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Published: September 22nd 2016
Wellington to Auckland to Ho Chi Minh City in 14 hours. Not bad eh? The only small hiccup when we had left home, courtesy of Pete Wear being our taxi driver, was getting to the Wellington Stadium after 30 minutes in morning rush hour traffic for Lyn to suddenly ask: "Where's my red bag?" Said red bag with all her promo material was on the bed in the spare bedroom. A quick turn-a-round, back home, pick up bag and into the rush hour again. We made it. After that, all plain sailing. Lyn was in Business class to HCM and I lucked out, having only two seats in my row, both empty, so I could stretch out. Relative comfort. I was allowed to visit the elite at the front end of the plane and her majesty made a couple of visits to me.
So we landed at around 7.30pm and, after some rudimentary arrival procedures, hopped into a taxi, paid more than we should have (100,000 Dong more but only about NZ $6.00) and checked in to the Sheraton after 30 minutes in the maddest traffic we've yet been in. Cars, buses and thousands of motor scooters going wherever they felt like - in, out, behind, in front, squeeze, within millimetres of each other but all in very good spirit or so it appeared. The whole schemozzle isn't going very fast so it doesn't seem to be a major problem unless you've newly arrived, like us. Fascinating.
Spacious room, nice view etc.The hotel has an olde worlde charm about it. Slightly faded but grand in its day I think. After checking in and unpacking we had a quick swim in the pool to get rid of the air travel lethargy (at 2.00 am NZ time) and hit the sack at local time 9.30pm. We slept OK until around 5.30am local time and checked out breakfast a bit later. An interesting mix of Vietnamese and western food all beautifully presented and yum to boot.
We walked a few streets afterwards ending up in an atmospheric cafe, L'usine, in a backstreet, up some stairs and in a room with art on the walls and objet d'arts spread on shelves and tables around the room. The Vietnamese coffee was strong enough to curl toenails and I think my occasional coffee buddies, Bruce and Gavin, would have been proud of my long black drinking. I've had three today so I'm hyperactive (for a septuagenarian).
We are in a well-known area for historic sites and institutions. The Rex Hotel (of American War notoriety) is just across the block; Uncle Ho's boulevarde and statue a few hundred metres away; Reunification Palace a short stroll, etc.
After lunch Lyn got herself ready for her first appointment while I got prepared to go sight seeing. I didn't go very far but it doesn't matter when there is so much going on in such a small space. My biggest impression is of the traffic especially the swarms of mopeds and motor scooters which are the preferred transport of the majority. It's just like we've read about when crossing a road or at an intersection. Take a big breath, say a prayer and walk out into it with one arm fluttering out to say, "I'm here. Watch out!". It works. The swarms open around one and the cars slow a little to allow you to avoid their bulk and then you're across. It takes some getting used to but as the guide books say, if you walk purposefully, don't deviate, keep an eye out and let your intentions be known, you should be OK. So far so good.
The evening was taken up with a dinner for local education agents hosted by the NZ contingent here for education business. We had a great meal, met some interesting people and felt like we had a good end to our first day.
(I'm a bit behind with this diary. Will catch up, at not too much length Bruce, and add photos).
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