Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Travel hell and Miss Saigon
Kampot was great - particularly for Pants who went adventuring by bike each day. Meanwhile I got sick and spent one of our main days resting up and mainly seeing the bathroom. Sad to leave the fantastic folk at the Magic Sponge. (Correction to previous post- Dan is actually called Neil and we got muddled coz his son calls him Da!- Sorry Neil)
Took our direct VIP bus from Kampot to Saigon yesterday and it turned out to be a living hell. The Cambodian bit was fine and we were informed that we would change to a VIP big bus in Ha Tien (Vietnam boarder town) which would take us direct to Saigon. Well we transfered to a tiny bus which was fairly comfy anyhow and had wide open windows -there were 7 travellers on it only. This was great as we set off down really poor quality dirt roads for hours watching the folks of the Mekong delta go about their day. Unfortunately we were then stopped at a travel agency place somewhere... and told "get out! Wait here!" Next we were piled into a people carrier for a ten minute ride to another travel agents place and told as we left we were getting on the "big bus" for Saigon and that the driver would drop us in District One of Siagon (right in midst of backpackerville) The big bus turned out to be a 14 seat minibus packed with squawking Vietnamese and a vile driver who started screeching at us all in his own tongue forcing all the remaining 6 of us into the back seats (two big Irish boys concertinered in with Si and I on the very back four places. It was literally like sitting on an upright dining chair with nowhere to move your feet even an inch (because they'd thrust all our backpacks under the seats) nothing to hang on to and nowhere to put your arms (really just had to cross them in front of you).
This horror then continued for 6 and half hours whilst the b**tard driver drove like a maniac over the dust roads, sending mopeds, cyclists, cattle, pedestrians flying, honking his horn constantly and yabbering in the most vile screeching voice I've ever heard. At one point a seat became free and si moved into it so that the Irish guys had some more room- this was bliss for about 5 minutes until the driver stopped came around, opened the door and literally screamed at us forcing a return to cramped up agony.
Finally finally at 8.45pm we pulled to a stop in the midst of Saigon. Two of our tourist number were a couple from US who'd lived in Saigon for a month before and started yelling at the driver as he began unceremoniously dumping our gear on the street, to take us to District One. He screamed back and ignored any reasoning or beseeching (like ..we paid for D1 not to be dumped here) Each one of us had completely lost our zen and were all for causing this guy some hurt (preferably physical and lasting!) In the end we decided to hop a shared cab to District One and within a short time Si and I had headed down a back alley dodged rats and cockroaches and found our guesthouse (the Vy Khanh) Lady here very nice and helpful- changed our dollarage into dongage at the best rate imaginable and gave us maps and advice.
We headed out - me limping badly after a stealth mozzy attack on both my feet sometime during the last 24 hours-which left both feet with around 8 blistering, weeping bites -extremely painful. The tiny proportion we saw of Saigon was madness. Busy, loud, smelly, great scuttling roaches running amongst litter and red plastic chairs outside bars and cafes. We supped a few local ales (30p each)and then found a lovely little restuarant serving trad Vietnamese grub - lush.
The dong situation is a mind bender (currently I'm a multi multi millionnaire ($250 dollars into dong) You order a coffee for say 20,000 dong (that's a dollar-which in turn is about 75p-so we're trying to suss it out. We slept well and were awoken at 7am by the sound of someone trying to break in through our bedroom wall with a slug hammer. Turns out next door are demolishing something and start at 7am until 5.30 each day... great!
After brekkie we set out to book our train ticket for tomorrow night to Hoi An - problem- no sleepers or seats left at all all day! Tonight at 2300
hours, there are two berths left only -so we needed to make the quick decision to book those and cut short our Saigon trip. It's a pain in the jacksie to be honest as we're still beat from yesterday's 13 hour bus horror so to already set out on a 33 hour train journey isn't appealing. Having said that, the idea of spending three nights in demolitionville and four days in crazytown doesn't bode of rest and recreation time either. So here we are at 12.45pm in.... "Saigon - waiting for a mission and every hour we're here we're getting weaker and every hour Charlie is out there in the jungle he's getting stronger!" (paraphrasing there from the start of Apocalypse Now- seems appropriate)
On the plus side.. we have met some really sweet folks- the hotel lady is a poppet and is letting us keep the room until 9pm and will still refund us for tonight. The little lady in her room across the alley sewed a button on Si's shorts and wouldn't charge him, the lady in the cafe where we had breakfast gave us a plate of chopped banana and announced very sweetly that she was so happy we had come here.
So dear reader we are offski again tonight and will hopefully be able to update from a place of safety, serenity and stillness in Hoi An sometime on Saturday. Hope all are well and thanks again to the terrific folks in Kampot if they check by here- we very nearly turned around and came back at about 10.30 this morning (only the thought of another journey with the psycho small bollocked bus driver put us off!)