Sunday, April 6, 2014

Hot & sweaty in HCMC

Day 2 Air Asia  KL to HCMC

Clocks re-set to KL time, body clocks still on Oz time but we answered the alarm at 4.40am and headed to the LCCT (Low cost carrier terminal) for our flight to HCMC.  It is low cost for a reason, and is in its last month of life.  The new low cost terminal – creatively named KLIA 2  is finally due for opening (it has been delayed 3 or 4 times for various reasons) on May 8th.  Poor old LCCT is looking very unloved.

We arrived at HCMC’s shiny new airport (well new since we were last here in 2004) and headed for the Visa on Arrival counter.  Filled in the form & waited for our names to be called – not too long actually, then to the very slow moving line to the immigration counter.  By the time we did all that our bag had been taken off the carousel and was standing forlornly with about a dozen other unclaimed bits of luggage – they obviously needed this carousel for the next incoming flight.

Caught a taxi into town – about half an hour and 160,000dong (about $8) through the Sunday morning rush hour.  Our hotel is down a little alley in District 1 – too narrow for the taxi so we walked the last 50yards.  The Green Suites is not exactly salubrious, but it is clean, the a/c works, it has free wifi, the staff seem friendly (and were happy for us to check in well before the usual noon entry time) and for $35/night who cares that our balcony is exactly 1m square and it doesn’t have a pool. 

Now it seems the powers that be in these parts are not too fussed by facebook and I couldn’t get on.  Down to the lobby to see the nice ladies at reception and one of them sorted the proxy server thingy which apparently short-circuits the issues.  OK .. that’s sorted…. Well maybe!

We unpacked and headed out to explore the area round Pham Ngu Lao .. the backpacker district.  We wandered through the local market before stopping at a little place down an alley off the main road for an early lunch – you may have forgotten we had breakfast at 5am but my tummy hadn’t.  Spring rolls & iced coffee … boy I had forgotten just how much I love Vietnamese iced coffee! 

Pham Ngu Lau has a lovely long park running right up the middle, and I noticed all the street lights are powered with re-newables.  Each light pole was equipped with a little solar panel AND a little wind turbine thingy – OMG… if Vietnam can get it’s act together on this… why on earth can’t Australia. 


At the end of this is the famous (or infamous- depending on how you like to view these things) Ben Thanh Market.   We did a lap of the outer ring which has fixed prices and no really pushy sales people before venturing inside.  Some things never change – you just have to ignore the constant cries of “Madam, what you want to buy” and “I have nice t’shirts/pants/watches/handbag/scarf for you.”  I did try responding to one “what you looking for?” with “a new husband” … but somehow the joke was lost.  Tony forgot to pack his pjs so our only purchase was a pair of lairy floral shorts for him to sleep in.

By now we were melting .. the temp was in the mid 30s but the humidity was running about 98% so we headed back to the hotel for a nanna nap.  I tried to catch up with FB, but somehow the proxy thingy had decided not to work and I really didn’t fancy another trip down to the reception right then, I decided to write up the first part of today’s adventure before I forgot too much in my hot, sweaty & sleep-deprived state.

We want to visit Vung Tao tomorrow so the next item on the agenda is to sort out our bus ticket.  We got a price of 140,000 dong from one of the travel agents we passed, but having checked the price online I don’t think we’ll be going back there…. Apparently the tickets are only 85,000 … I’m not about to be conned out of $3!!!!!

Headed out again about 4pm, stopped at the bus office, seems e do not have to book ahead, but can just turn up in the morning and get our ticket then.  A bit more exploring and our bellies were grumbling again so we found a little place in one of the side streets nearby and ate there.  Chicken with chilli and pork ribs .. very good especially when they are washed down with a Saigon Red beer.

Back to the hotel only to find that our little alley had been transformed into a street restaurant – heaps of  sidewalk tables & chairs and masses of people eating – guess we’ll be eating close to home tomorrow night!

Still having trouble with the internet up on the 5th floor so I’m about to head down to the lime green lounge in the lobby to post this.

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