Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

Travel Live: Good morning Vietnam

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The historic Saigon Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo / Eli Orzessek
The historic Saigon Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo / Eli Orzessek

Eli Orzessek is currently on Contiki's Vietnam Highlights tour. He will be posting updates throughout the trip.

I'd been warned about the intense traffic in Vietnam when I had trouble crossing the streets in Taiwan.

Boy were they right. Ho Chi Minh City is a twisted maze of streets packed with anything and everything - plus a hell of a lot of scooters that zoom past you with a cacophony of horns.

I'm here on a Contiki tour of Vietnam, with approximately 30 other Young People - that's 35s and under, thanks very much.

On our first tour of the city, our local guide advises us to "close your eyes and run". We all laugh, but I'm not sure it's the best advice. My tactic is to walk quickly and confidently across, and trust that the scooters will avoid me.

I haven't died or been injured yet, so it seems to be working.

My group includes a few Kiwis, a fair few more Aussies, some Germans, a couple of Brits and a bit of a contingent from New York.

After a day of exploring the streets by myself, buying some fake Yeezys [sneakers] and getting a ride on the back of some dude's scooter (totally got ripped off, but saw stuff I wouldn't have seen otherwise), it's a relief to be on an air-conditioned coach - one of the main benefits of a guided tour.

Our tour manager is a New Zealander - she's not allowed to be a guide, however, as only locals are allowed to do that job. Which is great, because we'll be meeting a different interesting guide in each location.

The first guide, Kevin, laughs as he tells us how he's shaking after drinking a huge cup of Vietnamese iced coffee - an extra strong brew mixed with condensed milk that dates back to the period of French colonisation. I'm shaking too, as I drank several cups of it at the breakfast buffet.

There's so much history here and we're taken to several important sites - Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saigon Central Post Office (interesting fact: it was designed by the guy who designed the Eiffel Tower) and perhaps most importantly, the War Remnants Museum.

We're warned repeatedly before we visit that it may be "confronting", particularly for our American guests. The museum contains many graphic photos from the Vietnam War that show dead and wounded bodies, children affected by napalm and Agent Orange and more.

They were right - it's confronting. Even for someone who works in news. It's hard not to be affected, particularly by the pictures of little kids. Especially when there are children running around in the museum.

After this sobering experience, we're off to the airport to fly to the beach town of Nha Trang. Personally, I can't wait to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and hit the beach.

- nzherald.co.nz

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Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

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