Mui Ne Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Our trip to Vietnam was supposed to be relatively painless; we knew where we wanted to get to, which was the island of Phu Quoc, we knew which border crossing we wanted, we had hired two taxis to transport us and bought in the snacks to keep us going for the five-hour trip. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't quite that straight forward. Our taxi drivers, having changed half-way into the trip, dropped us off at the border of their choice and not our own although they dutifully informed us that we were where we wanted to be!?! However, we will quote the Lonely Planet which should go some way to help in understanding our predicament:
"The Phnom Den (C)/Tinh Bien (V) crossing ... sits 60km southeast of Takeo town, but has little traffic as it is remote and NH2 is dreadful."
If some tumbleweed had drifted across the road the scene would have been complete. The customs posts on both sides of the border were no more than tin sheds and the officials that occupied them seemed extremely bemused to see six Westerners trying to cross into Vietnam from here. Fortunately, we had bought our Vietnamese visas in advance back in Phnom Penh, so crossing the border itself was not an issue.
Transportation on the other side, however, was. As soon as we had set foot on Vietnamese soil we were accosted by the obligatory moto taxis. They insisted that there were no taxis which we could utilise in the town 2 km away and that in order to reach our originally intended destination we would first need to go via Chau Doc, which was 20km away. The only way to get there was by motorbike.
Not to be deterbed and not to be caught out by yet another scam attempt, being the all-knowledgable (?) travellers that we have now become, we insisted on walking the 2 km into town with our rucksacks on our backs, in the heat of the day - the second wrong decision of the day!
We also discovered that for once the moto taxis were being honest and there were indeed no taxis available in the town of Tinh Bien. So once we had swallowed our pride each one of us had to jump on the back of a moped and endure the 45 min trip to Chau Doc. Interestingly enough the trip turned out to be really enjoyable and is not a bad way to watch the world go by.
The rest of the journey from Chau Doc to Rach Gia (where we would catch the boat to Phu Quoc) was, thankfully, relatively painless and allowed us to enjoy the beauty of the Mekong Delta.
The next day we took the 3-hour hydrofoil to Phu Quoc. The sea conditions were awful and a large number of people on board were very ill, which unfortunately also included Dimphy (our friend from Holland whom we met at the Cambodian border). I rarely suffer from sea sickness but by the end of the 3 hours I was very pleased to get back to terra firma. The sea was so bad that after our boat landed all ferries were cancelled for the immediate future.
Phu Quoc is an island off the south coast of Vietnam very close to the border of Cambodia. It had been recommended to us by Kate, whom we had met on our trip around India. The island is stunning, even when raining (which it did...a lot!). We decided to splash out on our accommodation a litttle, and booked ourselves into the Tropicana Resort. Pam & I had our own double en-suite bungalow with veranda, to ourselves, all for the princely sum of $15 - bargain. However, the best bit was the fact that the resort was literally only a stone's throw from the beach. It also had a great pool which endured some epic games of improvised handball. The series hangs tentively in the balance at 2-2, never to be completed due to the simple fact that the staff removed our net - very unsportsman like!
We only intended to remain in Phu Quoc for 2 or 3 days before moving on. However, we discovered that because the ferries were cancelled indefinitely to move on we would need to catch a flight out. Internal flights in Vietnam are very cheap, so this would not have presented us with a problem had it not been that they were all fully boooked for a week in advance. Therefore, this meant we had to suffer staying on a tropical island, in a beachside resort, catching some rays and drinking some beer for a whole 8 days, almost a week longer than originally planned. Yes, it was hard! Yes, we did have to make sacrifices, but we managed to survive.
Apart from burning ourselves and pickling our livers, we did manage to explore the island for one day. We hired a bona fide US marine corps jeep, left over from the war, with driver, and 2 mopeds, one of which was driven by myself. I have never driven one before and was admittedly a little nervous as to what to expect, especially after our quadbike accident back in Koh Tao. All I can say is, when we finish travelling, I will be getting my motorcycle licence (sorry, Mum & Dad). Brilliant fun! We spent the day bombing around the island, visiting and swimming in waterfalls, and sunning ourselves on some of the other stunning beaches, finishing off with yet another visit to our favourite restaurant, the Carole Bar.
We finally leave Phu Quoc on our flight to the mainland, Rach Gia. Pam was dreading the flight as she had an ear infection and was praying her ear drums would not explode, but all was well. The owner of Carole Bar had very kindly arranged a mini bus to pick us up at the airport and take us to Ho Chi Min City (aka Saigon). Given that her restaurant didn't have a travel service attached to it, it was truely a gesture of kindness.
For once all travel plans came together superbly and we arrived in Saigon for some city action.First stop was the local hospital to cure my (Pam's) ear. Despite having to sit in the A&E with the sick and dying they gave me some killer painkillers (which made me a bit 'high'), some antibiotics and I was right as rain in no time.
As it was the first night in Saigon everyone was on for a party. I went to bed to rest the ear and then everyone hit the town. They went to a club for some crazy 'Starsky & Hutch' dance-off style grooving and rocked in at 7am! Needless to say James did not make any sightseeing the next day. I went to the Presidential Palace and War Remnants Museum (and again with James the following day) which gives a highly anti-American viewpoint of the Vietnam War (American War as it is known over here). It is quite moving when you see all the after-affects endured by people due to the chemical warfare that was employed by the Americans. It has created generations of deformities, which the American's deny all knowledge of. The next evening we had a great night of ten pin bowling - very cool. I came second overall, but was the highest scoring girl - not bad eh (Pam was the only girl - Ed)!
The following day we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is basically a whole underground network of tunnels that the Vietnam soldiers hid and lived in for years during the war. The tunnels were tiny so that they were only big enough for the Vietnamese. They would set lots of traps as well for the Americans, thus they were unable to infiltrate the tunnels successfully. We crawled through some of the tunnels and and can categorically confirm that they really are small.
James also took the opportunity to try out a few rounds on the M-16 at the range, "to compare with the AK-47". It was just an excuse to feed his boyish urge to shoot big guns. A lot of fun though. Apparantly the overall analysis is the M-16 is easier to shoot, but not as accurate as the AK-47. Think it was just his excuse for not hitting the targets!
Later that day we bought a fantastic Chinese / Vietnamese dinner service. So anyone coming over for a Chinese when we get back will get the full-on treatment! We also discovered that we could hire a DVD player for 2 dollars - bargain. So pizza and movies in the hotel that night it was - small things please travellers!
That was our grand finale in Saigon. Next on the agenda - Mui Ne.