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Published: January 22nd 2010
After a long and hot bus ride, it was good to get out and walk the streets of Saigon.
We made it! Today was primarily another travel day. We got up at 7 and ate breakfast at our hostel- I had a tofu, carrot, sprout whole wheat breakfast sandwich thing and Martin had a fried egg with veggies on a baguette. 😊 By 8, we were full, checked out and in a shuttle van to the bus station and by 8:30 we were boarded onto the Mekong Express Limo (what?) Bus and on our way to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The Mekong Express gets a definite good rating from us. There was tons of leg room, we were given 2 pastries & water and they made the border crossing pretty painless by even filling out the necessary forms for us and basically just calling our names at the Cambodia exit and again at Vietnam entry. They stopped for a quick lunch break where we all bought some 'fast' food right before the border and we arrived in HCMC at 3:20pm, right down the street from our hotel we had booked by email just yesterday.
We're staying at the Orient Hotel, in the Pham Ngu Lao area (Backpackers budget heaven). Our room has a queen bed, a real
We at a a Mexican restaurant,t La Cantina, but ordered some Vietnamese food too!
shower enclosure (gasp, in Asia!), a TV complete with things like HBO and MTV, AC, free wifi, a refrigerator, and even provided us with things like shampoo and toothbrushes. Quite the deal for 20USD a night. It was in the upper 80s by the time we arrived, so we spent the first little bit just laying in the air conditioned room and getting settled. We dropped off laundry at the reception desk, found an ATM to get Vietnamese Dong (no more USD, they still accept it some places here and lots of places quote their prices in USD but you get a much better rate if you pay in dong) and headed out to La Cantina, a Mexican place we'd read about online. Yes, we're apparently Mexican food addicts-- we didn't know this about ourselves before moving to Asia. The funny thing was that we ended up ordering vegetarian chimichangas and then a vegetarian Vietnamese dish- fried lemongrass chili. We learned our lesson- the Vietnamese dish was FAR superior and it reminded us to eat Vietnamese food only while we're here-- we were certainly not at all disappointed from any of the Khmer food we ate!
After dinner, we
A cute good cause cafe. Great cookies!
enjoyed just walking around the area, taking in all the sights and people. It's a crazy city. More motorbikes than in Cambodia, street food everywhere- all of which looks delicious. We'd read about a cafe called Sozo, that employs and helps disadvantaged young Cambodian people and their families, so we stopped in there for some delicious chocolate chip cookies and Vietnamese iced tea. Mmm, cookies. I had forgotten how good they were...feel free to mail us more. 😊 After cookies, we enjoyed two bottles of 'Saigon' beer at a pub across the street from our hotel and then headed over to a local hair salon to get Martin's hair buzzed. It's definitely shorter than I think it's been since we've known each other, but it looks good and probably feels tons cooler in this weather.
After a wonderful voice chat with my brother online, we're just relaxing in our hotel for the evening. The plan for tomorrow? Massages, the War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, a few pagodas, perhaps the History Museum and then dinner with our friends Kris & Kelly from CTLC who also arrived here this afternoon.
I'm sure we'll have lots more to say about the
Martin's Vietnamese haircut. Got it all buzzed off.
people and culture here after these next few days. Hard to believe that we're somewhere now that both our fathers worked so hard to avoid just a few decades ago. Even harder to believe we're being treated so friendly here as Americans when I'm sure everyone here knows someone who died in the war. This trip is definitely giving us both hope for the world...
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