i’m in ho chi minh city (hcmc or saigon). turns out, we managed to make it through the rest of vietnam after hanoi more or less unscathed. in hanoi, we tracked down the real sinh cafe and booked ‘open tour’ tickets. locating the real sinh cafe (now renamed the sinh tourist probably because of all the annoying copy cats) was no easy feat. by chance, we had talked to two french travellers who had alerted us to the name change and then (just to be sure) we reconfirmed the fact with a little bit of digging on some travel forums. open tour tickets are bus ticket packages that let you hop on and off buses along a particular company’s bus route. a lot of people complain about the quality of the rides but i thought that it was pretty great value. we managed to travel from hanoi to hcmc, stopping in hue, hoi an, nha trang and mui ne for US$33.
well then, where were we? yes. i’ll do a run down of the towns after hanoi.
hue – was nice enough. ancient city. lots of history. we visited the citadel on the first day and did a city tour the next day. boated up the perfume river, saw a tomb of tu duc, an emperor from the nguyen dynasty, blah blah….
hoi an- we breezed through on our way to nha trang. we had read (and saw for ourselves) that it was very overrun with tourists seeking out cheap, tailor made clothing. check. in reality, i think it had more to offer but i think i was feeling a little tired of traveling and didn’t feel adventurous enough to commit to the town.
nha trang – we spent a total of 3 nights here. nice, un-crowded beach. not too much going on except lounging around and the many scuba diving outfits leads me to believe that there could be good diving in the area.
buon ma thuot – surprise destination! i had read about this town in the central highlands supposedly famous for its coffee at very decent prices. so off we went on an adventure in search of cheap and good coffee. semi-success! i got coffee but not as cheap as i thought when i comparison shopped afterwards. however, i did manage to get my hands on some weasel-esque coffee.
mui ne – the lack of a town here made us decide to only stay 1 night. the waters were pretty choppy and the strip of beach our hotel was on was pretty narrow. no worries. i was too sunburnt from nha trang to sit in the sun anyway.
hcmc – we arrived in the evening and as usual, went hunting for a place to stay. the nice thing about the open tour situation (with sinh cafe at least) was that we usually got dropped off in town as opposed to a bus station way out in the middle of nowhere. anyways, we were looking around for places to stay in the backpacker area of the city and as usual, touts would not leave us alone. ugghhh. this one small old-ish lady followed us up and down one street. she provided us with this highlight…
old lady: hello! you looking for room? i have room!
us: silence (which is the smartest answer if you don’t want them to REALLY start pressuring you)
old lady: i have room, you come look!
i began to shake my head because at that point, i was pretty sick of touts. didn’t they get the message?! if nobody seems to respond positively to constant hounding, it’s time to change marketing strategies!
old lady: hey! where you going?! you going to hell?!
me (half laughing at this point): yes, i’m going to hell.
old lady: ok! you go to hell!
you’d think she’d just quit. but she walks with us a little more. tells us to go to hell one more time. and then goes away.
out of desperation for some relief from the touts, we checked out one hotel with a decent looking lobby. it turned out to have a not so decent room. tiny room with no window with a few ants in the bathroom plus a medium sized roach to complete the whole happy insect welcoming party. re-jec-ted.
almost immediately after walking out of the hotel, another lady tout spotted us…
lady: hello! i have rooms. $4, $8, $10. very cheaper. you come look!
me: no, thank you. we have a booking.
lady: no! you liar! you no have booking! you come look at my rooms. cheaper. everybody have the same price! you lying! you no have booking! you come look, i have cheap rooms!
us: no, thank you. no, thank you. no, thank you.
lady: you lying!
that was pretty much our welcome to hcmc.