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Miss (and Mr) Saigon....
Rating: ( 4.9 )

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam
Jan 05, 2004 07:01

Pros: beautiful and picturesque, adventurous
Cons: none

Factoid of the day: It is bad luck to eat dog in the first half of the month... so it will have to wait...

'Holiday' over we left Kep by motorbike taxi for the vietnamese border at Tinh Bien(the guards let us through with half the dust of Cambodia on us!!!). Spent night in the Mekong Delta town of Chau Doc, then on to Cantho and a Mekong delta boat tour to floating markets etc, then Saigon.. Big city, Bright Lights! Largest since Hong Kong! Tomorrow we're off to the Viet Cong tunnels at Chu Chi, then on Reunification express to Danang and Hoi An..

Nitty Gritty:
We were really sad to leave our hosts in Kep, not least because we'd done so little exercise in the last week that we were not sure our legs would support our back packs! Slip, slop, slapped with sunscreen, sporting sunhats, sunglasses and dust masks, we sped off to the vietnamese border down 3 hours of dirt roads. The drive was fantastic, through some lovely countryside and villages who were obviously not used to seeing orange westerners on the back of motorbikes. Needless to say, we arrived at the border looking like we'd seriuosly overdone the cheap fake tan and it was embarrassing conversing with the police with orange faces with white circles around our eyes.

We decided to get out the wetones before tackling Vietnamese immigration which was just as well as they were very official, x-raying our bags and checking our temperatures for a small fee. We had survived another border crossing and we didn't have to pay a bribe - a definite first!

Got 2 motorbike taxis to Chau Doc - we were in Vietnam - conical hats, lots and lots of people, hammer & cicle flags lining the roads, girls cycling in their ai doi (traditional vietnamese dress) - people wise, it was more like China than any of the other countries we'd been to.

Chau Doc is in the Mekong delta and as we'd followed the Mekong from China, we were keen to see it finally meeting the sea. Chau Doc is in the Delta on a very busy river, our hotel room overlooked the water and we were kept awake by the commerce, ferrys, and noises from all the floating housing eg. cockrels, dogs etc.

(Graham Typing):
From Chau Doc we took one of the public buses that get so much criticism from travellers, we soon learnt why, although comfortable and we paid the 'locals price' it did take hours, probably twice as long as the minibuses, still it was better in the sense that you get to meet locals and see more of the countryside...

Arriving in Cantho we took two motobike taxis to the hotel and were greeted by a smooth talking chap who within 20 minutes had persuaded us to part with 26 dollars for a boat trip (alot of money here, although the trip was 8 hours long) and 4 dollars each for a minibus to Saigon.... we are learning quickly about the Vietnamese entreprenerial skills.

The next morning we were up EARLY 05:30 for the sunrise boat trip, indeed it was worth it as the sunrose over the Mekong, with fisherman wading in ever decreasing circular paths 'til the fish were trapped. Then it was off to a couple of floating markets, perhaps the most interesting thing at the first were the 'wholesale' boats who displayed their wares on long poles with carrots pumpkins onions etc tied to them. We wandered on land around another market and forgot the time so the tide was going out by the time we were on the canals, this resulted in Graham and the driver having to punt the boat through very shallow water.

Our 'delux' minibus to the centre of Saigon turned out to be a packed affair and droped us 10 km from the centre at dusk. Saigon is a loud busy city with 4 million motorbikes... we argued with the taxi drivers for a while then found out that the local buses left from the station next door, obviously direct questions like 'where do we get the bus' where answered by the taxi's with 'oh, there are no buses', again we are learning about Vietnam fast...

Our bus dropped us right in the centre of the cheap hotel district and we got a plush place with fridge and tv etc. very nice. we took to saigon straight away, busy and loud but also lots of nice archtecture and (from Rachel's point of view... Shops). The following day we spent sorting out flights and tours, railway tickets etc.. bought Lord of the Rings 3 DVD ($1)!!! just need to find a place to watch it!