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My new life begins at LAX a journal of my 3 months living and working in Phnom Penh, and beyond.

Vietblog Part III: In the city

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 2 September 2008 | Views [718]

After Dafydd left for work I cleaned up and had a few drinks with Natasha. It was nice to finally get to know her a little bit. She is an awesome person, and she has done a lot for couch surfing.com. After talking to her for a bit I was persuaded to try and do a little more for CS, so I applied to become the ambassador for Phnom Penh.

We went down town to BBQ beef Garden for dinner. It is one of those places with a BBQ in the center of the table where you do the cooking. The highlight of the meal was thinly sliced beef wrapped an onion and piece of cheese. I was lucky enough to meet the 2 other CS ambassadors for HCMC My and Kiet. Dinner was great, and it made me sleepy.

In the morning I went for a run. Natasha lives in a new suburban area of HCMC called district 7. Lots of really nice luxury high rise apartment building, and wide street. The area is a runners paradise. There was hardly any traffic on the streets and there were several parks. A lot of the building were still under construction, or empty.

After my run, I swam in Natasha’s pool for a bit to cool off. My plan for the day was to return my rental bike and meet up with My who was going to show me around the City, on my one free day in Saigon. Dafydd drew me a map to the Rental shop. I took one wrong turn and was hopelessly lost. I couldn’t find my way back or any landmark. I knew I was low on gas but I didn’t see any stations, I ran out of gas and started to push my bike. I was already late for my meet up with My. A moto driver rode behind me and pushed my bike with his foot about 1km, to the closest gas station, and pointed me in the direction of Phan Gnu Lao. I knew I was close to the backpackers area but I couldn’t find any land marks I recognized. I kept asking people and they pointed me in the direction but I never found it. I finally broke down and asked a random guy if I could use his cell phone. I was over a half hour late for my meet up with My so I called her, and had the guy tell her where I was in Vietnamese. She came and I followed her to the shop where I returned my bike and picked up my passport.

We had a coffee and talked a bit. I told her what I had seen on my previous trip to the city, and we decided to do some walking and shopping. We stopped in a really cool art gallery and saw some beautiful paintings. We also went to a upscale mall where I bought a cheap digital watch that I would use to time my runs. I bought a few more random things that I couldn’t get in Phnom Penh (including some coffee).

It was hot and I was tired from walking so we decided to go to cinema. I really wanted to see the Dark Night but it wasn’t opening for a couple days so we say the X files instead. They don’t have any movie theatre’s that play foreign films in Cambodia so it was a nice experience. The ticket was only about $1.50. It was so nice to sit in an air conditioned room for 2 hours. I have never watched much X files, but I found the movie entertaining (it was in English with Vietnamese subtitles).

After the movie we went to Le Pub and met Kiet and a few other Csers. Natasha and Dafydd were supposed to come but they both came down with the flu. We had dinner and a few drinks, then Kiet gave me a ride back to district 7 and I slept my last night on Natasha’s couch.

In the morning I went back to the backpackers area where my bus would leave at 11:30. I bought a Tiger beer shirt and silk sleeping sack. I met up with my for breakfast and then got on the bus back to Phnom Penh.

As the bus was making it’s way out of the city, I was reminded how much character the city has. Lots of dilapidated French Colonial buildings. More power lines than I had ever scene. The city is bursting at the seams with people, but some how it works. I’d wish had taken more photos.

On the way to the boarder we passed a military cemetery. It looked a lot like Arlington, except all the headstones has the Vietnam flag of them.

I’m really glad that I went back to Vietnam. I had such a bad time on my previous trip to Vietnam I used to tell people that Vietnam is the only country I have been to that I didn’t like. Now I like Vietnam and I would like to go back and see some more of it. I could even see myself living there someday, who knows. I think the main reason that my experience was so much better was because I had gotten out of the tourist trap. When I was here before I went to all the places that the Lonely Planet recommended, tourist traps. Through CS I was able to meet up with some locals and expats living in the city and I had a much better time. Couchsurfing is the only way to travel. It isn’t about traveling cheaper but about traveling better.

I will never buy another Lonely Planet.

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