KPC-SGN Day 9: From Ben Thanh Market To My Sweet Home

It was my last day at Saigon, in fact just another half day. As I wanted very much to have visited the water front at Ton Duc Thang road, so I walked out alone early in the morning at 6:10am to that place. Sun rises up very early in the morning at Saigon.

There was barely anyone on the street in the early morning. I was still dressed up in my pajama and started to walk slowly towards the water front some 1.5 km away. I was passing by the roads that I walked through last night backed to Ben Thanh Market and then I turned westward towards the riverside where the water front was located at. Right in front of the Ben Thanh market, it was a busy and big roundabout. It was really given me a hard time to make myself across the road. There were just too many buses and cars!

As I went closer to the river, the sun rises up high from the skyline. It was right in front of me and I was hardly able to open my eyes. It was getting hotter and I started to sweat so badly =.=

One thing I found that it was very special to Vietnam roads is that there were no pedestrian light at all. People will just cross the road by ignoring the cars on the road and so amazing that the vehicles on the road will slow down to dodge the pedestrian(s). Accident was rare according to our hotel staff. I was doubtful about what she told me at first but after 2 days in the city I found that what she told me was right, as if I should close my eyes and cross the road like that. LoL

Finally I arrived at the water front.

I saw locals were doing some morning walk by the river side and some were playing badminton there. Very healthy life style right?

The sky was so clear that morning.

The Jetty.

The sun was getting so hot and I was damped with sweat. After finished snapping a few pictures around the area, I left the place and heading back to city looking for food :) - my last breakfast in Saigon.

I walked and walked and walked for so long and never realized that I was reaching back at Bui Vien street. I was not able to spot for any good food for my breakie. sigh...

Just when I was about giving up and while walking back to my hotel, I saw this shop which was selling beef noodle soup :D! So I just stopped by and took my breakfast in.

This was the bowl of noodle that I ordered. It tasted SUPERB! Haha... Mission accomplished! Finally before the day I left for home, I found the "legendary" beef noodle soup that I was talking about previously. The taste was so much similar to those I took before at Melb. If not that it was served in a very big portion, I would have ordered for a second bowl :D

I was backed to the hotel and surfing net down at the lobby. We packed our stuff and left the hotel around 2pm to the airport. The taxi fare to airport was kinda cheap - USD 8 only. It was a 30 minutes drive to the airport, I was feeling a bit down as my trip was gonna end tonight.

The last Vietnamese word that I learned - toilet.

So we checked in and waited till 7pm for our flight heading home. We boarded the flight then and the pilot drove us slowly to the runway. Then we were accelerating at full speed and took off from the Saigon airport. Home, I am heading home.

Moment before our plane touch down at KLIA, Malaysia. I took a picture of KL's night view.

We arrived at KLIA around 9:30pm and then I was telling myself that I am backed at home and that marks the end of my Kampuchea-Saigon trip.

It was really an unforgettable trip for me as I had gone through 9 days of different experiences with warm hospitality from the locals. The world is too big for me to cover all on my foot alone. It might be taking me months, years even my entire life to discover every little bit around the world let alone the 9 days I had just gone through. I am really enjoying it and don't plan to stop for long before my next trip. For 2010, my plan is to focus on travel in China - where my root is.

Map below summarizes the route that I took during the trip. Hope that it could be helpful for some other who is heading to a same place :). Thanks for reading up the 9 days travelogue and I hope to bring you guys more in my next trip to Beijing.

KPC-SGN Day 8: Cuchi Tunnel - For The Heroes of Saigon

Good that I was backed to the city on a clean bed without lice for last night :) ... Throughout the night, I was checking on my bed and try to feel if anything was biting me. Ended up I concluded that Tuan Ahn Guest House is safe and a real good place to stay in. I will give it 100 marks if only the water pressure was stronger from the shower head in bathroom.

Early morning I woke up at 6:30 am and went down and have a morning walk around Bui Vien street. We did not really walk around it last night as all were too tired and we went to bed moment after dinner. My energy was at the lowest level ever! After a good sleep last night, I was recharged and felt so fresh in the morning. There were lots of people on the street early morning. First thing that caught my attention was the electric lines as seen in the picture below. I bet the electrician will not know which line to fix if any of it fails.

Local butcher shop off Bui Vien road.

I was curious what the woman was doing there from far. I was approaching slowly and I discovered that she was char grilling some pork and chicken chops. Wow, it smells so good and made my stomach started to growl =.=

We signed up for a day trip to the Cuchi Tunnel - one of the main attraction in Saigon. It was a half day tour to the tunnel and we will be backed to the city around 2 in the noon. We was waiting down there at our guest house's lobby for the tour agent to come and pick us up. He came around 8 and we boarded his bus and head towards the tunnel. The tour agent was called Joey if I was not wrong. He was a funny viet and the way he speaks was so heavy with viet accent. He reminded me of one of my Vietnamese mate Minh during my study at Melbourne. He used to have a same accent like Joey :). How are you Minh?

We were stopped at one of the handy craft factory for 30 minutes half way to Cuchi tunnel. Nothing special there so no picture for you guys. After some 1:30 hours drive from the city, we were there at Cuchi tunnel. The ticket to Cuchi was around 75000 dong, roughly 4 USD. So there we go, through the tunnel which looks like a time tunnel into Cuchi.

We were watching the documentary about the Cuchi history and Joey explained to us how the tunnels were linked up together and how vast the land it covers underground. Trust me, he was real good in "lecturing" lol ...

One of the entrance to the tunnel. According to Joey, most of the tunnels were not opened to tourists as there were just too many traps inside. Any one of those traps can easily cost one of your leg or hand, some can take your life in split second. So it was too dangerous for us to go in. We were only allowed to take picture from outside and peep into it.

There was 2 tunnels that were opened to tourist. One is the 7 meters long tunnel for you to experience the total darkness underground in the tunnel. It was more like a warm up track for us. The other tunnel was one that been clean up and installed with air condition. So that one was a long tunnel which will take like 5-10 minutes to complete the track. I was only able to take one picture in the tunnel as too many people were following me at my back and more were queuing up at the entrance hole. I was constantly pushed from the back by people as I stopped by to take a picture. Just to give you a view of how it was inside the tunnel, WET & DARK!

It was a hot day. I ended up with my body all wet as i was damped with sweat =.=! I was thinking how those people survived so long underground during the war time? I would have suffocated if asked to stay inside for 1 hour! So the Cuchi tunnel trip finished around 2pm and we were backed in the city. I asked the driver to drop us by the War museum. It was the last day for us in Saigon, so I just planned to do a city tour by foot to visit some of the landmarks here :). One street down from the war museum, we reached at the reunification building.

So further down the streets, we reached at the famous church in Saigon. So sorry that I forgot about it's name =.=

The post office of Saigon. It was more like it was opened for tourists than for locals to do mailing. They were selling so many souvenirs inside and I hardly seen a local inside other than the staff =.=

It was a bout to rain as the sky turned so dark. So we left with no choice but to cut short the route. We headed straight back to Ben Thanh market - place for us to grab our souvenirs. So it was just like another market in Saigon, nothing special. We were so lucky that as soon as we entered the building, it started to rain :). Think god must have delayed the rain until we safely entered the building :), lucky!

So it was already 6pm in the evening, we ended our city tour as those were all the places we were able to cover in 4 hours before sun set. We walked backed to Bui Vien streets which was very near to Ben Thanh market. So that ended our second day at Saigon.

This one was the shop I saw during my morning walk. It was located at the end of Bui Vien road. So I was separated from my mates that night for dinner and I went to one of the stall by roadside and took a bowl of beef noodle. After dinner, I was just walking around the area and left with nothing to do. I stopped by this shop and went in for a drink as I wanna get my stomach full with Saigon beer as it was my last night in Saigon :).

Six Saigon beers for that night. I sat there for like 2 hours if not mistaken. The green one tasted smoother and better. Try the green one if you are going to Saigon. It was called Saigon Xanh if not mistaken :).

I ordered the deep fried dried squids for a bite. It goes so well with beer :) ... yummy yummy!

The dried squid that I was eating :p

I was feeling a bit lost as I know that I will be heading home tomorrow and back to the real world. Sigh, I stopped myself from thinking about it and keep stuffing my mouth with beer or food. I don't really care how work is gonna be, how my job is gonna be, how my boss thinks about me and how much I hate about my job... I just wanna have fun now. One more Saigon beer please, sexy :D!

KPC-SGN Day 7: The Crazy Buffalo @ Saigon

It was a quiet night and I was sleeping in a floating hotel on the Mekong river. Throughout the night, I can hear the engine sound from boats passing by and I sensed that the floating hotel was actually shaking as the flows were kinda strong from upstream. I guessed it was raining upstream and I hope it will not turn into heavy storm and wash us all down to the south china sea :p. It was getting so hot after mid night and I can feel that lots of mosquitoes flying around our bed. Damn I thought my left hand and leg was bitten by this blood suckers. I felt kinda itchy but nothing much I can do though. The hotel staff was charging us 5 bucks for the air-condition so we decided not to spend another $5 for something I don't think we need to pay them as I thought our tour fees already covered that. So I left the window wide opened and was enduring a night without fan to cool us down in the hot "sauna" room. With constant disturbs from mosquitoes, I was hardly asleep until 3 in the morning. That was the most terrible night of the trip.

I woke up early in the morning at 5:30am to bath myself as the guide said to us last night that the day trip will start as early as 6:30 in the morning. After packing up my stuff I was sitting at the balcony enjoying my sun rise view on Mekong river.

6:00 am

6:10 am

6:15 am

6:20 am

6:25 am - the sun rises up and sit on top of the clouds with a boat just passing by underneath it. A wonderful sun rise view @ Mekong river!

So after checking out from the hotel, we were brought backed to the same market that we went to last night during our evening walk. Man, I really feel that I was cheated by that stupid tour agent. How could it be like that? I thought we were suppose to spend most of our time on the cruise along the Mekong river down stream to Sa Dec. But anyway, nothing much we can do but to go along with the other in the group who joined the tour also.

We were right on time to see the local students going to school in their beautiful Vietnamese uniform again. Wow, I really think that was so elegant in the style and was giving me such a feeling that I am in Vietnam when they were on their bike too. Wonderful!

So this was the market that we were brought to that morning. Nothing special indeed but just another market. In fact it was very similar to those in my home town backed in Pahang, Malaysia. So nothing as interesting discovery for me over there.

Those were rat's meats according to the guide.

The sky was turning so dark during our walk in the market. At last, it started to rain and we rushed into a nearby Chinese temple to hide from the rain. It was a temple built during the colonial of China and it has heavy Chinese Buddhism influence in the architecture of the temple. Camera was not allowed in the temple so no picture was taken. We lost such a nice temple picture.

When the rain stopped, we walked backed to the hotel waiting for our boat transfer to the local Muslim minority village for a visit. It was said that those Muslims were migrated to Vietnam from either Malaysia or Indonesia and scholars still debating their origin. Well, who cares about their origin as those who was born in Chau Doc will have Chau Doc as their root. Same to us as Malaysian Chinese whose ancestors were migrated to Malaysia many years ago. Our root is not China but Malaysia as we were born in this land. It will always be my home here backed in Malaysia.

Sky turned so clear after the rain. In fact it was getting a bit hot too after the sun came out from the clouds.

The locals were staying in the boat and making it their home. So everything they do, they do it on the boat! Try to imagine how hard their life is.

It was around 10:30 in the morning after we finished the trip to the Muslim village. We were then transfered to a speedboat and started our journey to Sa Dec. I felt really bad that I was cheated by the agent. They skipped the mountain pagoda visit as well as another visit to a place called Lung XuYen and was rushing us backed to Sa Dec for a bus ride to Saigon. Damn it!

After 1:30 hour ride on speed boat, we arrived at the opposite bank of Sa Dec jetty - The Can Tho town. It was just moment past 12pm, the stupid agent dropped us off the Can Tho jetty and said "giving" us 2 hours break in Can Tho to walk around the town or take lunch. Damn it, that was because they skipped a lot of places to visit for this tour and arrived too early at Sa Dec. The bus was suppose to pick us up at 3pm but we arrived 3 hours earlier! Damn you stupid guide!

First view of Can Tho town.

We were looking for public toilet as there was no toilet on the boat. Soon we found one in the Can Tho Market. We went in as we thought it was a public toilet. Moment when I came out from the wash room, one lady was pointing at me and shown me a 2000 Dong note and kept repeating the word money. I thought she was asking me if I want to change Vietnam Dong with her. So I ignored her and walked away. Soon I heard my mate was yelling at me asking for help. I found out that the lady was in fact asking for money. Shit, we need to pay to go into toilet?! I thought it was written there public toilet and there we no sign board put on there about charges per use. Damn it, felt that these people were really crazy for money =.= !

After dinner, we went backed to the jetty waiting for our boat transfer to Sa Dec. Some local ladies were paddling their small boats and waiting for customers there. Those were actually boats to transfer passenger to the other side of the river.

Boarded our boat to Sa Dec at 2pm, we were dropped off at the jetty and the guide was leading us to the main street of the town. It started to rain again =.= ! I was wondering why it rained so frequent on that day but luckily I brought along my disposable rain coat. After 1o minutes walk from the jetty, we were asked to stop and wait in front of a shop under the rain. That was ridiculous that the bus was not arriving yet. Damn it! We waited for some 20 minutes under the rain for the bus to arrive. I quickly changed my wet cloth with a dry one and dumb my luggage bag into the bus and get a nice place next to the window and put my big ass on it. I just can't wait to arrive Saigon and have a nice bed for me to stretch my body after long hours on boats. Just when I thought the bus was about to depart, the driver turned off the engine and said to wait for some others who were yet to arrive. And when they came, they were in a group of more than 20 =_=! Damn it, you Vietnamese really wanna fully utilize the space in a bus and squeezed everyone into the bus. I think there were around 30-40 people on the bus that day! It was FULL! Moment before I was thinking if I could occupy 2 seats and sit comfortably on it back to Saigon. But it turned out to be the other way round. I squeezed my body into the very small seat next to window and everytime the bus was on bumpy road I felt the window frame was like going to fall off on to my head. Argh!!! I was praying to reach Saigon immediately but it was going to be another 3:30 hours ride!

It was around 7:30 pm, We arrived in the city and I hardly feel my legs anymore. Right after I stepped out from the bus, I rushed to collect my luggage and asking the driver about our location. YES! I was at the Pham Ngu Lao Street! When I walked down the street and reach at a junction, I saw this thing below:

I knew that I was not wrong, I reached the cross junction of Pham Ngu Lao st. with Bui Vien street - the back packers paradise in Saigon. There were a lot of budget hotels in this area. After checking a few of the hotels, we found that the conditions were not satisfying until we went to one called Tuan Ahn Hotel. It was a budget hotel running by a family and we were just too tired to check for other better hotel and decided to stay in it as the condition was quite ok in the hotel. So that ended our 2 days 1 night Mekong Delta trip and we were in Saigon already with the "Crazy Buffalo" welcoming us in the city.

Highlight of the day! Remember the part when I was complaining about the mosquitoes backed at the Floating Hotel? I was terrified by it when I found out that those were not mosquito bites but lices! Damn you Delta Floating Hotel. You guys never really clean your room and how could you have charged us so expensive for 20 bucks a night but you can't even maintain a basic hygiene in the room. How could you put your customers into a room with lices?! In fact so many lices! Me and my mate had got both our hands and legs bitten by the lices so badly! For those who are planning for a Mekong Delta trip, please do not go to the one we stayed in - Delta Floating Hotel!