SE Asia

Saigon, Vietnam

posted by Stuart Wilson0 comments

As soon as the plane touched down in Saigon I felt like we were home. The single most amazing country on the planet – What Charlie always talks about, where I always want to be, we were back in Vietnam. (or Viet Nam)
Last year we travelled Vietnam extensively so for all the practical info look back over our blog.
Basically it is a strip of a country of a country South of China and bordering both Cambodia and Laos to the East(ish) It has some of the most amazing beaches on earth, most beautiful scenery on the planet, an amazing climate and is home to the most beautiful women on the planet.
Vietnamese people are laid back, chilled out, friendly, welcoming, funny – Think of everything that pisses you off and imagine how you wish things would be, well they’re like that in Vietnam.
We had originally planned for 2 weeks in Vietnam, but we needed to extend our time in Thailand and so Vietnam funded the time we needed. Sadly we had only 2 days in Saigon. But damn, it was good to be back.
We got the bus from the airport since I knew my way around Saigon, it cost about 3,000VND each. I would not recommend this to first time travellers unless you can arrange pick up from Ben Than (Ben Tan) market which is about 200m from the backpacker scene.
We were going to meet our good friends the Long’s. They had no room at their place and so put us up with relatives. We arranged to go out for a meal that evening, which we did and had a really good time. Being out in Vietnam with Vietnamese people actually is a huge bonus.
Mrs Long asked if we wanted her to cook lunch the next day and we grateful accepted. Once that was agreed upon I threw back the Tigers and we boogied on down amidst the neon lights of Saigon.
The following day we woke up at 11am, which really is a sign of how exhausted we are. We hit the Longs for lunch and had a beautiful meal which was home cooked Stew with fresh bread. Mrs Long had seen me banging out the Tigers the previous night and so had gone and bought me some local beers to wash it down with. It was gorgeous and afterwards Mrs Long booked our bus tickets for the following day, it really does go without saying that the benefits of having a local purchase your tickets is the best thing you can do.
We borrowed an Umbrella and away we went to the market. Ben Than market is probably the world’s best market. There isn’t a thing you can’t buy, Rolex watches, every item of clothing imaginable, Luis Vuiton handbags, Channel no 5 and probably someone’s kid – All for next to nothing. Though I say that, I questioned the price of a gorgeous Omega watch and was told $75USD, I laughed and it instantly fell to $20. I managed to bargain him down to $6 so you need to be aware. But for those less confident part of the market is sectioned off and is fixed price, but last year I managed to bargain so it’s worth a try. The single most effective way of bargaining in Vietnam starts with him giving the price, then you say “ill check elsewhere and may come back” Instantly you will be given a realistic price, then go to 25% of that price. The bargaining then begins. Needless to say the Vietnamese know what they are doing and they will never sell at a loss, but the general consensus is that $1 profit is still profit – If you use that to your advantage then some of the best bargains on earth are in Vietnam.
The remainder of the day it rained, which wasn’t really a problem because it brought cool weather and meant that I had to stay in and it gave us a perfect opportunity to sort some things out and catch up on a few things.
So, tomorrow we leave for Cambodia. The next 5/6 days are going to be among some of the most difficult of the whole trip and I have spent time today trying to make as much of it as streamlined as possible as I can. For instance, over the next few weeks we travel entirely on land which eventually will take us right from Vietnam, through Cambodia, the entire length of Thailand, Malaysia and to the tip of Singapore before we head to Indonesia. The border of Vietnam/Cambodia Moc Bai crossing tomorrow is notorious for being difficult. For example the currency in Cambodia is the Riel, yet for your visa at the border you must pay in USD which means you of course get a ridiculous rate if you try and change money at the border. We also got some passport photo’s together and bought basic things which make a huge difference like a ball point pen. It is amazing how difficult it is to get hold of a pen at a border crossing. We have, or rather Mrs Long has, arranged for someone from the bus company to come to our hotel tomorrow morning at 0630 and escort us to the bus stop. And I have packed.
All that sorted and we went for a meal, a few beers and ended up meeting a guy from Aus who has welcomed us at his place whenever we are next in Oz. So here is to all the people who have offered us accommodation thus far –

Atishaya in Calcutta and Jaipur – India
Javier in Chile – S. America
Elizabeth’s man in Columbia, S. America
The beautiful Marena in Los Angles and Boston, Good ol’ USA (probably the next stop for me 🙂 )
The Longs in Saigon, Vietnam
Bill in Melbourne, Australia (along with Charlie and Martin who I already know)

Here is to you guys for your generosity 😛

And here is to tomorrow and the 12 hr bus ride through Vietnam and Cambodia to Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of Angkor Wat and apparently the most amazing historical location on the planet.

Wish us luck!

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