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The Kirwan Twins Adventures We've finally graduated, so we're setting off for three months to backpack around India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand before entering the "real world."

The Misadventures of SEED

VIETNAM | Sunday, 29 April 2007 | Views [1577] | Comments [2]

Note to self: Do not stray off the beaten track if you don't speak Vietnamese.

Day One
It all began in Cambodia. Well, considering our history of traveling with Emily Gold, it may have really begun in Romania and followed us here (but that is another story). This concept I'm speaking of is "misadventure." From Phnom Penh, our clan of four boarded a mini van destined for the river where we would cross into Vietnam by boat. On our way, we came up with a brilliant acronym for our crew: SEED for Shana, Emma, Emily and Dimity. This might very well be the greatest SEED story ever told.

The journey began at 7am on May 27th. Anticipating a short ride to the boat, we ended up clanking along unpaved roads for two hours and were dumped off at a house along the river where we climbed on board the boat. We relaxed for the next four hours, gazing at the peaceful, backwater scenery and immersing ourselves in books. We finally arrived at the departure port in Cambodia, a trimly landscaped little compound, then back on board to enter Vietnam. At the border we had our first Vietnamese feast of crispy egg crepes filled with stir-fryed bean sprouts and veggies with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Passports stamped, bags checked, then onto another boat headed for Chau Doc.

During this segment of the journey we planned our trip to Phu Quoc Island with the english-speaking boat guide. We would have to get a car from Chau Doc to Rach Ghia, and then a ferry to the island. We arrived in Chau Doc at about 5:30 pm and hired cycle-rickshaws to the city center where we could find a car. The matter of finding a car, in fact, proved quite difficult seeing as our ability to communicate with the locals was obsolete, and vice versa. Somehow we managed to arrange a ride and off we went. We wound through rice paddies shaded with palms and riverside villages built on stilts; a spectacular sunset illuminated the setting and we were quite content with our decision to get off the backpacker trail.

Upon arriving in Rach Ghia we found a hotel, and with diagrams and enthusiastic hand motions we arranged a room for the night and the morning ferry ride. Venturing in to town for a late night meal was amusing. Clearly the only tourists within miles, people turned to gawk at us, nudging each other to observe the whities. This included an entire wedding party which ceased all celebrations as we approached, only to resume with considerable laughter and chatter once we had passed by. We settled into a nice little restaurant where we had even more trouble ordering a vegaquarian meal. With increasing laughter and drawing we managed to order a delicious array of seafood and lemon-grass chili soup, which the waitress proceeded to show us how to eat in the proper Vietnamese manner.

Day Two
In the morning we packed our bag and headed to the port, but when we arrived all of the boats were full. You see, while we were planning our trip to Phu Quoc, no one thought it necessary to mention that we chose to enter the country on Vietnam's Independence Day and International Workers Day. Think Memorial Day weekend and 4th of July combined. As a result, everyone was headed to the island for the long weekend, and there would be no boats available until Monday. It is now Saturday morning and our sole purpose for being in Rach Ghia was get to an island where we could spend a blissful week relaxing. All bribes were refused by several boats (although we have since met two Swedish girls who were herded onto a boat with 30 pigs - they disembarked immediately). Unprepared to stay in Rach Ghia for two more days, we decided to reconcile our plans and head to Ho Chi Minh City, and from there to a different beach.

We managed to find a man with broken english who brought us to a bus station on motorbikes (a common form of taxis here). When the minibus arrived, the driver pushed us into the back seat where we had mere inches of leg room. He refused to let us sit in the front despite there being no passengers. After an hour of driving a family with twin boys boarded and lazily stretched across the two front seats. We huffed and puffed about the situation in our cramped back seat quarters.

After a few more hours we stopped for what seemed to be a bathroom/lunch break but turned out to be a ferry station. Dimity and Shana began gaily jogging down the ramp towards the boat - thinking it odd but fun, I mindlessly joined in and flailed down the ramp only to realize that they were in fact trying to hop on the departing ferry. "Dimity, what are you doing! Our car isn't on there!" Our packs are on the van. "Emma, this guy was on our van he told us to get on!!" Well it turns out that this man was not on our van (though he did resemble a passenger) but was actually trying to herd us on so that he could try to sell his lottery tickets. Frantic, we searched the boat for our van and stared longingly at the shore we left behind. Taking turns, we ran around in circles searching for someone who spoke enlish and could tell us where we were going, as the shore slipped from our sight. We found a man who calmed us and insisted that there was only one ferry destination and that our car would shortly arrive on the next boat. Indeed it did, and we climbed back on with great relief despite the puzzled faces of our fellow passengers.

It finally looked like we had arrived in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, when suddenly, the van pulled over to the side of the road. The driver forced us off, piling our bags in a heap and handed a wad of money to a motortaxi driver. Utterly confused but at a loss for words, literally, we had no choice but to each climb on a motorcycle with our packs and hope that we were headed to the city. The urban sprawl landscape suspiciously turned into farmland and rice paddies when the ringleader of our drivers decided to pull over. He insisted that we all had to pay each driver 150,000 dong ($10) to take us to the city. We had already seen them being paid and refused to pay them. Of course, this was all lost on our drivers who couldn't understand our English and angry frowns. I drew a picture of the city with a motorcycle sitting in front and a big $$$ sign, trying to convey that we had no money and would pay them when we got there. It was now about 6pm and we had been traveling for a total of 24 hrs in the past two days, thus very eager to arrive.

Finally, they agreed to carry on without money. We still had no idea where we were and were worried that we might get separated on the bikes. When Emily and I motioned to our drivers to catch up to Dimity and Shana, they laughed and hung back trying to make us nervous. This pathetic little charade continued until we arrived in the city, and becoming nervous by the congestion decided to stop the bikes and get into a proper taxi. Our drivers swarmed us until we paid each 100,000 dong to leave us alone, and off we went to find a hotel.

In two days, we spent about $100 dollars to get absolutely nowhere. Despite the nuisances we faced, there was nothing we could do but laugh our way through the sticky situations of SEED. We succesfully sowed our seeds across the country...oh, we're just a bunch of seeds blowing in the wind.

Peace =), Emma

Tags: Misadventures



HA! When my future grandchildren complain that their mothers won't let them go anywhere even remotely 'foreign', I will point them to this link.....

  Fenella Apr 30, 2007 12:49 PM


oh girls, this trip through your blog gets funnier and funnier, Peru seems like a cakewalk compared to your troubles here....I am so enjoying your trip.....chat soon, love murphy

  MURPHY May 10, 2007 8:20 AM

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