Saigon’s backpacker row (aka Bui Vien), as seen from one of District 1’s cheapest rooftop bars, The View. In general, unless you’re just traveling through, this section of Saigon is best avoided — unless you enjoy mixing it up with clueless tourists, shabby backpackers, sketchy locals, and smarmy old men dragging reluctant “sexy girls” back to the nearest cheap hotel. But if people watching is your thing: my friend, you’ve found your Mecca.
As it seemed to cling equally to both bags, it was hard to tell which chip flavor this monkey preferred — though it was clear that sharing was out of the question.
This monkey took my water bottle and wouldn’t give it back. I called the local police but there was nothing to be done — the monkey was clearly quite attached to the bottle. Unfortunately, monkeys taking items from tourists has become such a ritual on Can Gio that’s it’s become more of a tourists-giving-monkeys-crap-they-don’t-need kind of thing, which makes for a whole lot of corrupted, environmentally oblivious, junk-food addicted monkeys that are pretty adorable nonetheless.
Fed daily by tourists, the monkeys on Can Gio have developed a borderline obsession with ice cream, chips, and soda, which can’t be good for their evolutionary prospects.
The monkeys on Can Gio are friendly and curious, but are still prone to mischief if you let your guard down. One monkey stealthily descended from a tree branch above me and made a grab for my head, though I never figured out what it was after.
After the monkey circus (video coming soon), a monkey went around hat-in-hand collecting tips from the crowd.
Because I couldn’t not take a picture of monkeys doing it.
There are crocodiles on Monkey Island, which doesn’t seem very well thought out.
On Can Gio, aka “Monkey Island,” tourists can pay about $5 (half that if you’re a local) to roam around for the day watching monkeys and feeding them improper food. Monkey Island is about an hour motorbike ride south of Saigon — worth the day trip down, especially if you’re into monkey circuses, “fishing” for crocodiles, or simply spending some quality time with your closest genetic ancestors.
Fishing boats anchored off the coast near Mui Ne.
Fish drying in the sun on roadside caution barriers near Mui Ne.
This little coastal restaurant we stopped at an hour or so outside of Phan Rang-Thap Cham had an amazing view and a gaggle of local tourists who shared some sausage with us, as well as some unwarranted warnings about roadside police checkpoints that only made us (unnecessarily) paranoid.
Back in Phan Rang-Thap Cham, the traffic seemed harmless compared to the four days hard riding we’d just survived. The journey was, as noted, epic: nearly 1,000 kilometers traveled in four days and close to 5,000 kilometers of elevation change. Not to mention the cultural immersion factor. Still, we were glad to get off the motorbikes and give our bodies a rest.