Day 119: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

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March 26th 2010
Published: March 27th 2010
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Day 119:Friday, March 26th, 2010.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.

Per Intrepid notes:
Days 1-2 Ho Chi Minh City
Xin cho! Welcome to Vietnam.
You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. The meeting will be followed by an optional group dinner. On day 2, we travel out of the city to visit the former Viet Minh underground stronghold at Cu Chi. The extensive tunnel system here provides great insight into the tenacity and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese people. We return to Ho Chi Minh City in time for lunch and in the afternoon, we take a cyclo tour of the city, which includes a stop at the War Remnants Museum. This popular museum is a real eye-opener as well as a good opportunity to see the American war from the perspective of the local Vietnamese themselves. Our time in Ho Chi Minh City are spent in a 1 star hotel conveniently located near the Ben Thanh Market and all the
sights of District 1.

So, not much sleep was had in my safe hotel room. Even after turning off the AC, it was friggin cold, so I slept in my clothes. Plus, I had been warned about this, the bed was rock hard- typical for this part of the world. I would have thought my extra padding would help, but it wasn't a good sleep night. I got up, was out the door in 10 minutes (nice not to have to pack/carry Monstro) and hopped on the airport train to my next gate. Kuala Lumpur Airport is supposed to be amazing, I didn't take the time to check it out though. I handed my ticket to the ticket taker lady and was let into the holding section for my next plane. After sitting there for about 5 minutes, that lady walked up to me and showed me the ticket I had just given her and was asking if I was "Amanda Lents". Um, yes, that is me. I thought she wanted my passport so I held that out. No, she kept saying "I need your ticket". Hmmmm.... that's kind of what you have in your hand. I then remembered the purple/impossible to read ticket that Orbitz had to overnight to me at the beginning of the trip. I had shown them to the Sydney airport desk and they had given me new ones. Luckily, they let me keep the old because that's what she was wanting. Kind of a freaky moment though. Got on board the plane and the only thing to report on this flight is watching the guy sitting diagonally in front of me yawn, and a stream of spit coming out of his mouth- I believe the word is "gleek". I waited for him to act embarrassed and cover his mouth. No, instead some more drool dripped down the side. This man was not "special", so I am entitled to be appalled/laugh at him. And so I did.

Get into Ho Chi Minh City Airport and I pull out my papers that say "Hey, she's got a visa, hand it over and let her be on her way." Instead, I get handed back more Visa papers to fill out and I'm told I owe $25. I said I had already done this and paid online, but no go. So, I handed her my debit card and they take cash only. I asked her where the ATM was and she said outside the airport. Well, I can't go outside the airport because you have my passport in your hand and I don't have a Visa. So, Amanda's Travel Tip of the Day: Have some of your destination countries money in your wallet BEFORE you get there. It's never been a problem before, it was this time. So, I was escorted to the ATM, got my money, went back, got my Visa and flew thru customs (yea!) I had paid Intrepid (I'll be touring with them and not Contiki for this last part of my journey) extra for a driver to pick me up so I looked for my name, found it, and was shown to the wonderful world of air conditioning.

My driver was nice and he tried to hold up a conversation. He speaks English better than I speak Vietnamese (I'm up to two whole words!) but I had to correct him when he kept saying "fisting, fisting" and motioned towards the many scooters that were weaving in and out of traffic. The word he wanted, was "fishing". Slight difference. The scooters here are insane- there are so many! I don't know how anyone drives, much less walk across the road. And, I asked the driver what I should call the city. I'm seeing signs all over for "Saigon" but the name has changed to "Ho Chi Minh City". He said most people still call it Saigon (he does), and so shall I.

We get to my hotel, Tan Hai Long 2 (also called Hai Ha Hotel). It's a 1 star and I was prepared to cry, but it's actually not that bad. not the prettiest, but it's clean. I set my stuff down and 15 minutes later I'm out on the sidewalk, ready to conquer Saigon.

30 minutes later I'm back at the hotel. For lack of a better term- fuck that! It was insanely hot and humid and I thought I was going to die crossing the road. So, I headed back to the hotel to wait for my new roommate/tour group. A couple of hours later, Tini came in. She's a very sweet girl from Germany and she and 6 others had just finished the Intrepid Cambodia trip and were continuing on until Hanoi, Vietnam with us. It ends up 10 of the 12 of this group end in Hanoi. Myself and one other lady are going all the way to Beijing. So, looks like we'll be getting used to new tour members every 2 weeks. Damn, I was hoping those days were behind me.

So, Tini and I chat for a bit and she invites me out to drinks with the rest of the Cambodia gang. We head out about 3:30pm (supposed to be at the hotel for orientation at 6pm) and head over to the Sheraton's Roof Top Wine Bar. WOW! That's it, next time I'm traveling I'm spending money on awesome hotels. I smiled just walking into the lobby. I gotta find me a doctor to marry. I had a fun time sipping my Pepsi while the others enjoyed the 2 for 1 cocktail hour. The others are: Bruno & Evelyn (Switzerland), Joe & Kathy (Sydney, Australia), and Susan (England)- and of course Tinii. They're a fun bunch and I'm looking forward to seeing Vietnam with them. Too bad I'll be saying goodbye in about 10 days.

We head back to the hotel and meet up with the rest of the group: Taylor (USA) and Stephanie (Scotland) but they are teaching English in Japan so they're now from Japan, Barry & Nelli (Melbourne, Australia) and our Tour Guide, Bao (pronounced like, "take a bow"). There is one other from our group, Rita (England) but she hasn't made it to the hotel yet. So, Bao goes over the groundwork and then we all head to a restaurant where he's made reservations. This restaurant was awesome, and so far I can't find it online. I'll try to get a link posted. It was beautiful and the food was amazing. We asked Bao to order us plenty of whatever, his choice. All the dishes were great and I forced myself to be a big girl and use chopsticks. Plus, I actually tried dishes that I didn't know the name of. And, 24 hours later, I'm still alive. So, look at me, I'm growing. There was so much food but it only came to 130,000 Dong which is $6.80 US. Everything is so cheap over here.

After dinner, we started to walk back to the hotel and it started to rain like crazy. Fast scooters and rain don't mix- we saw two different scooters wipe out in front of our eyes. Everyone was okay (and the locals standing near the accident would run over to help), but I still think I'd avoid driving in the rain if I had one of those scooters. Some of the group headed off to a coffee shop (yes, just coffee) but most of us went to the hotel and called it a night. Guess which group I was in?

Additional photos below
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12th April 2010

You opted not to persue a careere as a scooter stunt driver?
How many dong in a dugong?

Tot: 2.751s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 19; qc: 75; dbt: 0.0567s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb