Scooters, naps, and PJs
Posted by Heliocentrism on May 21, 2009
May 28-29, 2008
There were four of us from Paradise Resort that were going to Ho Chi Minh City, so we decided to travel together. We left Paradise and spent a short time in Nha Trang. We reserved our train tickets from the travel agent that the owner of the resort recommended. The agency wasn’t all that great.
The lady there was a bit rude to my friends and me. We bought the train tickets with no problem, but then she tried to trick one of my new friends into buying an overpriced visa to Cambodia. The lady lied, by telling my friend that a visa cannot be bought at the border. Then she tried to pressure us into buying a package tour of the Mekong Delta, but refused to tell us what was included in the tour unless we paid first.
We walked around Nha Trang for a few hours sampling street food and browsing in a very nice book store with no books in English. When we went to pick up and pay for our tickets, we ran into a couple who had left Paradise a few days before. They joined our group to Ho Chi Minh City.
We all boarded the train and talked about our plans for our time in the city that used to be known as Saigon. The choice was between the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Since I am a bit claustrophobic, I had very little interest in wandering around a cramped underground labyrinth.
Once we got to Ho Chi Minh City, it was easy to find accommodations. We stood on the sidewalk in the part of town we wanted to stay. We put all our packs in a pile and as we were about to plan our next move, the hotel guards started to approach us. Guard A from Hotel A offered us a price. We turned to guard B from Hotel B and asked him if he could beat Hotel A’s price. In the end, we went with a really fancy, yet forgettable hotel because it gave us the best deal and it came with free internet.
Most hotels, but not all, in Vietnam have free internet for guests.
We did a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City courtesy of the Lonely Planet: Vietnam. On our tour we saw lots of the sights the city had to offer.
Since most of the things I did on this leg of my trip were planned and executed by other people, I don’t have the information about them like I usually do. I didn’t have this blog back then and I didn’t take notes.
While traveling in Vietnam I did noticed three things about the city dwellers.
1. People sleep any and everywhere.
Naps are very important and you should do it wherever and whenever you feel the need to snooze. The most popular type of nap in Saigon is the scooter or motor bike nap. There’s also the hammock in a bus nap, the butcher’s meat cutting table nap, the park bench nap, the sidewalk nap, the chair nap, and many more! This inspired me to make a special album called Naps Around the World.
2. People love to pile stuff onto their scooters.
How many family members can you get on your bike? Just five you say?! You are going to have to improve your motorbike stacking skills. You could at least try to get some dogs on there! How about 4 or 5 fat pigs, a chicken, and a couple boxes of geese? I’m sure grandma wouldn’t mind holding onto a TV or two as you speed down the dirt road at a whooping 35 mph. While she’s got the TVs your nephew can hold on to your week’s worth of recycling. You should also never leave home without a few empty cardboard boxes to pick up anything else that might catch your eye. Remember, the key is to never have empty hands aboard you scooter. Everyone must do their part.
3. Women love to wear pajamas outdoors.
They could be cotton, silk, or satin. They could come with or without cartoon characters. You don’t have to stop wearing your PJs when you get out of bed, or even when you leave your home. Neither do you have to wait until dusk to put them back on. Wear them to work. Wear them to school. Wear them to the temple. Wear them when you just need to go outside to yell at people. You have a fancy party to attend? Why not wear those silky pajamas you got for Christmas last year?
I ♥ Vietnam!!
How to get there:
- You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
- Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
- Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.
- Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
- When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
- Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
- Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
- Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
- Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
- For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
- Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo.
- It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.
Ho Chi Minh City
(Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)
- 10°49’24.2″N 106°37’48.3″E
You can get here by train, plane, boat, or bus.
- Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station – This one is downtown and near many tourist sites and hotels.
- Mien Dong Bus Station – Buses to and from northern destinations
- Mien Tay Bus Station
- Cholon Bus Station