Monday, November 15, 2010

Saigon - How do I love thee, let me count the ways...

Saigon, Saigon....

We flew from Delhi to KL - 6 hours, had a 4 hour layover in KL and then flew to Saigon - 2 hours. As we left Delhi at 9:30pm and arrived in Saigon at 10:00am, it was a long trip and we were thrilled to be in Vietnam where the food is fresh and the beers are always cold!

We organized an airport pickup with the hostel, smartly, because we never would have found it on our own. Upon arrival at the main road by the hostel we were greeted by a lovely 20-something Vietnamese girl that spoke English. Luke and I were pretty sure that the hostel was going to be great (especially after India) and were thrilled by just how great it was. It was family-run, clean as clean can be, had hot water, A/C and a TV and was only a few blocks from everything that we wanted to see. And was under our budget, which, of course makes everything that much better! And there were no rats, which, in our book, is very important! They even cooked us dinner one night!

We checked in, dropped our stuff off and were out the door within 15 minutes to get our hands on and our mouths around some pho. We walked 3 blocks and came across a place that specialized in pho so we pulled up a stool and slurped our way to heaven. We both had the lean beef pho and could not have been happier. And as we were on holiday, we had a beer to accompany it.

After coming down from our Pho high we got up paid (about 5$CAD for everything) and went out to explore the neighborhood. Everywhere we went was the scent of delicious food cooking and wonderful little local bars. We wandered up and down the streets and stopped for a few cold ones (as you do) before heading back to the hotel to relax for a bit, and then headed back out once we were rested.

The area was just as mental and scented and local at night. Near our hostel we stopped for some delicious prawn and chicken fresh spring rolls (laura & mom, you would have loved them!) and then ventured out into the night. We stopped at a large, touristy place first, which was a mistake because the beers were expensive (1.50$CAD) which meant there was no craic. After that one beer we wandered across the street and were greeted by a drunk Vietnamese woman that coerced us into stopping at her bar for a drink. Her name was Ling and it was her 35th birthday. As it was her bar she took our order and then insisted that we do a tequila shot with her in celebration. Luke declined (he cannot do shots) but I agreed. Becuase he wouldn't do the shot, she gave him a free beer instead. "Now THIS is more like it" we said to eachother with our eyes. Ling was excited, enthusiastic, kind and hilarious so we stayed out much later than we intended. Her boyfriend was an Aussie so he came over to chat with us and we then joined a table full of Slovaks and the chatting continued. Good first night!

We spent the rest of the time in Saigon doing the sight-seeing - Rex Hotel, Opera House, Reunification Palace, and took a day long boat trip down the Mekong River to some islands where we went to a coconut candy factory (it's not so much a factory as a hut with 10 people aged between 7 y/o & 60 y/o, a fruit orchard where we tasted fresh fruits, a bee farm where we tried honey candies and had a fresh coconut and a traditional Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. On this trip we met a Canadian man (47) that had just worked 5 weeks in Yemen and was taking a 2 week holiday in Vietnam. This guy was nuts! He ended up befriending us and, as we had an hour and a half on the island to chill and wait for our bus, he convinced us to join him at one of the local establishments where he proceeded to provide us with beers - on him. Interesting, but mental. The boat ride back to the mainland and then the bus ride home with him was... loud. He had his Ipod going, without the headphones so it was playing country music - VERY LOUDLY for the 4 hour drive back. Again, interesting but mental.

When we weren't sight seeing we were having breakfast at the pho place, snacking on food from random street stalls - liver pate, veggie and dried meat baguette sandwiches with hot sauce, more spring rolls, steamed buns stuffed with pork, fried fish, Vietnamese omelets etc, etc. We also wandered the city and the markets, found a traditional 'bar' that had tiny chairs and tables and served what they call 'fresh beer' - beer on tap (sometimes with ice) that costs only 25c per glass. We also happened across a French Bistro which served glorious iced coffees with condensed milk - heaven!

Originally we had booked only 3 nights in Saigon, but as we loved it so much, we decided that 5 was a better idea, and we are so glad that we did.

The last full day we had there we looked online to find that the next place we were heading (Da Nang/Hoi An) was flooded. After speaking to a Slovenian couple we met in our hotel, we decided that going there was not a good idea as they were wading through streets knee-deep in water. We then did some research to find other beach towns in Central-ish Vietnam and discovered Mui Ne. We were disappointed to think that we'd have to miss going to Hoi An, but the Slovenians had 2 bus tickets to Hoi An which they did not use (they flew instead) which they gave to us just in case we decided in the end that we would go. That way we at least wouldn't waste our money paying to get there, just to end up in a flood. And as we could get there from Mui Ne, we decided to take them. Because they were kind enough to give us the tickets for free, we took them out for a few beers before they headed to the airport and home.

Our hostel booked our tickets to Mui Ne that afternoon - 15$CAD for a sleeper bus (you'll see a photo in the next blog entitled Mui Ne). We were then up the next morning at 6am to have a coffee and get breakfast organized (pate baguette sandwiches and fruit), shower and pack, and we were on the 8am bus and on our way. With a 6 hour ride ahead of us, we got comfy in our strech-out seats, put on our Ipods and coasted.


Anonymous Denise said...

Frogs in a pan, Really????
You two are so adventurous. I'd be dead by now for lack of food, I wouldn't like any of it. LOL
And the hydro wires, seriously???
I've seen that sort of thing in emails that go around making fun of India call centers. I guess they have the same centers in Vietnam. I'm thrilled though to know you two are safe and having a great time. Keep up the posts. Where are we going next???

8:54 AM  
Blogger Jess & Luke's Trip said...

yep, frogs in a pan at the market - all tied together so that they can't escape. brutal, but interesting. we didn't eat any, fyi!
hydro wires are mental in india, vietnam and thailand. safety first is clearly not their motto.
we are definitely safe and enjoying ourselves. new blog to follow soon.
we are currently in mui ne on the beach - we're putting up a write up and photos today, hopefully! tomorrow we head to nha trang, and then to either hoi an or hanoi. we're waiting to find out what the weather is going to be like....!

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it how you still have your henna tattoo!!! It looks beautiful, and I'm glad you guys are enjoying yourselves!!!!
Kisses and hugs from the Paluch's!

3:47 PM  

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