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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City

VIETNAM | Friday, 28 March 2008 | Views [9951]

Fri 28th Mar - Move into Vietnam today, destination Ho Chi Minh City (previously known as and also still called Saigon by many). Have booked my bus ticket with Mekong limousine express for $12 and due to leave at 8:30am. Got picked up by minibus at 8am and taken to the Orussey market departure area on Monivong boulevard. On arrival, very efficient process of checking your passport & visa are in order, issue you with an immigration card and sort your luggage out. The aircon bus set off at 8:37, so good timing. The lovely hostess dressed in traditional clothing, then announced in khmer and english what was happening. The 240km journey should take about 6hrs. Cold freshen up towels handed out along with some pastries. A very professional service. Passports were collected along the way as they do all the border processing for you - worried me a little as I want to make best use of the space in my passport and hope they don't waste space. I normally show them where I want the stamp.

Whilst I think about it, a bit of a summary of my impressions of Cambodia....

A country recovering as best it can from the traumatic years of the polpot khmer rouge era. They are hard working people from as soon as they reach an age when they can sell something. Everywhere in the main cities is an industrious mix of activity. Rules are made up as you go, and it is normal to see five people on a motorbike with no helmets, see tiny children weilding danerous implements with their guardians nonchalantly watching.

Motos, tuk-tuks, taxis, and cyclos are everywhere. As part of the willingness to sell you anything, you cannot walk anywhere without being approached on numerous occasions. As a solo male traveller, a regular line of approach might be....were are you going sir?.....you want tuk?.....you want moto?....you want woman?.....you want smoke? The concept of just going out for a walk either hasn't grasped them yet or they think that all travellers are lazy!

You can for a small fee go to a gun range in many places and shoot off an AK47 gun or even a rocket launcher. Apparently, for an extra fee you can blow up a live cow!

Safety rules don't seem much in evidence on the street. As long as you survive, that's all that matters! The people are friendly and relaxed and you feel a ease here, although you do have to be aware of personal safety in some areas, but that is the case almost anywhere in the world.

Whilst it has some great scenery, it isn't a place you come to for that. From the great eras that built structures like Angkor wat up to the modern day, it is a country you visit for its history, with maybe a break at the seaside to recover.

The food is varied and tasty although western food is also present almost everywhere.

NGOs whilst fulfilling a very real need, are maybe relied on too much for the work they do, as the country may become lazy in helping itself with so much foreign support flooding in, but that is bound to happen and may change in time. Tourism is big and growing as the country grasps the opportunity to sieze hold of its popularity as a country appearing on more traveller's destination list. I have enjoyed my time in Cambodia as it is an experience so different from its neighbouring countries of Thailand and Laos. I expect Vietnam to be different again.

Nice touch was some commentary from the hostess along the way. Very brief but informative.

At lunchtime stopped for a short break. During this time somebody drives ahead to the border at Bavan to get your exit stamp done. When you get there, you get off the bus and they call your name out and you get back on the bus. All very efficient and quick.... But then it changed, with a bit of an odd process. Three busloads were offloaded, complete with luggage into the vietnamese immigration building. We stood there for ages whilst bundles of passports were stamped. They then individually hand back your immigration card and then shortly afterwards, someone else calls out your name, in random order, so you have to fight your way through the crowd complete with luggage. People tripping up and standing on other's luggage was a bit chaotic. You then put your luggage through a scanner like at an airport. A police guy then checks your passport before you exit the door back to the bus. Why they think this is more efficient than you going through individually with your passport is beyond me, and most who were there.

Whilst stood in the queue, hawkers were trying to sell mobile SIM cards. Couldn't answer any questions about them at all, but seemed to be prepared to haggle the price. Decided not to bother as I got the feeling the deal wasn't what it seemed.

Now in Vietnam (about 1pm) ..... Another day, another country! Took about 2 hours to HCMC from the border. Once you enter the city, traffic slows down as usual. Fortunately, the bus stopped right in the backpacker area of district 1, on Pham Ngu Lao. Loads of accomodation in this area and found somewhere reasonable for a night or two whilst I look to see if there is something better, although the Ngoc Ðang is fine at $12 a night including breakfast and free internet.

Quick check-in and off to Sinh café next door to get some currency, the Ðong ($1 = 15,600 Ð) and pick up some local information leaflets, then Kim's café for a meal. Apart from a few bananas, haven't eaen since breakfast, so straight into my first vietnamese dish.

Off to explore a bit. The traffic is a bit mad here, so crossing the road is a bit of an exercise. Just keep confident that you'll make it to the other side and walk...the traffic will peel around you.

The park along Pham Ngu Lao was a hive of activity with walkers, people jogging, playing badminton, football (vietnam rules), volleyball, etc. Sat down after a while to sift through some of the info I had picked up. Within 1 minute was joined by a 23 year old management studies student from the university, who wanted to practice his english. An hour and a half vanished and it was dark when we finished!

Headed back towards the hotel and bumped into the same couple I met on bamboo island and in Phnom Penh. Small world isn't?


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