City by the Mekong Delta

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
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Trip End Jan 31, 2012


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Where I stayed
MyMy Arthouse Hostel
Overnight Train

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 1 – Around Town
Spent another morning on a bus to get to Ho Chi Minh City. Arrived after lunch on the main street with lots of tour agencies and cheap hotels. Decided to head to the dorms I had seen online and found the place was more like a home turned into the floor. Family lived on the ground floor so not much of a common area for guests. Also the owner a bit pushy about taking their tours.

After checking in wandered around the tour agencies looking for a 1 day delta tour and for a decent priced train back to Hanoi. Had originally planned to spend 5 days in the area but since my passport got done in half the expected time (5days not 10) decided to head back as soon as possible to get it for for a visa which someone had said could take up to 10 working days. Wasnt sure if this was the case though since also had been told it would only take 3-4 days. In anycase it was better to try and get back and have everything sorted prior to my original visa running out.

While it was possible to get a bus back (cheaper) it would also mean having to change buses and have a few hours stopover at one or more places along the way. Train was quicker and more direct and would get me back in 34hrs even if more expensive ($85). Flying would be cheaper but with no passport that was never gonna happen.

After getting the train ticket wandered into a different agency and bought a one day tour of the delta. Decided on the more expensive option of a boat rather than bus trip to the first destination.

From here decided to wander the streets before it got dark. Found the streets to be very busy here lots of bikes all over the place on these wide open roads. While walking by the park had someone approach me and it always surprising how they know someone in Australia. This was his sister and she was heading to adelaide for some reason. Not sure where the conversation was going to head from there but excused myself at this point.

Unlike Hanoi, Saigon has lots of tall buildigs in the immediate area I was in. Guess it may have something to do with it having twice as many people (7mil). The place definately felt less inviting and seedier than Hanoi had.

Pretty much randonly made my way to the river past the markets, some palace like building and the opera house. Also past a few interesting buildings. At the river wandered along it for a bit but since it was starting to get late decided to head back stopping off a a nice bakery along way and through a more authentic looking local market street. Lots and lots of traffic here. Would say more than Hanoi but hard to tell since location and time of week also play a part in these things.

Once back near the hotel, hang out there for a while and saw what looked like asian world games or something with one of the things being show being football (soccor). This important to note for latter.

After a while headed out to the street for dinner and found the streets to be very busy. Eventually they got even busier with lots of people waving flags about on the backs of there bikes and lots of yelling and singing.

Ended up stopping on a corner to eat and watch in a street side chair. At this point was guessing that this was not a typical saturday night and that something was going on. Given I had seen the football and knowing how people are about the game, was guessing Vietnam had won its match. This was confirmed when I asked someone at the restuarant.

From here wandered the streets and watched the commotion for another hour or so after dinner. Saw a fair few families both young and old with up to 4 people (2kids, 2 adults) on a single bike.
Also lots of locals parked along the sides of the roads watching the commotion.

Back at the hostel chatted with a guy in my room and he seems to think that all Vietnamese are crooks. He was teaching english and it seems hes been robbed 4 times. Also had conversations with other who say they dont trust their own wife not to steel from them. While I personally havent found theft here or people wanting to be your friend to get your money any worse here than anywhere else I get the feeling that I might make an exception with regards to Ho chi Minh city. Like I said earlier, it definately seems seedier than other places I have been in vietnam.


Day 2 – Delta Tour - MyTho + Ben Tre, Hindu Temple
Had an early start as always for the delta Tour. Was picked up by the bus and taken with a fairly large group to the docks where we boarded a boat and started our 2-3 hour boat ride from Ho Chi Ming City to our first stop.

Not the most interesting boat trip I have taken. Found the river to be quite wide and without to much on its banks beyond a few small shanty towns. Did though see lots of boats running down the river. These were of various size from big barges to smaller fishing vessles. Also found that lots of these boats had eyes painted on their bows. Found out later that these were teh eyes of a god watching the river for alligators and painted onto the boats to protect them.

First stop was at a bee farm where we were show a honey comb full of honey. Here we also stopped to have some lemon honey tea and sweets. The tea was nice but of course the people here were also trying to sell extra sweets and other things. Guess way to many tourist pass through here. As for this being a bee farm, well that part want all that interesting.

Continued on from here to a small canal where we had a 20min at most boat paddle down a narrow canal back to the motor boat. While this was nice it was a bit of a conveyer line at first and definatley to short and straight. Again way to many tourists.

Next part was back on the motor boat and a cruise around the island. Well cant really call it around the islands since while you could see the four different islands we mostly just stayed on the main big part of the river. From here the motor boat did enter another canal and we made it to the coconut candy place. While the guide had some comments about it he didnt really saw anything of interest (definatley one of the worser guides I have had). We got to try a piece of warm soft candy and agai had the option to buy.

Jumped into a small motor boat and had a nice cruise along another canal to reach our spot for lunch. This was rice and a couple of peices of chicken along with a menu from which you could choose something more substantial.

Had 1 hr for lunch and a bike ride which meant that by the time lunch was finished you didnt have much time for riding. Ended up doing a quick 45min bike ride to the nearby town which wasnt so rustic.

Final stop was another small village where we had tea nd some singers came out to sing for us. This was pretty much the end of the tour with the boat taking us from here to a bus which then took us back to town. Have a feeling the multi day tour would have been better (or tour option2) which took you more into local villages and markets.

Back in town wandered the streets for a bit and managed to wander past the hindu temple which I entered. After that ate something and pretty much killed the rest of the afternoon at the hostel watching the locals in the streets. Hostel was in an alleyway but not the kind of dingy ones you might find at home. This one was full of local families who had the fronts of their houses open to the street and who were sitting and chatting in the street with their neighbours or kids.

When it was finally time to get the train headed to the travel agency for my ticket then got a taxi to the train station. While the taxis here dont seem dodgey like the ones in hanoi (meter shows the number of KM) the cost of them per Km is greater. At a couple of bucks for 3km who can complain though.

Had a bit of time to kill before I could board the train and once on it found it quite spacious. I had booked the soft sleeper which had 4 bunks and unlike all the other trains I have been on the top bunk had more than enough room to let you sit up while sitting on it. Also found that the bed was plent long enough to sleep on for me.

Final comment about the train. While the carriage was nice, not so sure about the tracks. Not sure if it has to do with how the tracks were laid by the french or whether they are just poorly maintained but definatley a bumpy ride. Lots of rocking around from side to side in this train of mine making it interesting when it came to sleeping. Thankfully once asleep I could ignore it but was a bit of a challege getting to sleep.
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