Rain, Storm, floodings and ..oink oink
28.10.2010 - 30.10.2010 22 °C
8th of October.
Change of travel plan.
Yes, although a minor change. I found out that my Vietnames visa would be valid for only one month. That means if I would first travel in Cambodia for two weeks, I would only have 2 more weeks for Vietnam. I decided to go straight to Vietnam. And since I had to be back in Cambodia, Siem Reap, for my flight the second of december to KL, and after, Mumbai, I just changed the order. So first, Vietnam and after, back to Cambodia and see the rest.
Welcome to Vietnam.
In the morning I was ready to get to be picked up for the bus to Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon). Around 6.00 I was awake and ready. Got my breakfast, was picked up and send to a place where the big bus would pick me up. A few days before, I paid 50 US dollars to send my passport to Pnomh Penh for a visa for Vietnam. It should have been ready last evening. But I still didn't have it back. All fine for me. Just I wouldn't get into the bus if I wouldn't have the passport and visa back. By now, I am quite relaxed with those things. As with waiting. I am adapting to the culture here. But I have to say in general, Asians are very stipt, helpful and friendly. That adds to my accomodation too. In most Arab countries, unfortunately, it is different. So therefore, my patience was limited. Just because they don't give a f*ck (luckily I met some good exceptions of very, very nice people. By now Hayes got married and even invited me and Lud for his marriage. But now I am talking about the general experience.). Asian people on the contrary, are unbelievable friendly.
I waited for 40 minutes, and the bus was supposed to be here. A bus came and I asked whether it was the bus to Phnomh Phenh (from there I would change to HCM.). I got a bit of a confused answer. The bus waited. 5 minutes later, this guy comes rushing in with his car..and my passport and visa. With a big smile and a well ment sorry. All was fine and I was able to go to my next adventure in Vietnam. A bus ride that would take 7 hours, so it was said...
After 4 hours we arrived in Phnomh Penh. My first impression is that it is a friendly town. It doesn't look at all like a capital. Old french baroc houses. Nice! We got dorpped off somewhere and I asked where to wait for the bus to HCM (I will call it Saigon now, because most Vietnamese still call it that). I showed my ticket, but it turned out that in the rush when my passport was brought back, the tour agency didn't write with which bus company I would travel and no time was written down. A call to the travel agency explained all. They would send a taxi to bring me to the bus stop. The taxi didn't show up and it was almost 14.00. The bus would leave at 14.00. 5 minutes before, the taxi arrived. But we didn't go to a bus stop. We ended up somewhere in a strange neighborhood. It turned out that the bus was actually going to Saigon from here. Just it was another bus. A local bus. It was great, because I was with the locals. I met some Vietnamese people and they invited me for dinner during the bus ride. They gave me food. Wow. I gave them some cookies and we enjoyed a lot. Late in the evening, 14 hours after we departed in Siem Reap, I arrived at Saigon. Most of the people got out somewhere in Saigon. The last few, including me, waited for the official stop. I got out and had absolutely no idea where I was. My vietnamese friends already left in a place, that, when passing by, in my opinion might have been the city centre. Here, now, no one spoke English. Absolutely no one. For me, two things are important when not knowing where I am in the evening.
First, find a place to sleep (essential ). Second, try to figure out where I am.
I walked to a hotel and asked for the price. They didn't really understand what I said, but I asked 'one night?' → Always keep sentences short and simple when you talk to someone who doesn't speak English. The guy wrote down $20. I was thinking, shit, that is going to be €15,-. a big gap in my daily budget. So I applied the Cambodian trick.'How many Dong?'. He pointed at a list with prices on the back of the counter. There it said, in plain English. $20 per night or 250.000 Dong. My calculation quickly found out that 250.000 dong is actually about 9 euro (1 euro is 27.000 dong. 1 US dollar is 19.000 dong). In other words, the exact same room would be just under €15 when paying in US dollar, or just a bit over €9,- when paying in Vietnamese Dong. I paid in Dong and took the room .
Later I did the calculation. In US Dollar the price was €14,30 and in Dong it was €9,33. That's a huge difference by just swapping currencies.
The room was excellent. Hot water, two beds for total 3 persons, a television, airco and even a bath! Wow. I asked 'internet?'and the guy pointed at his own pc and made a circle with his hands and pointed at the pc. So obviously there was only internet on this computer that I couldn't use, because it was for the reception. That's alright.
I walked a bit to find food. And found a supermarket. Here, a guy did speak english. I was in Chinatown. I bought some chocolate and icecream. I really needed that. I am addicted to Chocolate, but in asia it is scarce and expensive. But sometimes, you just have to.
In my road to the supermarket I passed by some hotels and asked for a map. Most of them didn't have it. Or if they had, only showed the area around. Also, I passed by a place were they had ultra modern flat screen tv's and playstation 3 with games.
I went back to my room and took a take-away dinner. Happily avoiding the places where they served cerdo (pork) tongue, liver, kidneys or other stuff. Bleegh. They really love pork here. Oink oink. Cerdo, Cerdo . They celebrate the oink oink piggy porky pig here.
I started my netbook, put on music, opened the icecream and had my indulgent moment (not Haagen Dasz. It was a new Zealand icecream). I heard the water flush above my head and suddenly drops came from the rooftop. Hmm. There was a leak. Shit.
In the meantime, I found out that there actually was internet in the hotel, so I could use it . While eating ice cream, I was thinking how to get back from Hanoi to Siem Reap. Knowing that Siem Reap-Saigon took me 14 hours, imagine Hanoi-Siem Reap. 3 days? 4 days? While in the bus I already decided to look for a flight back. Since a while I also decided to drop Laos. It is a bit difficult to get in; the famous 'busses from hell' as Lonely Planet decribes them. And, when I get in, I have to get out. I just don't feel like rushing and stressing out just to get to Laos.
So, I looked for a flight Hanoi-Siem Reap. Hanoi-Pnomh Penh. Or anything close. Airasia offered Hanoi-Bkk for 86 US Dollar (aprrox; 53 euro) on the 22nd of november. Excellent! I could spend just over 3 weeks in Vietnam, slowly going up north. After, go to BKK, take a bus to Pnomh Penh and have more than a week to go to Battangbong, Sihanoukville an back to Siem Reap for my flight.
The creditcard quicly did the work for me and it was time to notify that I had a leak in the roof.
The guy went up with me and showed me another room. Unfortunately without a bath, bus still a very good one. I changed room, had a great hot shower, music of Michael Jackson and the New Zealand icecream. Life is great
29th of october:
Today it was time to go to the famous war museum. On internet I found some things to do in Saigon (that's why internet is so usefull). Also, I wrote down the adress of the hotel in Google maps and found out exactly where I was. Yes, confirmation, Chinatown. I wrote in Vietnamese the places were I liked to go, walked out of the hotel, to a mobile shop, bought a Vietnamese SIM card (they luckily spoke English) and took a motorbike taxi to the War museum...which was closed today. I went to the national museum close by. That was a moderate museum. But then, the entrance fee was €0,20. I took some great streetfood (french bread with egg and good spices) and this guy, told me in English (yes, I am in the centre now where people speak English) that there is another war museum. I went there with a motortaxi. The guy didn't speak English, but my list with the vietnamese names turned out to be very usefull.
The museum: America should be ashamed, deeply ashamed for what they had done here.
First of all, what has America got to do in Vietnam? Yes, they helped the french.Then, why are the French in Vietnam?
In the museum you see the forsfor grenades that the americans used. Agent Orange to completely kill entire forests, poison absolutely all drinking water, extinquish the people and kill the wildlife. Cluster bombs. Not intended to kill, but to injure. Bombs that shoot shells all around, still killing people at the moment. Some bombs are still in the rice fields waiting to be exploded.
Pictures of the people born in the 1980's. With tiny legs, faces that are not fully grown due to the agent orange poison. The Americans used chemicals that with 8 grams can whipe out a city of millions of people. Later, a lot of American soldiers got the same symptons are the people in Viet Nam still suffer. I am now thinking about Mel, from my rooftop room in BKK. He fought here. And he would never go back to Saigon. He never forgets what he has seen and done there. I think he is volunteering to teach English in BKK now, to make up for what happened in Saigon.
People with misgrown faces, arms, aliens. Literally. That is what the US has done to Vietnam by using chemicals. All prohibited by the rules of engagement.
And now..Afghanistan? And Irak (mass destruction weapons). Right, who in the world has mass destruction weapons? Isn't that the US with Nuclear bombs, chemicals and other shit?
On another floor there are posters and pictures of protests. All over the world, people were protesting against this was (1960s'). Even in Amsterdam. That must be strange 15/20 years after America freed Holland from the Germans. Even some Americans went to the consulate in Washington, dripped themselves in oil and burned themselves. To show what the US did in Vietnam.
This museum is a must see for everyone coming to Vietnam. It shows cruels, but reality and in my opinion it is always better to show reality than keep on faking. Be honest with each other with the good things, but also be honest about the bad things that happened.
After I went with my driver to the Ben Tranh market. Interesting, but not so special. I just wanted to see it. He didn't speak English, but he brought a flyer of the Cu Chi tunnels. Those are the tunnels that the Viet Cong digged in about 200 km of landscape. From here they attacked the Americans and French, including the south Vietnamese that fought with the Americans and French.
At the Ben Tranh market, another driver helped my driver to translate. We got a deal. For 250.000 dong, tomorrow my driver would bring me with his motorbike to Cu Chi and a bit of Saigon. That's about 9 euro. Cu Chi is 60 km one way. He would pick me up at 9.30.
He dropped me off at my hotel and I went for a dinner. A grilled chicken. After, I walked around and ended up at this hypermodern playstation 3 place and played for two hours, also one match with a Vietnames, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011. Yes! First a few times the world cup final: Netherlands-Spain. Every time a draw, 0-0.
After, Netherlands-Argentina. Unfortunately Holland lost. But Wesley Sneijder missed a penalty.
After the gaming, I was hungry again and went for a take-away meal. Rice with Chicken. A bit later I was on Skype with my girlfriend. The chicken didn't taste particulary good. She suggested it might have been Rat. Thanks for destroying my appetite bonita.
30th of october;
at 9.30 I was ready to go to Cu Chi. My driver was in front of the hotel. On our way, I bought some food. And I offered him also something. On the motorbike we went, out of Saigon. But not before we passed by a windmill. I was a bit surprised. But I remembered reading a blog yesterday evening of Dutch people in Saigon. They had been to Dutch square. Well, this is were I was at the moment. Holland in Saigon. How good. The soccer team-not real- with which I made a picture. Flowers, Amsterdam houses. And after 15.00 you could order patat, kroket and frikandel. It was really cool. It celebrates the relationship that Holland and Vietnam have. I didn't see the queen or prince or princess. Not even a picture. That surprised me a bit. The Vientamese had the most fun, looking like the nightwatch (nachtwacht), seeing all those flowers, or making a picture in a sailing boat. Or with the Dutch soccer team. I even became a bit famous, because several times I was asked to be on the picture. This also happened yesterday in the war museum (war remnant museum). For them, I am the exotic one.
We went on, on the motorbike, to Cu Chi. The driver had to ask the direction several times. After a long, but fun ride, we arrived at Cu Chi. His name is Sum, that's all we could talk, for he did only speak vietnamese. No English or French. But, we had a lot of fun. Cu Chi was very interesting. The tunnels are very small and imagine the Viet Cong living there while the Americans threw their cluster bombs and other shit. The Viet Cong on their turn made booby traps. Sharp bamboo sticks hidden under a instable wooden floor. Living under the ground, having hospitals, dining rooms, training rooms and more. In the meantime, the americans threw their millions of clusterbombs and other shit down on Viet Nam. You might ask, why am I so negative about the US? Well, in general I am neutral towards the US. But in this respect I think the US should have not mingled in this. This is Viet Nam, not the USA.
After the very interesting tour around Cu Chi, we went back. A long ride brought us back to Saigon. I have seen over 10 thousands of motorbikes. Maybe even over 100.000. It is crazy. Surprisingly, very little number of accidents occur. It's like a giant ant hole. And the only thing you hear is the claxon. Really tiresome. I would not be able to live here. Too much noise and smoke. I even bought an air filter against the toxic air.
First we had a stop at a travel agency where I bought a ticket to Da Lat. First price: 15 US dollar. I with a surprised face (faking a bit), knowing that the price should be around 8 US dollar. I got it for 10 US dollar. Ok. Then, back to the hotel. Some dinner and a great shower. A talk on skype with my parents and girlfriend. And later, watching almost the whole documentary of 'this is it' by Michael Jackson. If MJ would have been able to really show this perormance to the world, it would have been one of the best concerts ever. See it, and you know what I mean. The dancers, light, special effects, are all incredible.