As well as being the second day of the 2006-2007 Premiership season (I only found out this evening that we beat Wigan yesterday), today was the day I waved goodbye to Hoa’s Place and jetted down to Ho Chi Minh City. It was another early morning courtesy of noise outside. It seems that Sunday is a very communal day for the locals, and by the time I eventually gave up and faced the sun (just after 8am) they had been sunning themselves and eating since around 6:30am. Large groups of Vietnamese sat in deckchairs and plastic seats, families and friends enjoying a day together. I can’t say being woken up by kids having fun is something I’ll complain about!
As ever, I had a run down the beach and a swim. The sea was fairly calm on this, my last day, and I made the most of it before chowing down on my fruit salad. I had a word with some of the other guests about accomodation in HCM so I’d be nicely prepared when I arrived.
I then had a quick shower and packed all my stuff (I need a bigger rucksack) before saying my goodbyes and getting a motorcycle ride to the airport. Nobody leaves Hoa’s Place without a hug from the man himself and I was no exception. Hoa is a Nice Guy in every way, and I would like to thank him and his family for their hospitality… and great food!
At the airport I discovered that my flight to HCM City wasn’t direct and instead I was going via some place called Pleiku. I looked it up in Lonely Planet and it’s in the Central Highlands and really isn’t anywhere worth visiting. Neverthless, about 2 hours later I visited it.
The upside was that I got two glasses of complimentary Coke on my journey to HCM City. The downside was that I had to land twice in the scariest plane in the world ever. In fairness, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve not heard horror stories, exactly, about Vietnam Airlines. I have, however heard anecdotes. The best by far is the one where one of the cabin crew had to borrow someone’s sickbag. Then asked for another one as the passenger had already deposited their chewing gum in it, so obviously they couldn’t spew on that.
Anyway, the plane itself wasn’t too bad. It’s just I was expecting to jet off to HCM and instead I propellered off. This had it’s advantages. Well an advantage, in that I just got to invent a new word. I copyright “propellered”. The downside is that small aircraft aren’t anywhere near as stable as the larger ones and really take a buffeting from the winds. Also, when they land they tend to lurch all over the place. Or maybe that’s just the pilot I had.
The only other time I can remember flying in a propeller-driven aircraft was on a work trip to Aberdeen and back. Pleiku airport makes Aberdeen’s look like a metropolis. Basically half a mile of tarmacced runway and a small building, population 3 plus travellers. At least I can add it to my list of places visited. It’s too small to qualify for a visa stamp in my passport, though.
HCM City is nice and easy to get into from the airport. Taxi at 80,000d? Motorbike at 30,000d? Nope. Public bus number 152 at 2000d. Unless you’re foreign in which case it’s 4000d, though they do give you both the tickets you just bought. Hmm.
The bus dropped me off at the end of the street where many hotels and guesthouses are situated. I walked down “Mini Hotel Alley”, about the narrowest street in Vietnam I have seen, and then round the corner onto De Tham. I’d already rejected some places at $12 (haggled down to $11) and $7 when I started to look for Hotel 265 which I know has dorms for $3 a bed per night. Before I got there, a woman jumped out of a silk shop at number 195 and showed me a room at $5 a night.
Two beds (one double, one single), hot water and shower, fridge, two fans, balcony with hammock… and as it turned out, free internet courtesy of someone else’s leaky wireless. Bargain.
The only downside is the balcony overlooking the main street. A great view and very atmospheric but also very noisy as there’s no double glazing. Glad I packed earplugs!
I had a quick walk after I’d settled in and ended up having a chicken burger at a restaurant on the corner. I’d not eaten in over 8 hours and it just looked so appealing! I had a nice chat with two local girls in there who asked if there were any Asian people in my parentage. They thought all English people has blonde hair and blue eyes… Afterwards, a quick drink in the Guns n’ Roses bar where a nice Vietnamese girl narrowly beat me at pool. This is some achievement. Most people trash me at pool.
After a single beer, I headed back to the hostel and made plans for tomorrow. One of these is to collect my emergency Visa card from the Consulate.
The really, excruciatingly bad news is that I rang Nationwide to cancel the cashcard that’s never appeared. And 10 minutes later dicovered an email from Hanoi telling me that it had turned up and they could get it to me before I left HCM. I rang Nationwide back, but once it’s cancelled, it’s cancelled.
In a word – arse.
So tomorrow I will visit a bank and withdraw a large amount of US Dollars. I can spend them here, and easily convert them into Singapore and Aussie dollars when needed without incurring further bank charges for using a card to get the money from.