Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Saigon! Phu Quoc to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Thursday, 15 March 2007 10:38pm

If someone in Vietnam tells you that something is full, go check it out yourself. We took the 9:20 flight from Phu Quoc to Rach Gia (an ATR-72 Turboprop). We had planned on a 7hr minibus ride to Ho Chi Minh City, but our flight turned out to continue on to HCMC. What were the odds?

Not good, since everyone said there were no tickets to be had. From the tourist office in Can Tho, to the hotel desks who'd heard travelers bemoaning the fact that they couldn't get plane tickets, to the actual Vietnam Airlines office in Phu Quoc, everyone agreed there were no seats.

While I was waiting for my checked baggage (maybe it's time to start carrying multitools without knives?), Jessica went to the ticket counter. 5 and 6 on the standby list... oh, hey, they're boarding the standbys. Sure, we'll take the tickets! Wait, you don't take credit cards? And you don't take travelers checks? Umm... do we have 1,050,000 VND between us?

Our hotel hadn't taken cards either, so we'd just paid millions of VND for food, lodging, and tips for the past four days of chilling out near the beach. We hadn't had a chance to visit an ATM, and it didn't seem like there was one at the airport. We started counting out the last of our bills, and somehow it turned out we had enough! Off to Saigon!

After another quick flight, we landed in Ho Chi Minh City. We stopped by the train station to get our tickets to Danang (the train station closest to Hoi An, which is where we'll probably actually stay), and then continued on to our hotel.

Of course, we didn't actually have a reservation. We'd tried booking on their web site and hadn't gotten a response. When we'd called to see what was up, we were told that they were overbooked. When we got there, they asked about our reservation and we told them what had happened. They offered to watch our bags while we walked around looking for another hotel, but there was some confusion. One of the desk staff was asking us to sit down in the lobby. So we sat for a few minutes, looking through the guidebooks for other places to stay.

When the desk clerk came back, she said that they were sorry, but they only had a deluxe room, and it didn't even have a window, but would we like to take a look at it? Sure. It's a little big, but only $10 more than the room we'd wanted in the first place. So we took it.

Settled in Saigon, ten minutes after our minibus was scheduled to leave Rach Gia. Sweet.

Jessica had wanted an ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese robe/pants combo, and we wanted to allow for as much time as possible for tailoring, since she's not the same shape as most Vietnamese women. So we went to check out the boutique/tailor shops. After a bunch of trying things on and comparing options for collars and closures and whatnot, the ao dai was ordered. If all goes well, we'll pick it up on the 17th, before we catch our sleeper train to Danang. We went to a few more shops. I bought an awful lime green tie. I tried on some frog-tie shirts, but none of them fit well. We cooled off with some tropical ice cream (I had taro).

Dinner was at Huong Lai, a neat little place staffed by former street kids. The food was tasty, and we got to try several things we hadn't seen on the menu before: lotus stems, thien ly flowers, and che (green bean porridge) for dessert.

Saigon is a much more pleasant city to walk around than I'd anticipated. It seems full without being crowded.

Saigon Special: Hoppier than the normal Saigon, but pretty well balanced.