Leaving the ferry we were given clear directions to Hotels and then walked a few hundred metres to find good accommodation for only $20/night. We explored the town from river front to parks and town squares and had a good local meal, with drinks for $5. At this point we thought of staying for a week!
However the plan was to get to Ho Chi Minh City to sort out Visas for China so we figured we could dwell in the city and get stuff done rather than just hanging around the Mekong Delta for a week. So the next morning it was time for a Vietnamese bus ride.
Actually it was 3 bus rides – all the same bright green colour but different sizes. The first bus was a mini van, 25 minutes late but it only had to take us 10 minutes down the road to the next bus.
Bus number two was starting to look like a bus – a mini-bus but as the seats were numbered (like our tickets) we wondered if this was our bus for the entire journey. After 10 minutes we agreed that we would be happy for this to be our transport for the day, despite all of the lesser framed passengers having bags’d the spacious forward seating and leaving us the back row. 4 seats, none of which resembled our ticket numbers, neatly positioned a foot behind the rear axle and only 73 poorly maintained bridges (resembling speed humps turned into moto-x jumps) to cross before we hit the flatlands outside of Saigon.
Still, the windows were large and there is plenty to see as the scenery varies between town life and river life. In fact there seems to be almost never a kilometre devoid of housing as you drive through the Mekong delta so it is an entertaining trip.
However as was hinted at when we bought the tickets, there was a big bus waiting for us. Air-conditioned and inclusive of neck pillows for every passenger, this looked good. We stood and stared at it for a couple of minutes wondering if it was going to Saigon until someone yelled at us and pointed excitedly at the front of the bus and we took our cue to get on board!
For a bit of a change, I shared with Molly and Julia was sat in front of me next to a Vietnamese lady – we assume it was a lady but as with Muslim’s in full Burkha’s, this person was completely incognito. Courtesy of a low hat, glasses and a very elaborate dust mask covering from the bridge of the nose, out to each ear and down to under the chin. Coupled with long sleeves, gloves and jeans, the only indication of sex or age was bumps in certain places. She was a she but over the next 5 hours Julia came to find she was no lady! Grumpy, private and insular maybe, but not a lady. Julia had a ball.
Meanwhile, sat in the aisle seat, I was enjoying the sights and sounds of the young lady in the other aisle seat as she quickly scoffed down some takeaway rice and stir fry beef from a styrofoam container. Apparently it wasn’t allowed so a very stern bus trolley dolly came along and told her to put it away. She got through a fair bit though which was good because she clearly needed something to settle her stomach – bus travel didn’t appear to agree with her. One hour in she was covering her face and throat in some magical potion – smelled like a cross between tiger balm, lemon essence and car air freshener. It didn’t work……..
So for the next hour and a half the young lady filled a plastic bag with her lunch. As it filled and I wondered what she would do next, I realised it was time to step in – but too late I acted. As the bile was rising in her mouth, she decided to start expelling it onto the floor of the bus, firstly under her feet and then in the aisle. I quickly passed her a fresh bag, having checked it was without holes, and soon after she started to fill it.
The lunch break at the Mekong delta’s version of a road house was a nice break. Molly had some rubbish rice that I was way overcharged on – what can you do??!! I knew it wouldn’t be the last time but I wasn’t going to judge the country on one rice stall on the edge of Highway 1 (or whatever highway we were on!?). We had been to Vietnam twice before and had only felt once or twice that people were a little too greedy when charging the wealthier foreigners.
Meanwhile I passed my friend from seat B6 as I was washing up outside the toilets. Clearly she was relishing the opportunity to freshen up, walk around and relax away from the stomach churning hell she had been stuck on. Of course what I didn’t know until we re-boarded the bus was that she was also re-filling that churning stomach.
So 20 minutes later she started again, this time using the bag that her coke had come in – not a large bag and looking quite alone as it quickly filled with pre-used coke. The great thing was that she rinsed her mouth after each episode with more coke and then when it ran out the guy next to her gave her his cup of coke! I remained compassionate on the first half of the trip, having suffered car-sickness quite often as a young child and thinking of Molly and how I would want someone to help her in the same position. But after re-filling at lunch and churning (quite literally) through two more cups of coke during the next 2 hours after lunch, I started to wonder if this girl should be banned from any form of public transport.
The bus station transfer in Ho Chi Minh City, from bus to taxi was trouble free and after a bit of a search we had a great room with two double beds, close to restaurants, markets and the city centre for $32/night. There was much cheaper on offer but as it turned out we were glad we settled on this level of comfort – we stayed in HCMC (Siagon) for 10 days.