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Good morning Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh

Imagine a city with 8 million people (about twice of Norway btw). Then imagine that there are 8 million motorbikes in that city. Add this up and we get one word: chaos! That’s actually one of the things Ho Chi Minh City is known for now in recent days, but there is also a lot, and I mean a lot, of history in this vibrant city.

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the locals call it, used to be the capital before the Vietnam war. I’m not gonna pretend I’m your history teacher, but I find myself over average educated and found out I didn’t really know much about the Vietnam war, so why not share a few of my learnings?

So, the Vietnam war explained in one minute:
1. The northern Vietnam was communistic
2. The southern Vietnam was capitalistic
3. The northern declared war in 1955 wanting Vietnam to be communistic lead by Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader
4. China, Russia and North-Korea supported the north (total army of 460 000 soldiers)
5. Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and the US supported the south (total army of 1 860 000 soldiers and much more modern and better weapons)
6. The US were afraid that if Vietnam turned communistic, the rest of south-east Asia would too, and the US don’t like communism and thought it would hurt their business deals in oil.
7. The north were also supported by the southern guerilla army. Guerilla is an army independent of politics and usually lives in the jungle fighting really dirty and nasty with traps, ambushes etc.
8. The war lasted for almost 20 years, 1955 to 1975.
9. Huge losses, both military and innocent civilian on both sides. Lots of torture, chemical warfare, rapes and really nasty things.
10. The communists won, if you can say a war has a winner – I would say only losers. Anyway, Vietnam turned communistic and Saigon changed name to Ho Chi Minh City – after the communist leader. The withdraw of the US armies and eventually losing the war was a big bummer for America. They thought the Vietnam war would be an easy and quick fight, but they didn’t only fell victim to the communists; they fell victim for their own underestimation as well. The communists were a lot fewer in numbers, technology, weapons etc. but they still beat the Americans since they were not used to fight in these kinds of circumstances. Heat and jungle were home for the communists, and they knew every trick in the book and performed them to chock and outrun the Americans.

History lesson over for this time, but what struck me the most was how brutal this war was. Definitely can be compared to the WW2 when it comes to torture and killing innocents.

Now maybe Ho Chi Minh sounds like a really bad place with just chaos and war? It’s not. I found the people here super friendly and it’s very cheap. Usually I don’t appreciate super busy cities, but right now I’m in such a good mood and flow that everything is just likable. I spent 2 nights and 3 days here, which I found was a perfect time. If you want to go to the Mekong Delta on a day tour, you might add an extra day, if not 2-3 days are perfect.

Time to hit the road, this time by bus, not less than 12 hours night bus ahead of me. Luckily enough it’s a sleeper bus with some kind of “beds” and they say to be somewhat comfortable. Unfortunately, Asian people are short – and I’m not.

Touchdown Asia – Philippines, Manila

They are often big, busy, noisy, dirty and smell sewer. On the other hand, they are often funny, cheap and offer amazing food. I’m talking about the big south east Asian cities. The capital of Philippines, Manila, is not an exception. My intention was only to stay here one night before heading to Vietnam, but I decided to stay three nights, which is more than enough. Compared to Singapore, Hong Kong or Bangkok – Manila isn’t very beautiful or has much to offer as a traveler. It’s actually pretty ugly and boring, but for some reason that was totally fine for me now. I treated myself with a hotel night for the 3rd time on this trip and last time was in Colombia in November when I was sick. The reception lady told me it was my lucky day, so I got a room on the 32nd floor of 34 possible. Room with a view, thanks!

When you think of Philippines as a travel destination you probably come to think of beaches and clear blue waters. That was my plan as well, but after a lot of beach time in Australia I changed my mind when arriving here. Instead I just took this as a short city-trip on my way to Vietnam. I found 3 days here more than enough and as many times before on my trip, I have to remind myself how lucky I am living in a city (Oslo) that’s fresh, beautiful, clean, safe and not noisy or hectic. Especially when so extremely many people live in massive dirty and busy cities like this one or other ones in Asia or Latin-America.

So it’s time for a new continent, new adventures and for sure a totally different way of living compared to the last two months in New Zealand and Australia. From now it will be dirty, noisy and not as civilized but I’m so ready for it and looking forward to a more simple (and cheaper) lifestyle for a while. The coming 5-6 weeks will be spent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. For some reason I’ve never been attracted to these countries, even though everyone says they are so amazing. I really hope they are right.