Voyage to Vietnam

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
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Trip End May 02, 2013


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Phnom Penh, we booked an 'express boat' to glide down the Mekong River into Vietnam.  We were highly entertained by a few older European tourists (mostly French) who all but refused to get on when they saw the boat.  This first boat was actually very comfortable and almost empty so we had plenty of room to move around and take pictures.  However, since the surrounding land is flat and the river wide, the scenery was less than spectacular, limited to a few encounters with fishermen and large cargo and tourist boats.  Still, it was a nice change from the multitude of buses we'd been riding.

Sometime around the halfway point, we docked briefly and waited for another boat.  When the smaller, dodgier looking one arrived there were of course more protests from our travel companions for the day.  This was the vessel that would carry us across the border into Vietnam.

We had to disembark on both the Cambodian and Vietnam sides for more stamps in our passports.  After about six hours on the water, we arrived in Chau Doc, a small border town and our stopover for the night.  Amid more sighs of displeasure from them, we were happy to leave our co-boaters behind.

We were greeted by several cyclo (bicycle with a tight little carriage in tow) drivers, but declined their offers as we knew it was only a short distance to our hotel.  Sylvia has made a good habit of drawing maps to ensure we're prepared on arrival.  One of the cyclo drivers followed and passed without us knowing so Jason thought he was seeing his twin when he approached us again to offer another hotel.  Into another market we dove and out the other side we found Trung Nguyen Hotel.  Knowing we had only a few short hours here, we said goodbye to the gecko in our room and quickly sorted out plans for the next day with the very helpful staff, then hit the town.

With a tea, banana fritter, fresh sugar cane juice, a new SIM card and a few million dong (US$1 ~ 21,000 dong), we were off to a good start.  Our evening consisted of a sunset walk along the river with crab, shrimp and beer for dinner.  Vietnamese food is accompanied by fresh herbs, sprouts, chilies and lime, often left to the consumer to mix and match as they please.

The next morning we headed for Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) and with the heads of our bus seats at 45 degrees, we enjoyed the most comfy ride yet.  Two hours in we crossed the river by giant ferry.  Two more hours passed, ending with a lunch stop at the bus company's huge dining hall.  We lapped up our bun bo hue (pork noodle soup) and shared a banh mi heo quay (roast pork sandwich), both of which were delicious.  After another two hours, we arrived in Saigon.

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