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Published: August 6th 2007
Saigon seemed "same same but different" at our second visit. It's hard to point out why, but it was maybe not with the same excitement we came to Saigon this time. After a 14 hour bus journey from Sihanoukville in Cambodia (Hello Moto?
), via Phnom Phen, we stepped on Saigon soil again.
Before our trip we had heard horror stories about tricky boarder crossings between Cambodia and Vietnam, with people having to pay for extra health forms to the exact same amount as they were carrying cash. What a coincidence! However, both times we crossed this border, at two different locations (Chau Doc and Bavet), it was really smooth. Much easier and efficient than many western boarder crossings, and they still managed to do the nesseccary checks. Maybe we have something to learn here?
We had our eye set on continuing up the coast to Hoi An and then back south, to catch our flight to Hong Kong 12 days later. The plan was to only spend a night in Saigon but arriving late, ment that we were tired and also saw the opportunity to see the War Museum, that we didn't have time for last time (Motos rule!
), a couple
of weeks ago. Next morning we quickly booked our self a flight the following day with Vietnam Airlines for a lousy 800,000 Dong ($60) and set off to town.
We were prepared to see horrific scenes at the museum, as the Vietnam war is much better publicised than the Khmere Rouge era in Cambodia. It was still a bit of a chock. The museum holds mostly pictures from the war, but a few US tanks, choppers and airplanes as well. The "normal" war pictures were really enough. These were real pics, not Hollywood directed scenes. They were followed by countless stories about the hundreds of journalists and photographers who had to sacrifise their lives to bring their message to the world. Very moving. However, it in the exhibition with pictures of US war crimes it really kicked in.
Agent Orange, we've heard about it, but never paid too much attention. And when we saw the pictures, we realised that we had seen countless victims of US chemical warfare in Cambodia, without really thinking about it. The twisted legs and arms that look like chicken wings gives it away. It is embarrising to admit, but we couldn't spend anymore
time there. It was just too depressing. We just wanted to get back to our trip as soon as possible. Still we managed to stay until they closed and litteraly had to drag us out. It was with somber steps we walked back to our hotel in District 1.
An 1.5h flight departing at 11.30am. You have enough time to get a descent breakfast and still arrive early enough to be able to do something constructive at your destination. RyanAir really has to make a trip here to find out how you provide excellent service at a very low cost (admittedly wages are a fraktion here, but still). Vietnam Airlines was on time, at the right gate, provided numbered seats, newspapers and food for less than a normal RyanAir ticket betwwen Stansted (London) and Skavsta ("Stockholm", Sweden). and friendly staff on top of that. Amazing!
Arriving Danang, which is the closest town to Hoi An with an airport, was a bit different though. First we tried to get a taxi to the bus station, for the bus to Hoi An.
- OK, 40,000 Dong ($2.50), said the driver, but I can take you to Hoi An for $10.
Guillotine, War Remnants Museum
First used by the French, and later handed over to the US forces. Last used for execution in 1960.
We had been told it should cost around 17,000 Dong to the bus station and told him so. After a bit of debate he finally agreed and dropped us just outside the gates to the airport, claiming this was the bus station. We knew it wasn't, but he just wouldn't take that.
- Hoi An for $10?
On the street there were, however, bus stops for Hoi An, but nowhere to buy a ticket or any info on when they were leaving. Soon enough a couple of moto drivers turned up.
- $3 each to Hoi An on our motos, seep, seep .
- No thank you, we want to take the bus.
It's not about the money, but the thought of spending 40 min on the back of a moto with a big backpack and a couple of smaller bags didn't really appeal to us.
The moto drivers would just not go away.
- 1, 2, 3 dollars, one of them counted, seep, seep. Bus is $5.
So it went on for the better part of 30 min, when finally a minbus going to Hoi An stopped next to us. The
price was $2 and off we went. Clearly a lot more than what the locals paid, which we knew, but it was such a relief to leave the moto drivers behind that we didn't want to haggle. They didn't look to impressed when we told them what we paid for the bus, just before the bus left.
The trip went through a differnet landscape to what we had seen before in Vietnam. Hills, mountins and open fields, instead of canals, rivers, house by house on the flat.
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