your baby in a sling but I’m nervous about how we’ll manage doing the same thing with the buggy….

backpacking with a baby SE Asia

Chau doc riverfront

Tomorrow we’re heading to Can Tho to visit the famous floating markets.

Top tip of the day:
If your baby suffers from travel/boat sickness keep a nappy bag within easy reach. They are watertight, tie securely at the top and are scented which makes the environment more pleasant for your fellow passengers.