Last few days in Vietnam
07.08.2007 - 15.08.2007 36 °C
Mui Ne was wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of visiting Vietnam. There was 22Km of golden beach and was suited for surfing, kite surfing and wind surfing. Our accommodation was excellent and was worth every penny of the ten pounds a night it cost us! There was a multitude of restaurants all along the beach, all serving excellent food, and as you can imagine we made the most of it. Our intention in Mui Ne was to recharge our batteries and recharge them we did.
After 5 days of lazing in the hot sunshine we set off for Ho Chi Minh City via Open Tour Bus. We arrived in the city about 2 hours later than we should of because of mix ups and overbookings. (The coach eventually left Mui Ne with plastic seats all down the aisle to accommodate everybody). Health and Safety in UK would have had a fit! When we eventually got to HCMC the driver couldn't find anywhere to park so he just dumped all of us miles from anywhere and we spent ages trying to find our hotel, but when we did it was worth it. It was a family run mini hotel in the heart of the city and everyone was really good and friendly. We spent a total of 3 days in HCMC, the first day we just spent mooching around the huge market and being pestered to go and look at different wares. Steve bought a few t-shirts for the bargain price one pound each only to find he could have got the same t-shirts for 80p each!
On Sunday we went on a visit to the Cao Dai Temple which is a really beautiful Temple and we were really lucky to witness one of their ceremonies. Cao Dai is a fairly modern religion and is a mixture of Christanity, Buddhism and Islam, and interestingly their Chief Spirit of missionary work is Victor Hugo. After lunch we went to the famous Cu Chi tunnels, a series of tunnels used by the Viet Cong guerillas during the American/Vietnam War. It was really interesting to see how the Viet Cong survived and outsmarted the Americans. Steve was in his element crawling through the tunnels. He came out filthy dirty. There are 220Km of tunnels linking villages together and some of the tunnels were actually beneath an American Base.
Everynight we were in HCMC we ate at the Night Market, which were a collection of street food stalls and other market stalls. We had clams, chicken, sweet and sour pork, ribs, spring rolls and Steve's favourite, beef cooked at the table on a chinese roof tile (the forerunner of the George Foreman grill).
On Monday we left HCMC for Phnomh Penh via 3 days touring the Mekong Delta. We had originally planned to travel to PP by boat all the way but it didn't seem possible, so we opted for the organised (disorganised) tour. There was 10 of us altogether on the 3 day trip plus Phang, our guide, who was mad as a fish! A really great bunch of people, a mixture of Australian, German, English and Austrian who all made the trip enjoyable. We had a bus ride of one and a half hours to get to My Tho and then transferred to smaller boats for a tour of the canals in the Mekong area, looking at how people live and work on the river. In the afternoon we went by bus and boat to our Homestay. We stayed in a bamboo stilted hut right on the water. We enjoyed excellent local food and beers, and spent the evening chatting with our Homestay host, Hung and the other guys on the trip. Luckily we slept so well we didn't hear the rats scuttling on the roof. But they did keep some of the others awake. Very early on Tuesday we were woken by the sound of cockerells and the rumble of motorboat engines. We had a morning walk around the village before breakfast. During the day we visited a floating market where you could buy absolutely anything, from clothing to food and household goods. We then went to a fruit plantation, a vermicelli factory, coconut candy factory, a crocodile farm and finally Sam Mountain which housed a temple and overlooked the Cambodian border which we would be crossing the next day. When we got to our hotel we decided that we would all meet up and go for a meal together as tomorrow we were all going our separate ways. Some back to HCMC, some to PP by slow boat and us to PP by fast boat (more money but we'd heard rumours of nightmare border crossings on the slow boat). Yesterday once we had checked out of our hotel, we were taken to one last place on the itinerary before boarding our fast boat. It was Muslim minority ethnic village where we watched people making cloth for sarongs etc.
The fast boat ride to PP was very interesting with lots to see along the way - family life along the river. We crossed the border and all it's formalities almost without a hitch - but the Vietnamese insisted on spot searching 1 in 5 bags and 4 people on our boat were picked at random to have their luggage searched. And guess what? Yes I was one of the chosen few! They were looking for Buddhas and artefacts that might have been taken from Temples etc. They found a bag of white powder in my luggage!!! It was only washing powder. It took a bit of explaining but as soon as I said the word OMO they seemed to understand and let me go on my way. After 6 hours on the boat we eventually got to PP and found our hotel and are now finding our way around the city, sorting out accommodation/transport to our next stop, Siem Reap/Angkor Wat. We've got 3 days here and on first impression it appears much more laid back (if that's possible) than Vietnam.
Love and miss you all.