26 July 2014

Ho Chin Minh City- "Just walk in to the traffic."

Ho Chin Minh City, Vietnam

By the time I arrived in HCMC after my 6th flight I was nursing a sore ear and fatigue after an incident with a washing machine* kept me awake for a majority of the night. When I arrived at the hotel I managed to get in to my room, despite it only being 9am (hurrah for silver linings) and stayed there til afternoon trying to recover.

Buying Medication

Many places in South East Asia allow you to buy prescription drugs over the counter. Even though I knew this before I went, I assumed they would ask at least one question, perhaps what it was for, or if I was taking any other medication. Nada. I walked away with my antibiotics without any questions asked whatsoever. It pays to know the generic name for what you're looking for, as they may not have the western brands.

The Roads of Vietnam

The roads in Vietnam, particularly Ho Chin Mihn and Hanoi, are crazy, madness, unbelieveable and relentless. There is a constant stream of motorbikes, like a school of fish channeled down the road. Crossings are virtually non-existence and traffic lights are rare and illogical anyway, as the traffic never seems to fully stop. The only way to cross the road is to make the first step. Don't try and wait for a gap - there will never be one - and don't try and run across or weave the vehicle, just walk slowly in a straight line and the bikes will miraculously miss you. Only exception to this is cars - these are less frequent anyway so just wait for it to pass before you walk in to the road.

Meeting my G Adventures Tour

After meeting my roomie and the rest of the group I was really pleased I'd opted to do the tour. It was nice not having to think about organising transport or even waking up at the right stop on the sleeper train. It's also been great to meet a bunch of people and know that you're going to have friends for the next 12 days. Priceless. (Actually it comes at quite the price - perhaps double what you'd spend doing it solo.)

Street Food

There didn't seem to be as much street food as in Bangkok, though it seems in Vietnam it's more casual eateries, so you go in and sit down like a restaurant.

It still seems unnatural to eat food cooked right there on the street. I shy away from anything that looks like it's been sitting in the sun, but on the whole, street food is fresh and it's encouraging to see EXACTLY what goes in to your food. In fact I would go as far to say my top ten meals have been local eateries or street food.

As I was with G adventures we tended to go to restaurants for dinner, rather than eat street food. The tiny little local restaurants and street food stalls are more convenient for solo travellers, but can be tricky for a group of 9.

Coffee Scene

I noticed straight away that Vietnam had a healthy number of coffee shops and it wasn't until I tried a Vietnamese coffee that I knew why... It's goddamn incredible. Smooth, strong coffee (forget the bitter taste) with condensed milk, normally iced. OH MY. And there are other wonderful drinks...

Sleeper Train on to Nha Trang

This was my first sleeper train and it was pretty darn okay. There was a mini bottle of water for each person and 4 people in each room, so for our group of 8 it worked out well (though poor Mu Mu, our guide was in a room with the locals). We bought a crate of beers and got to work whittling away the hours. We also met another tour group so spent time socialising with them too.

If you are in a room with strangers, place your valuable under your pillow or in your sleeping bag liner at the bottom. People have been know to riffle through bags while people are asleep.

*I used the in hostel laundry facilities. Turned on my washing and left it be. It was already late but I sat and skyped, set an alarm to move the washing across and just thought at least I can sleep on the plane. Went back when my alarm went off (already around 10pm) and realised MY WASHING HADN'T EVEN BEEN ON. Apparently it happened a lot. With the detergent all over my clothes and no clean pants to my name I had no choice but to stay awake, wash and dry my clothes before stuffing them in to my ridiculously undersized bag.

NOTE: You may notice a distinct lack of photos. The day before I arrived a girl took her phone out of her pocket to check the time and BAM someone on a scooter took it. Especially in HCMC motorbike snatching is common. Travel safe.





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