Best haircut of my life at Toni and Tuan's

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog

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Siem Reap to Saigon

We started the day early again by waking up to take the bus from Phnom Penh to Saigon. Only $5. That's cheaper than my BART ticket to the airport. We had to wade back through the ditch to get to the bus pick up spot. I got my flip flops stuck in the mud and was forced to remove them, tucking my skirt up and carefully wading through as my ankles were plunged into mud. When I reached the bus, the bus driver couldn't stop laughing and specifically took out a bucket of water for me to wash my feet and flip flops. I did a quick rinse and as I attempted to board the bus, the bus driver shook his head and made me wash my feet again. The bus was half empty and we made our first friend on the trip, Scott, a Scottsman (ironic I know) from Inverness who had been traveling for several weeks by himself. We could only understand half of what he was saying but by the time the bus ride was over 7 hours later, it was too late to admit that. As soon as we left the Cambodian border and walked across to Vietnam, the change in affluence was noticeable. Going through the Moc Bai checkpoint, we had to show our passport at least 4 times. Once to get stamped, once to pay a quarantine fee, once to get our departure card, and finally when we left the hallway. Not to mention the X-ray scan of our backs. All in all 5 stops within one long corridor felt like overkill. We hopped onto our Hahn Cafe bus, one of the numerous companies in Saigon that offer "open tour" bus tickets for ridiculously cheap prices as they get kickbacks along the way. But hey, I bought a 4 bus tickets for $17 covering the entire stretch of Vietnam! We'll be taking mostly night buses as the distance is sizeable from 1 major tourist town to the next. Saigon to Nha Trang (our first stop) is more than 450km. We were dropped off at Pham Ngu Lao, the major backpacker area of Saigon, where we piled out. We were struck at the difference bewteen Vietnam and Cambodia. Vietnam is in your face bustling with life and motorcycles going every which way in roundabouts. People smile more, have nicer clothes, and all the babies are fatter. We first checked out Hotel 211, which was $13/night. Too rich for our blood. We followed this adorable 65 yr old lady, who apparently works for the tourist board, wearing the uniform of a blue blouse and her badge. She took us right off the major street to TM's cafe, a family run guesthouse where we got a double room for $6. That's more like it. We stepped outside and she was back on the street, puling more tourists, but she flashed us a smile and asked how we liked our room. Thumbs up from me. We met up with our friend Scott for some afternoon beers, where apparently everywhere happy hour is buy 2 Tiger draught beers, get one free. Couldn't resist buying Zadie's Smith Autograph Man for $3. Women here carry a pile of 30 books or so in one arm, creatively stacked and tied. Everyone's got a different racket here. Women sell books, mothers with children try to sell Happy Dent gum, and men sell cigarettes.

Toni and Tuan's

Regina and I decided it was time to spice up our lives (as if riding around potholes in Cambodia wasn't enough) and decided to get haircuts at Toni and Guy's as mentioned in Lonely Planet. We showed up where Toni (who has now renamed the place) had his entourage of 4 waiting for us. We asked how much for a haircut. 250,000 dong, roughly equivalent top $15, which is a little pricey for Vietnam. That's before we realized this place was amazing. We got scalp massages before they rinsed our hair, then washed our faces and massaged our temples, then shoulder massages, all before Toni masterfully strapped on his scissor belt to begin his craftwork. He had 2 girls (both stylishly dressed in black and heels) take care of our preop, he cut our hair, and then he had his 2 male stylists in training blowdry our hair, until he got irritated at mine and took over the hair dryer. My bob was then straight ironed by the master himself. Within 10 minutes of leaving the shop, the humidity killed my straight hair, and back was my wavy hair.

I like the nightlife baby

We met back up with Scott for dinner and decided to eschew the usual touristy spots by finding a Vietnamese restaurant with no tourists, nothing in English, and none of the staff spoke English. We pointed to the menu on the wall and guess what the dishes were. All in all, we were pretty happy. I got Bun Bo Hue, a soup particular to the Hue area. Very tasty. Hit up the popular bars in our area including Allez Boo where we sat outside and were constantly hassled in a very jovial way to buy this and that. I couldn't resist buying the Life of Pi for $2 and some Tiger Balm. I love that stuff, although our waiter did rain on my parade by telling me that it wasn't the real stuff. Hopped on the back of a motorbike to visit the popular bar "Apocalypse Now" which turned out to be sketchy in the extreme with a lot of dodgy Western tourists and bar girls. Stayed a bit and then hopped back on another bike where the driver was extremely honk happy and tried to tell me which hotels were situated while trying not to crash. I was holding on for dear life but smiling like a loon with the wind feeling nice in the late evening. Sustained more mosquito bites. I'll live. Ended the night at Go Go's bar and called it quits by 2am, the latest we've stayed out to date. The heat saps our energy, but in a very languid way.

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