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Good Morning Vietnam! Ho Chi Minh City & Mui Ne

sunny 25 °C

Heading into Vietnam was so much easier than our previous trip from Thailand into Cambodia. Having organised the Visas in advance we were pretty much able to go straight through the border. We only had to get off the bus twice – once to officially leave Cambodia and the other to enter Vietnam. It was weird having to put our luggage on scanners as we didn’t do this the previous time – what does that say about Cambodia?

Carly and I were both weary of Ho Chi Minh city, our first stop. The reviews we had read in advance didn’t make for positive impressions. We arrived at our hotel on Friday afternoon – the hotel itself was fine but nothing special. It lacked a window in our room which for me was a big deal as it felt far more closter phobic. There was also a very dodgy smell in the room but I could live with this – I smelt far worse on the streets in Phnom Penh. The hotel staff made good efforts with us e.g. two of them practically killed themselves jumping down the steps in order to rush to our taxi to pick up our bags. We both agreed on a ‘no tipping policy’ back in Bangkok (with 2 exceptions so far) so I hope they didn’t mind! The only problem was a severe lack of English so it has been a case of smiling, nodding and making hand gestures for the past few days. The breakfast wasn’t exactly Western friendly either with mostly meat and broth dishes to start the day – we settled instead for a glass of diluted orange (now with 5% real juice) and a piece of bread with jam on it. The lovely buffet from Siem Reap that we were treated to was a distant past. Oh well you can’t have it that good all the time considering the budget!

We were both in a bad mood on arrival as the taxi man completely ripped us off from the bus to the hotel. In Thailand it is actually cheaper to get a metered taxi than to take a tuk tuk (unless you bargain hard). Going by this rule of thumb we felt like we were going to get a decent deal but it turned out what should have been a 5 dollar cab ride ended up costing us 20. We later read online how taxi companies are not regulated in Vietnam and there are rip-off companies with similar names to the official ones that have their meters fixed in their favour. I’ve never seen a meter shoot up as fast as the one we had taken on arrival. Just when you think you’ve got this Asia thing sorted they go and throw another spanner in the works. ‘Live and learn’ is turning out to be the phrase for the Asian part of my holiday.

Initial impressions of the city were poor as we accidentally booked ourselves into the non tourist area. Sounds nice in theory but on our first day we spent well over an hour wandering the streets for a edible meal. It was almost looking like Eel & Crab Juice from the local food stall on the street until we found an Italian restaurant. Saved! Only it was the worst Italian food we’ve ever had. The four inch pizza was awful but at least there was tears of uncontrolled laughter as a plate of seven chips (I kid you not) arrived on an oversized plate. The waiter must have thought we were very rude! Feck it.

That night we spent the whole evening in our room feeling sorry for ourselves and wishing that the three days in Ho Chi Minh would pass as quickly as possible. Thankfully after finding our way around on day two things picked up. We spent Friday sightseeing and took in a few attractions including the Vietnamese War museum, a Chinese temple and the local market. A one dollar ride on what was practically a wheelchair attached to a push bike cycled by an elderly man (he talked us into it I swear) gave us a few laughs. The city of Ho Chi Minh is practically Phnom Penh part 2 but with a few differences. There is a very fancy downtown area with all the famous designer names from Luis Vitton to Prada and Gucci. The streets here are nicely decorated and there is sufficient space to move around i.e. an actual foot path you can use. In addition the tuk tuks are seemingly banned in this country as we didn’t see one between us. At least 90% of people travel by motorbikes and it made crossing the road a bit of a nightmare. There are zebra crossings here but nobody pays attention to them. Traffic lights? Forget it! You just have to shove your way through and force the drivers to go around you – which they do in fairness to them. Horns are constantly being beeped but after a while you just tune out.

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On Saturday night Carly was feeling a bit under the weather so I headed out for dinner and a few drinks downtown - I needed one badly. It was an early night but I did get talking to a load of cruise ship workers who were telling me about the geriatrics on board their vessel. The guests paid 17,000 Euro for a two week cruise so I can only imagine the snobbery and diva demands of it all. Something to look forward to when I’m older perhaps! On Sunday we took a wander around the town, had dinner and chilled out. We couldn’t wait to get out of there and off to the Vietnamese coast.

Monday morning couldn’t arrive quick enough – it was off to our first ‘holiday’ style destination of the trip, Mui Ne. I’ve no regrets on any of our stops so far but we needed a change of scenery badly. Thank god, Mui Ne is a lovely little coastal town. We couldn’t have been more thrilled arriving as our hotel is actually on the sea coast. We settled in and took an afternoon bike trip exploring the main downtown area which is quiet and peaceful – exactly what we wanted after the noise pollution we endured from the previous two stops. That night we headed to the local pub Pogo where the cocktail special of the day was only a dollar! I’ve never drunk rum, coke and lime before but it certainly did the job and we ended up heading to a partially outdoor beach club until 4am. Music was great!

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On Tuesday Carly relaxed by the beach at our hotel and I headed off on a half day trip which took me to a river stream you could walk through surrounded by grand canyon style rock features. We then went to a local fishing village followed by three more stops at white, yellow and red sand dunes respectively. I got to try out some sand boarding which sounds more fun than it actually is.

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That night it was back to Pogo with two Israeli girls we had met the night before. On offer was a bucket of vodka (half a bottle went into it) with red bull for 5 dollars. It would have been rude not to! Unfortunately it seemed like a good idea only in theory and I ended up back at our hotel asleep by 1am. Carly wasn’t much better than me either for the record!

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We extended our stay at Mui Ne by a day so today has been spent recovering and chilling out at the hotel. The next couple of weeks will be spent making our way up the coast before heading into Laos for about a week and finally back to Thailand until the end of February. Due to money and time constraints we’ve decided to leave Hong Kong and Macau out of the trip so I’ll have to get around to that another time. Tomorrow afternoon we head to Nha Trang.

Vietnamese Essentials
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Chao = Hello
Cam On (pronounced Cam Ern) = Thank You
Com Cam On = No Thank You

1 Euro = 30,000 Dong

The Vietnamese New Year is on February 3rd so it looks like we'll be able to enjoy a firework display at midnight on the 2nd which is my birthday as well. Happy days! Apparently it's the year of the cat...

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Posted by mattld 01:18 Archived in Vietnam

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Comments

Vietnamese New Year celebrations! That ought to be fun! Enjoyable read as always. Enjoy the next leg of your trip ;)

by alesta

Cheers Alex! Habba Habba :D

by mattld

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