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Beyond Our Conestoga

Vietnam Blues--or Excitement, I don't know yet.

VIETNAM | Saturday, 27 March 2010 | Views [377]

We've been in Vietnam for 9 days now. Our traveling here has not gone as smooth as previously. Luckily, we are still intact and still moving along. Don't let this scare anyone. Our travel experiences here have been quit funny though and make for good stories as hind sight. We are learning the pace of things in Vietnam and learning how to better protect our interests and stress levels, even if that means paying a bit more for a 'somewhat' more 'at ease' travel. Although nothing is ever certain in Vietnam. As we have learned, crime is soo high here, the locals just kind of expect it.

The funny part too, is that by entering in the south and working our way through the Delta, we probably came through the more tourist friendly area first. Better to get our feet wet for the Vietnam experience. Very quickly we found that we have to book our travel well in advance here. Up until now, we show up at a bus station and can get on a bus. Upon entering Vietnam, we headed out to Phu Quoc Island as previously mentioned. There are only 2 boats a day coming and going. We didn't think getting off the island would be a problem. We went to book our exit tickets the day before we wanted to leave and everything was full, and everything the day after. AHHH! Not the end of the world, being trapped on a tropical island some might think, but when there is so much to see in such a short time, we wanted to move on. There is an airport on the island, so we looked into flying off...no luck, all full, no matter where we went in Vietnam. Luckily as our options wained and began to except our fate, two tickets were canceled and we happened to be in the right place at the right time. We had our boat tickets off the island. Not to the city we wanted, but we didn't care, it got us moving onward.

Upon reaching mainland again, we are the only westerners that don't go directly to the tourist office to book mini-bus tour operated onward travel. We march off to the local bus station. No moto-taxi, we have a small map, 1.5km we can handle, backpacks and heat considering. And it worked. But now at the local station we realize, they aren't so equipped to handle two bumbling westerners that can't communicate that clearly. As we are not in the town we originally wanted to be it meant booking one bus ticket only to connect to another bus that moved on to where we ultimately wanted to be. There were no direct buses. Some people tell us, 'ok, ok you go, ok.'

'Really?' I think. You didn't say 'yes-we can connect', only, 'ok.' We've got nothing to lose, so climb onto this old bus headed for another border town with Cambodia. Packed full in good old SE Asian style, with the clutch sounding like it's about to go, we head off, luggage, riders and freight (yes freight). We make the 'normal' out of no where stops. More people climb on to what is seemlessly no more room. The little plastic chairs come out down the aisles. People on people. Eric's legs quickly falling asleep. What fun rides these are. I am serious too!

So thinking we are going to be arriving at a bus station...Think about it, how do you know where you really are? What city are you really arriving to? All we know is about how long it should take, so come about that time we monitor and try to look for any landmark to our whereabouts. About the time we should be rolling into a bus station, after dropping more than 3/4 of the bus at various points in the last 5 km, the driver pulls over on the side of the road. The bag man yells, 'Can Tho? Can Tho? You--Can THo?' and is handing our bags off the bus to men on the street. AHHHH! give me those bags. As quickly as we can muster these bags into our own hands we are off the bus and swept onto another bus also pulled over. There is a sign on the bus, Can Tho. This must be right. We ask the driver and with a shake of the head we are swooshed onto the bus. Well, I guess that was our connection. We have no clue price, what we are going to owe, but away we go...quickly I might add.

Now this last point is very important into the factors that occurred on this next bus ride. For certain reasons I cannot divulge right now, this bus ride bore witness to Eric and I something we probably will never have the 'privelege' of witnessing again. Let's just say for now, we are at a border town and it was a 'sNuggle' of a ride. Details to come in about 19 days. Luckily, we got to where we needed to be (this time at least).

Our next onward travel was quit an experience as well. After paying way more than we should of for a bus ride because we were taken to the wrong bus station by a not so informed moto-taxi (or commissioned based, however you look at it), we literally get told, 'you go, you go---NOW!' while I am trying to close my bag from buying the tickets, a moto helmet is put on my head and I get pushed to a bike. 'What?' I though we go by bus, 'Yes, Yes--bus, you go NOW!' Our best guess, they are wooshing us to the bus station where we originally needed to be to catch the bus leaving even though we bought the tickets at this station. It actually makes sense when you see how things work here.

So after argueing with the driver (after Eric's has left) because of my bag getting in his way (nevermind the approx. 10 other moto-taxi drivers we've had who haven't cared less and seriously--are you kidding me, I see what all you guys haul on your motor cycles...this pack is small pickles comparitevely. Old vietnamese men on the sidewalk all pointing and laughing at me as I yell, 'No, No, NO!' as someone tries to grab my bag and yet the driver is trying to RUSH me off to the bus....ARGH---NOT FUN!!! So to teh bus station we go, NO. It takes me, and luckily Eric is there as well, to the ferry where the gate is down and the bus already on. He demands no money. Ok--so something must mb right. He points to the bus and off I get. I run up the landing, Eric standing waiting. We get on, shew.

Well, only shew until you realize that 1 1/2 later when you should be about to where you should be and actually see landmarks that reaffirm this. You can't deny huge natural things...like the Mekong. The driver does not stop. He drives. And drives. We question. He says ok. Now I must explain that some routes here do figure eights practically, so even though you might be where you think you should be, it takes a while yet. We wait a while. The driver doesn't turn, she keeps going straight north. What is going on? Twice more we try to communicate where we are going. Finally he gets it....way too late. His only comment. 'Vieng Long?' as he points behind us. We know. We know. Our ticket is for there...You did not stop. Sighs from the other riders on the bus. 'You no go to Ho Chi Minh?' NOOOO. Vieng Long.

His solution. Gets us off the bus misc. at the side of the road, walks us across and hails another bus heading back into town. Different company mind you. But at least he got us headed in the right direction. So after many attempts of argueing, we are charged to go back...ahhhhh. They all laugh at us on the bus. Quit literally when I explain that we already buy a ticket and the driver forgot to stop. We are lost and confused as this driver DOES do figure eights. We continually see signs for Vieng Long, pointing the opposite direction of every turn he makes. The only person that speaks english and is our saving grace on the bus gets off. We are all thats left. Eventually, we arrive, and amazingly enough, without having told him, we literally drops us off right at the building we needed to be. No bus station like we thought. Probably because he pocketed the money we had to pay him and if he went to bus station, they would see two westerners getting off.

Since then, we have opted for a bit more 'touristy' bus rides that mean shelling a few more dollars to get us to point B, at least until we get our feet under us again. Tomorrow we leave Ho Chi Minh (yes, we did finally go there) and head north to Dalat. We wanted to stop at a small town in between, but as this meant hiring a moto-taxi to take us 10km outside the city to a local bus station...we opted elsewise for now. We'll be happy with what we get.

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