We didn't get a good sleep at all last night! Seems to be a pattern emerging- don't get any sleep the night before we travel! We were up at 5.45am and ready for the mini bus to arrive at 6.20 to bring us to the coach. We thought we would be waiting until about quarter to as the mini buses always seem to be late, but it was here by 25 past. When we came down to check out, the guy who was on reception and setting up had just about finished his bottle of whiskey, which Nath saw him hide. He was okay to be fair, just spoke 200 words a second. It's seems to be common thing for people who are on long shifts etc to be drinking.
From the mini bus it already seemed like this company was going to be good. The Mekong Express Limousine Bus we were getting. The driver and a guide both were friendly and smiley and didn't chuck our bags on the floor or anything so that was a good start! There was only one other person on the mini bus, a guy who was Australian. Thank god we weren't going to be the only foreigners- another plus!
We got to O'Russey market which wasn't far and the bus was waiting. They had a little office and chairs for you to wait. Another added touch. They tagged our bags and gave us a ticket so nobody could nick our bags from under the bus. They then checked our passports and visas and let us on the bus. Nobody stared at us funny this morning either and all the workers were very polite- another plus! The bus was pretty nice- a little old but well decorated and everything we needed on it.
We set off pretty much on time, about 15 mins late. The guide clearly explained everything to us in very good English! The journey should take 6 hours and was 240km from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh, across 6 provinces. We got cold towels just after we set off and then a breakfast box with a croissant and bun in and water.
We got to the ferry crossing about 9am and drove the bus on. There was a open sort of large tuk tuk truck on the boat too that was carrying a coffin and presumably family members. The guide told us that the Mekong River, which we were crossing is in the top 10 of the longest rivers in the world. It didn't take long at all to cross the river and then the drive to the Cambodian border was about half an hour. We stopped a couple of minutes from the brooder for a food break. I think this is when the guide went and got our passport stamped for exit from Cambodia as he handed them back to us just at the border with the stamp already in.
At the exit border we had to do our fingerprints again and that was it. There were no queues or anything so we were straight through. We got back on the bus for 2 seconds and handed our passports back for entry. We had to take our bags and luggage with us through the Vietnam border. This was very simple too. We had to wait for our passports to be stamped and checked and the guide called our names when they were done and then we put our bags through a machine and we were done! Mine and Nath's were done one of the first so it was too easy. Very glad we got this bus now- we haven't had to do anything really.
We have read that you should not talk about the war at all, so Nath coming through the other end of the border shouts Good Morrrnning Vietnam!! Glad nobody heard haha! Vietnam here we come! Looking forward to it! :)
We weren't the biggest fan of Cambodia. We were so glad that we went but I wouldn't be rushing back. Just glad we went for the history and had a fantastic birthday there. Haven't been overly welcomed by the locals which was a shame. So sick of ignorant people now to be honest, need some happy friendly people! Hopefully Vietnam will be friendlier! :)
Got in to Ho Chi Minh about 3pm- a little later than expected, but the bus journey went well. Although we were in Ho Chi Minh, many people still called the city centre Saigon. We were on the same road as our accommodation so after a little walking up and down we found it. It was called Saigon 237 and it wasn't too easy to notice as it was a tiny stairway next to a tourist ticket shop. We checked in and reception said they had to keep our passports for if anything happened they could give them to the police. We didn't really like this and tried to say something but it didn't appear we had a choice. They showed us that they had everybody's passport too, so must be a policy of theirs. A guy brought us up in the lift to our room on the 3rd floor- when we opened the door it was pretty shocking! The room hadn't been cleaned from the previous person and there was still rubbish and dirty sheets! Not a good first impression!! He said we could leave our bags and he would get it cleaned so we just headed straight out.
We had a walk out along the main road to the centre of town and to the Ben Thanh Market- the big central indoor market. We didn't go into the market as we were too hungry, we just had a walk up and through the big park that was opposite our accommodation and led all the way to the centre of town. The city was very very busy- the roads were ridiculous and very hard to cross! You just had to try and go for it and hope for the best. There were not really any proper crossings, but even if there was people still went through them! On the walk we noticed that everything was priced in Vietnamese Dong and not dollars as well like we thought it would. There was the odd stuff in dollars but dong was clearly the main currency. This wasn't great for us as we just had dollar on us and were starving! We tried a cash point and it wouldn't let us draw anything out! Luckily after trying a different one we got some money out. It was really confusing with currency and took us a while to work out what we were getting out. The max we could take out was 2 million dong, which sounds a lot but it works out about £63! Every £1 was about 320,000 dong so it was going to take while to get used to it!! The lowest note was 500 dong, but this wasn't even worth anything and was 0.015p, so it was never used on its own, just when something cost like 10,500.
Everything seemed really cheap so that was good. It was a lot to take in getting into a big city like this, not knowing the money or the area and everything been so busy and crazy! You could hardly even walk on the paths and bikes were everywhere, and I mean everywhere! We felt a bit overwhelmed so went and had a Burger King to give us some normality instead of diving straight in with the local food! It was a good call and only cost £5 for two meals with chips and onion rings!
We headed back to the room after and it had been cleaned. It was still pretty shabby and the sheets looked a bit old and worn. The bathroom was okay, clean enough but the aircon was horrendous- I swear it was blowing out warm air! The room had a moisty smell to it and was so sweaty and boiling! The shabby window also rattled so we had to wedge a remote in it. It didn't have a kettle like it said, or a flat screen TV but there was a hot water machine downstairs so it wasn't bad and breakfast was included too. Can't complain too much for £11 a night, though we have had better for that price.
We headed out again later, again a little confusing and overwhelming as the sun had set and we hadn't had time to explore and get our bearings! We walked up back through the park, which seemed even busier on a night. Asia itself seemed to come alive at night with everybody out all the time. There were exercise classes going on in the park, martial arts classes, people playing this game with a big shuttle c*** that you had to kick to each other- which we had seen in other Asian cities- there was gym in the park, which we had seen as well before- there was all sorts going on! We sat for a while taking it all in! The city really lit up on a night, every building with neon signs and the high rise tower buildings all lit up. It was very different, but I did like it- just a bit too busy.
We headed to the Ben Thanh Market again, which closed the inside on a night, but had an outdoor night market of loads of different stalls and some street restaurants. We had a good nosy around, it was a bit crazy, still bikes coming down the road nearly knocking you over by the stalls. It was also like you couldn't look at stalls here without buying as it offended them. If we had a look at something and didn't buy they would say something like why you not buy or one said I worked my socks off today! So we didn't touch anything after that unless we wanted to buy it. We had dinner at a street restaurant in the market, which was interesting to try the local food. Mine was suppose to be white noodles with sea food but god knows what I ate. It had some questionable meat in it, which could have well been dog as it didn't taste like any meat I knew, and it just had one piece of shrimp in it! Nath had soup, which again was a little strange- just plain watery oil soup with noddles in. Wasn't a great introduction to the food but oh well- interesting to say the least!
We walked down the busy side streets after full of neon lights, shops and some bars and walked along the main roads through town. We ended up at Burger King again having a ice cream. I think they put something in the food as we had a serious case of giggles for the rest of the night! Laughing until we were in tears at pretty much nothing! Was very funny! High on life I suppose!