Trains, planes and motorcycles

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog

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I'm sick of this traveling thing already!  Haha.  Well, I've been ill and am bored of traveling.  Correlation equals causation right? I spent the first day of this brand new trip on trains, into London, out of London, (stupid graduate entry test) back into London and back out again to get to the airport.  All with some kind of fever and headache. Well done me, I've caught my first illness of the trip before even leaving.  We flew Emirates for the first time, which was a reasonably pleasant experience, but there wasn't much legroom compared to say, Ethiopian.  Inflight entertainment was good though.  The flight involved two flights, both seven hours.  The first, overnight to Dubai, where I couldn't get much sleep making two nights with that much.  A couple of hours stoppover in Dubai in their nice new shiny stupidly long terminal, followed by an hour and a half delay as their was a fault with the plane.  The second was to Singpaore.  The combination of delay and extra legroom on the emergency exit seat meant that whilst sleep was less of a good idea on the day flight, I got some anyway.  And even ate something.  So by the end of these flights I was feeling only moderatly ill.  The delay meant we missed the last rapid transit train into the city so we caught a bus as far as we could a walked the rest to the district of Little India, where our hostel was located.  First impressions of Singapore was that of humidity, and heat, at 11:00 at night it was sweaty.  Our days at the end of the trip are sure going to be fun!!

We got the morning in Little India, mainly to try and get the last details of our long running Vietnam visa saga sorted out, printing stuff and getting passport photos printed.  Initially this was kind of worrying us, it being left so late.  But it was quite easy to sort out, so we had a little while to explore the district.  Quite pretty with its painted houses, a cute small market with more decent souvenirs than the entirety of Croatia thrown together.  But it got hot quite quickly.  By nine-thirty it was english summer hot and getting hotter.  We escaped via the MTR to the sanctuary of Singapore airport, which has a reputation as being one of the nicest in the world.  And it was pretty good.  Mainly because it was quiet.  There were no announcements constantly nagging you about liquids and shoes and hand-luggage size before getting the scanners.  No constant information announcements about gates opening.  They told you which gate to go to and when it opened (which it did on time), and left it at that.  And guess what, finding your own way to the gate on time is no harder without constant PA announcements.  Who'd have thought it!  Instead there were some quiet jazzy melodies played over the tannoy, friendly security staff, plenty of potted plants to improve the atmosphere (plenty of potted plants in general in Singapore) and a general feeling of calm.  I've never felt so relaxed in an airport.  Flight to Vietnam was easy enough, although the extra late last minute bank as the pilot realised that the take-off runway was not the best to land on, and a final burst of thrust to make sure we actually landed on the correct runway instead of the grass made the landing a little nervous.

Vietnamese immigration was a real riot.  Firstly they seemed a little health concious.  The landing card forced me to deny that I had all the symptoms I did have in order to get into the country.  Luckily my temperature had subsided enough that I didn't show up as anomolously hot on the bodyheat scanners at immigration.  Had to try not to cough too! After sorting out the visas at a little desk, we joined the queues for immigration.  Unlike normal immigration queues with long lines and few officers, this one had short queues with many officers.  However, each queue could either more quickly or suddenly stop for five minutes without warning.  Much more fun.  Overpriced airport taxi to the city centre (aren't they always!) and to our hostel.  Disconcertingly down a back-alley but comfortingly in the main backpacker district.  A nice place though, with air con!  And finally a decent bed and a decent nights sleep, such that I actually feel pretty good now.

Our first night involved a meal at a nice restaurant, ordeing something from the typically vietnamese menu.  It was only luke-warm (kind of understandable in this heat) and best described as fragrant.  Very fragrant.  Lots of herbs and stuff. Quite good.  We spent a while in a pub chatting to two Australian girls, who were three quarters of a way through a bottle of vodka.  Classic lines including "Is Twighlight about Vampires?"  Then it rained.  Very heavily, for hours!  But warm though.  It was amazing to sit there in the bar, watching continuous heavy rain for ages.  Eventually we made a run for it back to our hostel and got predictably soaked.  The Lonely Planet in my coat pocket will never be the same again.

We've spent the day in Central Ho Chi Minh City, trying to explore all that there is to do!  Its been a very busy day, and very hot and muggy.  The city is filled with motorbikes, hundreds of thousands of them, everywhere.  Crossing the road is a challenging experience because there are no real gaps in traffic, which tends, at a minimum to be two or three lanes of traffic, which each lane divisible into however wide the vehicle is, such that a two land road is effetively eight lanes of motorcycles.  You just have to start walking in a slight gap, and walk at a slow constant speed, show no fear, don't hesitate or stop, and everything just about moves out of your way for you, they don't slow down, they don't stop, they just alter their course and don't quite hit you.  Scary, but fun!  On the way back to the hostel this evening we caught a motorcycle taxi and experienced the madness from the inside.  It was great fun to be dodging and weaving and working our way through the traffic.  Actually it all seemed to make a lot more sense on the bike.

I'll detail what we actually did in the city next time in but its dinner time now.
Off to the Mekong Delta for a few days now, then we plan our route up north.


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