Trip Start Aug 26, 2008
145Trip End Aug 17, 2009
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After dropping off our bags, we headed out into the backpacker district and walked the grid of streets. We were extremely disappointed that it was not "Khao San Road in miniature" as the guide book had suggested. Saigon's backpacker district is the most overpriced budget hotel location we've visited. While there are plenty of streetside vendors, the restaurants, bars, and café's are highly overpriced.
While the rest of Saigon might have been better, we didn't have much reason to stay in the city, and several good reasons to leave it. It appeared that we would need at least 7 days of processing time, once we reached Hanoi, in order to get Mark's Chinese visa. Originally, we had intended to get the visa through the express processing available in Hong Kong. HK is a visa-free area for US citizens and the easiest place to get Chinese visas. However, with the advent of Swine Flu, the Chinese authorities have restricted the express processing and now require at least 5 or more days to process visas. A flight to Hong Kong and 5 days there will cost us much more than 7 days in Hanoi and an overland trip to Hong Kong.
However, our Vietnamese visas are only valid for 15 days, and so we must make our way to Hanoi by the morning of 05-20. Therefore, we decided not to waste any extra time in Saigon, and instead concentrate on visiting three cities in the south and central of Vietnam. To meet this ambitious itinerary, we plan on taking two long overnight busses and making a grueling series of short stops on our way up the long coastal country.
So, the night we arrived in Saigon, we booked a bus onward to Mui Ne for the next morning. After a too-short rest, we packed up our bags and boarded an early bus for the coastal town.