AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Saigon: The View from the 52nd Floor


Posted on Dec 18, 2013

When wandering around the city last night we could see a tower taller than all others in the city, covered with hundreds of white lights. You can just see it in the background rising above the other buildings. Today we were walking by the river and saw it from another angle. It had a platform sticking out of it near the top. At first I thought this might be some kind of observation deck, but as we kept looking neither of us saw any movement up there. It then became obvious that it was a helipad and not an observation deck, but I had seen the building listed on Trip Advisor so I was pretty sure we could get in and take a look. The tower is the Bitexco Financial Tower and it is the second highest building in Vietnam (it was the highest until 2011). We walked into the lobby and saw some  guys asking about getting up to the bar. Their clothes wouldn’t be out of place on a beach but were totally out of place in that building, so we tagged along. We were shown into the lift which would take us to the 50th floor, in about 20-30 seconds. It must have been shifting at a huge rate but it was so smooth, we couldn’t detect any movement and if it wasn’t for our ears popping every few seconds we’d have been none the wiser. Once on the 50th floor we were escorted to another lift to whisk us up the final few floors to the 52nd. We were looking around in amazement, after all this was the highest building we’d ever been in, when a waitress came over and told us we had to order a drink to be allowed to stay. That sounded fine so we accepted the menu. The drinks were between 250,000 and 350,000 Dong per glass, that’s about £8-£10 for a beer or vodka or whiskey. Whoa – we spent a minute or so agonising over whether to pay that much for a drink. We decided we wouldn’t do it again so why not? The good news is the drinks weren’t to UK measures; you could really taste the alcohol in the drink. As it turns out it’s not a bad price. To go to the 49th floor there is 200,000 Dong fee (per person). So the drinks are normal price with the 200,000 added to them. We got to watch the sunset from the 52nd floor looking over Saigon. The windows were very dirty, so very few photos came out OK, but to sit and watch the city light...

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Sitting here on the Trans-Siberian Railway reminds me of camping holidays. I’m living in a cramped area which is not designed for this kind of living, whilst taking every opportunity to remind myself that it is outside which matters and the inside is just the price you have to pay to see what we are seeing. Our cabin consists of four beds and a rather small table. There is storage space under the bed/seat and more storage over the door. In the corridor we have the hot water tank at one end of each carriage, a bin at the other and a toilet at both ends (although our carriage only has one in use, we suspect the conductor is keeping the other to himself). And with that four people have to live for 6 days. Cooking consists of adding boiling water to a pack of noodles. To drink we either make tea or drink the bottled water we have bought at the stations. There is a restaurant car, but it is basic, way overpriced, only has about 5 tables and has a waitress who makes the Parisian waitresses look polite. I don’t know whether to be surprised or not at the lack of basic items. No cold water, no shelves, no privacy curtain for each bunk, no bin in each room, better toilet facilities and a washroom which actually feels like a room of cleaning. Even the heating is out of my control, the conductor decides how hot we should be and we live with that. The seats are very firm, there is a hint of foam but little else to suggest human comfort was a factor in their specification, but as bed they are solid. It takes a while to find a position where you might actually be able to sleep. We brought enough dried noodles and loose green tea to last the trip. We have bought bottled water at a number of stations, plus ice tea and fruit juice. We have also bought biscuits and various other snacks. We have ventured into local foods, some of it good, some not so good. The biggest surprise so far has been the total lack of alcohol, it can’t be bought at any station. I guess this is to crack down on the excessive drinking levels in Russia. On day one and two the views were a bit dull, vast forests as far as the eye could see, but now on day three it feels like Siberia. The temperature has dropped and the last station reported -12 degrees. There is now an inch or so of snow and the sun...

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