We got the recommendation for the guest house in Saigon from a traveller we met in Cambodia: a small, family run place that wasn´t far from the centre of that frenetic city, yet in a quiet back street which was closed off to traffic. We were, at the risk of understatement, sceptical: we had stayed before in Saigon and the traffic was appalling – especially the tens of thousands of ubiquitous Honda motor bikes, a seething metallic mass which totally dominated the streetscape.
We wrote the directions to the hotel on a scrap of paper. Arriving in Saigon late one afternoon, we walked out there, the noise of the Hondas filling the air. Then we reached it. It was hard to credit, it was like an oasis in a desert: before us, on either side of a long street, were rows of two story, attached houses with sloping tiled roofs and French louvred windows – they were obviously built during the colonial era.
The street had been blocked off at either end with a high iron railing with a gate. People walked and rode bikes. There were no Hondas! And there were more surprises on the way…..