The Cambodia Challenge

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Asia » Vietnam » Southeast » Ho Chi Minh City » District 1
February 2nd 2013
Published: March 22nd 2013EDIT THIS ENTRY

my lifemy lifemy life

everything i need in this small backpack and waiting for the adventures to start in the waiting room of the Hanoi airport
The mission: Tet Holiday (2weeks) in Cambodia with $232

Feb 2 2013

Gate 10 waiting room. I should be relaxed and happy but sitting here I had a strange feeling of pressure and anticipation. 2 weeks of freedom ahead of me and a small backpack holding all the essentials (super compact sleeping bag, a change of clothes appropriate for temples, my kindle, camera, ipod and a few toiletries). A few deep breathes and some good tunes helps me loosen up.

This is the first trip of it’s kind. No real schedule, no big luggage, no money and couch surfing. My tentative plan is to arrive in Saigon at 5pm and catch the night bus to Cambodia, Phnom Penh to be exact. From there just go where the wind takes me, with the only goals of seeing Angkor Wat and getting in some beach time. So why am I feeling so anxious? (The winter in Hanoi has been cruel and has had me on edge and I’m pretty sure I have vitamin D deficiency). I have to remind myself to relax and enjoy, soak it all in. Be happy, rejoice in my solitude and keep an open mind.
Birds eye viewBirds eye viewBirds eye view

such an expansive city

As soon as Saigon was in view from my window seat 7A, I was amazed. I’ve never seen such a city. It’s sprawling, with a few sky scrapers but mostly typical Viet architecture and city planning (aka no city planning)! Everything is mushed on top of the next in this city of 10 million, and surprisingly winding through the middle of all of this is a huge river. The Saigon River. How the city doesn’t sink all together is beyond me. As we get lower you can see the traffic and people on the streets; the Viet way of life. I didn’t want to the plane to land… I couldn’t take it all in, it was incredible beyond words.

Almost every country or city has this thing where they hate on another part of town. For the Romans, they don’t like people from Naples. In America, there is the whole East vs West thing. And in Vietnam it’s North vs South… still. Hanoi has a distinct charm and I’ve fallen in love with it. Hanoians may describe Saigon as too western and no charm, too many people and expensive. Conversly I’m sure Saigonians have a few opinions of Hanoi.
on the bankson the bankson the banks

view of the Saigon River
So heading to Saigon I was not interested to spend much time there at all. The universe had a different plan, and from my window seat, I didn’t care. I was intrigued!

My xe om (motor bike taxi) drive during rush hour from the air port to District 1 was surprisingly nice. Dusk is decidedly the best time to see a city, with the workers heading home, the night coming to life and the sky filled with color. Furthermore, in preparation for Tet, the city center is decked out with lights, laterns, flowers, trees and people. It kind of makes up for the lack of Christmas spirit… I mean this is the big holiday in Vietnam, not Christmas. The city was alive and all the buses to Cambodia were full until 9am the next morning. Booked that and a $5 bed and headed out. Walked a good while around the surrounding blocks and sampled some tasty potatoes. I can’t even remember the last time I ate potatoes! Now, find some bia hoi. At 7,000 VND a glass (more expensive than Hanoi) I had 3 beers for a total of $1.

Bia hoi has a way of bringing people… no strangers, together. The only open seat was at a table with 5 other people. Next to me sat a kind soul named Lisa, from Scotland. We chatted a while and went to another bar aw well. It was so nice to meet a nice girl after being around so many boys, I miss to do girly things with my friends from home. After a bucket and a half from this other bar, it was time to head to bed but not after me inviting her to come to Cambodia with me and her inviting me to stay in Saigon for a while with her. Back at my hostel I ran into an animated Canadian chick and we immediately clicked too. I stayed up another 2 and a half hours chatting with her and nother girl from Korea. All 3 of us giggled and gossiped away until it was really time for bed!

Day 1: 3 awesome friends and 676,000VND less.

50 petrol for Cormac to drive me to the airport

30 Banh My Pate for me and Cormac

20 water

100 xe om

252 bus to PP

100 bed

20 potatoes

21 bia hoi

60 buckets of alcohol

7 water

16 note book

Total: 676,000 VND


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