Saturday, October 24, 2009

5th to 10th October - Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City

The flight to Mekong Delta was a little bumpy to say the least. We were sad to leave Phu Quoc behind but it's always exciting going to somewhere new.

We got to Rach Gia airport and looked for transport to take us to Can Tho. One of the taxi drivers offered us the two hour journey for something like $50 but we'd heard there was a bus that could get us there for much less so we declined. We got to the bus station and there was this very packed mini bus about to head off. It turned out this was the bus to Can Tho... We just about squeezed on and the ticket guy tried to con us out of money. We argued our case and got it for the price we should have. I hate that about SE Asia. Just because we're Western doesn't mean we're all rich.... grrr

Anyway, our bags were packed on the roof with no visible sign of rope securing it. That coupled with the bumpy road and the low lying clouds threatening rain made for an interesting journey. Dennis and I took on the role of bag watcher. Everytime we went over a bump we both looked out of the rear window to see if any bags had dropped... It was a little concerning to say the least but apart from a couple of minor showers, everything turned out ok. Uncomfortable, but ok.

We got to Can Tho bus stop and spent the next hour trying to figure out if we were going to stay over for a night or do some sightseeing and get a late bus to Ho Chi Minh... We ended up opting to sightsee and get the hell out of there as quick as possible.

Some guy sold us a tour of the floating markets... Oh my god, what a complete load of crap that tour was. It only cost $5 but we got onto a boat that was less than sea worthy. The guy who spoke English and sold the tour to us disappeared, we were captained around by a woman who didn't speak English at all, the floating market had ended for the day so was just a whole load of boats attached to each other without anything else. To top it all of, we were running late and hadn't had any lunch. We asked to go for food and had to be back for the bus in 1 hour. We got to a food garden and established that it would take us 1 hour to get the boat back to near the bus stop.... In addition to that the heavens opened and it pissed it down with rain... All in all it was a shit situation. It rained so much that one of the catfish that was in the tanks waiting to be eaten escaped thanks to the rising water level. We found it on the ground flapping about in rain water...

We told the woman we'd get a cab back and finished our average meals quickly. It was a blessing to get to the bus station and settle ourselves on the bus to Ho Chi Minh. The bus was ok, comfortable enough but played some dodgy chinese films. We slept most of the way.

We got to Ho Chi Minh late and went through the usual hassle of trying to find a hotel. We finally agreed on one and checked in. Tal had decided to head to Dalat the next day so it was our last night together as a group of 5. That evening we went for dinner to a very local place.. It was err...interesting. I have to admit, I really liked Ho Chi Minh City. It was clean and busy but in a very manageable way.

The next morning we got up early to wish Tal well and helped her to the bus. Lena and I spent most of the morning finding a new hotel for the remainder of our stay in Ho Chi Minh. We found a great place with a balcony, hot water, a/c for very cheap. It was great.

Later on we had a walk around the city and headed for the Diamond Plaza shopping centre... Dangerous territory when you have a credit card. I tried out the massage chair for $1000. It was amazing.... We then went to the night market and checked out the stalls etc. I have to admit, i've seen that many night markets that they all blend in to one after a while. . We happened upon a German Beer Keller and a BBQ garden so decided that that would be a great way to spend the evening with Dennis and Nadia.

The beer keller was a little weird because it was full of drunk Vietnamese people but the BBQ garden was great. We ended up at a bar called Allez Boo and then Go2 near our hotel. Both were interesting places for people watching. Lots of sad old western men being chatted up by prostitutes. It's almost like a sport in Ho Chi Minh.

The next day, I ended up getting a haircut which was scary. Had been growing my hair for a while fearful of what a haircut in a foreign land would look like but it was all ok. We walked past some beauty salons that were hilarious. They were full of young girls around early 20's all dressed and looking the same. I nicknamed them the Stepford Girls Salons, it was like something out of the Robert Palmer video, Addicted to Love. Very funny.

We went back to the nigh market that evening to grab a bite to eat and met a couple of characters there. These two young kids selling the typical trinkets you find in these places. I bought some postcards off one of them and she was very cheeky..

Dennis and Nadia left the next day but we met up for brunch. It was excellent travelling around with Dennis and Nadia, they are truly two of the nicest people you could hope to spend time with. I hope to see them in Sydney soon.

Lena and I spent the next few days exploring the shops and sights of Ho Chi Minh City. We had a spa treatment which was amazing, we searched for sunglasses for me and an electronics shop for Lena, we watched the sport between the prostitutes and the old western men. It was good fun.

We also went to the Cu Chi Tunnels which was very interesting. It's an immense series of tunnels that was used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. We crawled through the tunnels which was frightening because of how narrow it was. Only 1.4m high to begin with getting to just 0.8 metres high. I got out after 40 metres of the 120 metre tunnel because I was feeling uncomfortable but Lena managed to go 70 metres.

I even got to fire an AK47. It felt odd. The noise is so loud.

We left Ho Chi Minh on Saturday 10th October and headed to Cambodia.

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