Friday, 29 August 2008

Saigon And Beyond

Getting into a habit of doing things I don't enjoy was never intended, but again, I find myself on a night-bus in Vietnam. Truth be told, they're not all that bad, but are most certainly not my preferred method of travel and sleep-catching. They're fine for getting somewhere and can be excellent for meeting willing travel buddies, plus, they're dirt cheap, just don't expect to get anywhere quickly!

I'd spent a few nights in Nha Trang (two or three, my memory is already fading), sun-soaked, yet I didn't manage to get any part of my body any more tanned, even with a day relaxing on the beach with a book. The next logical place on the Vietnam trail was Saigon/Ho Chi Minh, whichever you prefer - a £6/$12/200,000Dong night-bus took me there in the evening. A friendly but short-spoken guy came to my hotel and told me the bus was "around the corner". I had to lug my bag about ten minutes through Nha Trang to some other bustling streets, felt more like an hour though - especially when it's 35 degrees at 8pm!

The bus was a seater, so no lying down, barely any sleep, but I did manage to nod off at some point as I was woken in the morning by the driver, I glanced left and right, picked up my glasses, my bag, and promptly got off the bus and wandered up the road at 5am with pensioners running past and doing star jumps and dancing in the tennis courts and fields to my left. Two minutes later: "Bollocks". I forgot my book, I put it behind my back so I wouldn't forget it in the morning.. and it turns out I did forget it, and I only had fifty pages (out of six hundred) to go before I finished it. I ask my friend I shared the journey with to look after my bag for a minute and run full pelt back to the bus.. which is no longer there. No! It had my book.. which, whilst annoying, is replaceable - but also had my bookmark, my bookmark being a Polaroid of myself and my friend Laura who I met in Amsterdam (who worked at the Flying Pig Hostel there). Arse.

I lament this for a while and trudge back to my bag, hoist it onto my back and start the regular search for a hostel in the morning mist and sweat of Saigon.

If Hanoi was held at its edges, stretched twice its size and then had some money dropped onto it, that'd be Saigon. It actually has a store that sells electronics, something I'd not seen anything of in any other place in Vietnam. The streets are a lot wider, there are a heck of a lot more cars, but still their numbers pale in comparison to that of the scooters and motorbikes. The slight layer of dirt still clouds the pavements, the sky is never truly blue, but the people smile, the kids play football with tennis balls and the government buildings piss on everything else around them. All the money spent on visas to enter their country could be doing a lot more than making their large white buildings even whiter.


Jimiminar said...

I'm guessing this is catchup posting time, or are on you on the road again :s

- said...

Heh, catching up now that I have my pictures and the inspiration to write again!

I will be on the road again.. in November. :D Only for eight days though - then in January, feel free to come of course, heh.