|Hoi An to Saigon
Tuesday January 29, 2013
Day 20 of G
We got to sleep in today! None of this 5 a.m. crap!
We had a nice leisurely breakfast and then packed up for our plane flight to Saigon. I had some time so I went next door for a 45 minute foot massage for 315,000 dong or just over $15. I'm sure I could have gotten it for much less but it was right next door to the hotel.
The masseuse was a finely boned petite pretty young Vietnamese woman. It was a fairly good massage but the three truck driver type belches she let loose with during the massage were a little disconcerting. Of course my friend Linda could put her to shame in the belching department. I guess belching is just one of those things people do here in public without embarrassment because she didn't apologize or seem at all embarrassed.
Jeff and I had two books that we had finished. I asked Sharon if she would like them and she wanted the Jack Reacher novel but not the Andrew Greeley. When I told her that I was surprised that a Catholic priest would write a novel with so much sex in it she changed her mind. She will read it as her Phuket beach book. I hope Greg has his frisky outfit.
We had a short bus ride to the Danang airport. Jeff has been salivating at the thought of eating at Burger King ever since Pieter told us that it was there. Andrew is very anti western fast food restaurants but I think more than half the group ordered lunch from BK. I even tried to jump on the Burger King bandwagon but they didn't offer fish sandwiches and were out of onion rings. I did taste Jeff's fries and they were great.
I ended up with Pho ga from the Big Bowl for 50,000 dong. It was wonderful and I could only finish half of it.
The flight was only an hour and ten minutes. My luggage fell off of the conveyer belt and I had a short moment of panic when everyone else got their luggage and the belt was empty. A little detective work and I found it but couldn't get it across the moving conveyor belt. Luckily an airline employee saw my plight and got it for me. Then I had to produce my baggage claim ticket to get out of the airport and had no idea where I had put it. Nobody checks those things! Fortunately there weren't too many places to look so I didn't hold up the group.
We got on the bus to go to the hotel. Saigon is a huge city of about 10 million or so. There are of course the ubiquitous scooters everywhere but the city seems much calmer and cleaner than any of the other big cities we have been to. Saying it is calm is relative however because before I'd been to the other big cities on this trip I would have found Saigon very intimidating. I guess you can get used to anything.
The streets here are much wider as are the sidewalks. That certainly helps a lot as does the fact that it is a much newer city because it had to be rebuilt after the war ended. This makes everything seem much cleaner. For the 10 million population there are only about 100,000 cars. The rest are scooters, bicycles and cyclos (a bicycle in back with a passenger seat in the front kind of like a rickshaw). The bus system is minimal and there is only about 18. Km of commuter train tracks. Public transportation is not very helpful for the locals.
The hotel, the Ho Sen 2, is in a great location near the embassy, central market, reunification palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Rex Hotel and more. The hotel itself leaves a lot to be desired. I would call it a boutique hotel. There is not even enough room to open both suitcases at the same time unless you use the bed. The Flinstones probably had softer beds than the ones here and I think that they slept on stone slabs. The shower is in a small jacuzzi tub that some of the taller people will have to sit in to shower with a hand held shower head. There are exposed bare wires on the one and only lamp that we have and are afraid to turn on. It is easier to move the whole sink faucet than to turn the knobs on. The hotel does have the best wi-fi so far this trip.
I keep forgetting to mention the (as Chris calls it) "bum guns". All of the bathrooms except for the more primitive eastern style squat toilets have a spray hose connected to the wall conveniently close to the toilets... I guess that's why toilet paper is not so common...
We drop our bags in our rooms and 11 of us go for a cyclo city orientation ride. It costs 100,000 dong@for a one hour ride. Each of us has our own cyclo and driver. It was quite fun and a little scary especially since it was rush hour. I hadn't seen Clive this excited since I met him. We all had great fun and overtipped the drivers. Andrew recommended 20,000 dong or $1 for a tip but they worked so hard we all doubled or tripled it. The drivers seemed slightly embarrassed but appreciative.
We all met for dinner and walked a couple of blocks away. The restaurant, of all things, was named the Wrap and Roll. It was not the same as the one in Hoi An.
The food was good but our poor server was overwhelmed with all of us coming in at once. We were seated on the second floor again. There is just so little horizontal space in most Vietnamese buildings. Dinner was cheap but some people got charged 2,000 dong (10 cents) for a cold wet napkin and some of us didn't. Chris got charged for her napkin and got pretty excited about it. Jeff and I didn't get charged which made it even better.
Next door to our hotel there is a beer hall where they sell cheap fresh beer. There was a large group of very drunken men sitting out front and trying to sing to a guitar. They were very loud, out of tune and having a blast. The women in the group were scowling and not having such a good time.
We went off to have an uncomfortable nights sleep.