ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Sunday 29th June 2014
Hello from Vietnam!
First time I have every been able to say that.
Tomorrow, I plan to start the day with “Good Morning Vietnam!” Nothing original I know and it has probably been said a million time.
But that is tomorrow. What about today?
The day started with a 6:10 am alarm for me although Phil and Becky were already up, to do last minute packing. The two tuk tuks arrived right on time at 7:30am and amazingly managed seven passengers and all the luggage. We were were at the bus departure office by 5 to 8 am. For office imaging something smaller that an a NZ garage. Many of the passengers were already sitting on chairs outside waiting. We past our passports over for checking and around 8:15 boarding began.
Bus was quite comfortable and full. I had an aisle seat with a Cambodian lady next to me. What she lacked in English she made up for by almost non stop chatter toher friends in the seats behind.
The trip took around 6 ½ hours including 25 minutes lunch break (pork and noodle soup at $2) and a bit longer than that going through the boarder controls for both countries. Fairly relaxed process, just longish waits. The bus announcer was careful to always say “The Kingdom Of Cambodia and the Republic of Vietnam” The bus had a driver (of course) the woman hostess and announcer and a young male who didn't seem to have any real job. Besides announcing the hostess also gave out moist tissues, bottle water and the snack box (sweet cake and cheese crusant um spell check not a help there ).
The main road had a few bumps but was pretty good for Cambodia. It was Street 1 is the main highway, but only a single lane in either direction. It was pretty crowded with in Phnom Penh but less so once the city.was left behind. The driver was constantly sounding his horn as that is the customary means of informing a vehicle ahead that you were going to pass them.
While we did travel through rural areas some of the time, usually we were passing farm houses, hamlets, villages and through small towns. Some of the farm land looked quite scruffy but other areas were much more attractive. The above is true of our travel through both countries.
On the bus the television played a feature film 'Fast and Furious 6' quite a lot of Candid Camera type ex television programmes and local karaoke and some sort of comedy show. We were not actually bored, but not actually interested either.
About half way we crossed the wide Mekong River by ferry boat. There were a couple doing shuttle service across the river, so we didn't have to wait very long to drive onto it.
The Cambodian side had a dozen or so casinos to catter for the Vietnam day tripers.
The roads on the Vietnam side are much better. We drove along a highway with double lanes on both sides of a centre median strip which was either a wall or often rows of shrubs and low trees.
It didn't take too long to reach Ho Chi Min City aka Saigon. Many of the streets are tree lined, there is a pleasant path along the river running through the central area. We spotted a number of people fishing along the banks.
Streets are just as crowded as Phnom Penh, but there are more modern stylish buildings. The bus destination was a stop beside a large park area between two busy roads. Looked quite pretty as we drove along beside it in the rain.
Our hotel, Phan Lan Hotel was down a hotel, guest house and hostel filled lane diagonally across the road from our bus stop. Perfect arranging. Hotel gave us a good welcome and is quite small, five floors with just three rooms on each floor. Obviously, the building is quite narrow. No elevator but they have a hoist to bring the bags up to the room. That's good as I am on fourth floor, the boys on fifth floor and the girls and parents on third floor.
While the others went off to the war surplus market near by to buy the boys a few bags and pouches, I went off in search of a SIM card. Plenty being sold in the area as this is a tourist and back packers area. I just chose a stall where the lady could sell them but tell you nothing. The price quoted varied and in the end I paid nothing like any quote for the card and a top up which may or may not be unlimited data for a month. Her son tried to help, then a motor scooter friend who knwe what he was doing but not good English. Finally a young woman arrived who could translate for them.
I did some wander around the area near the hotel even though it was raining at that point. Got lots of cyclo drivers wanting to provide their services, lots of invitations into bars and restaurants usually by young women standing at the door and one offer of a certain weed.
We met up again and went off for a family meal together. We only needed to go around the corner from the hotel for a large choice. We checked out a couple Vietnamese restaurants as the country is know for its lovely food – but we went Indian and that was a good choice as the food was delicious.
I must remember to give Phil 163,000 dong as my share of the bill. I think this is somewhere around $10.