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Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

The hotel we stayed in during our 3 nights in HCMC (still known to the locals as Saigon) was the Pullman Hotel in District One. A new hotel and quite a landmark as it is particularly high but we found it rather quirky having a large concrete pillar running from floor to ceiling and too much area devoted to the bathroom area. However, as the air-con unit was intermittently noisy I “persuaded” them to give us an upgrade to an Executive Suite where it still had the concrete pillar and still had too much footage dedicated to the bathroom. The Pullman is probably about 20 minutes walk or so from the Opera House, not central District One but certainly close enough.

Vietnam & Cambodia 2014

Well, another year and another South East Asian holiday. This time we doing South Vietnam and Cambodia with the original plan at the time of booking the flights was Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta and then travel into Cambodia and stay on a island before flying back to the UK from Phnom Penh. However, that sort of changed to include the island Phu Quoc in south Vietnam. This leaves me wondering if we’ll have enough time in Cambodia to get to the islands, but, as always, we’ll just see how it goes!!

The remainder of the first day was spent walking, pool time and finding somewhere to eat in the evening which did seem like hard work until the following morning when we discovered we had been walking AWAY from the centre and not towards it. I’ll blame tiredness or jet-lag for this!!

As the first evening arrived we still hadn’t got any sense of direction and ended up eating in a vegetarian restaurant and afterwards drinks in the Monsoon Bar just a block or so from the hotel. As we wandered back to the hotel for an early night after all our travelling, Jo stops and points across the road to where four gorgeous, tall and slim Vietnamese girls dressed in gold sequinned dresses with the slit that goes way up must have just walked on the street to promote the Night Club where they worked. I think I must have admired for too long as suddenly I was being dragged away!!!!

The following day, and our first full day in HCMC, is taken up visiting all the major attractions and turned out to be a six hour walking tour of the city and a sizeable chunk of those hours were trying to find the Jade Pagoda. Well, after all that walking we started meander back to the hotel for a rest before the evening but en route we took a slight diversion which lead us to the “backpacker’s” area in District One. I put backpackers in inverted commas because I’m sure it was quite an up-market backpacker’s area. But, of course, they still had the traditional happy hour and after six hours walking we certainly felt we had earned a late-afternoon drink. So, settled into a little bar and next to us there were a couple of Aussie guys and after no time at all we got to chatting around this and that. The elder of the two, who was apparently a compulsive buyer, started a leave when a young Vietnamese woman approached him with her tray of touristy goods, the younger Auss said “he’ll buy – he’s unable to resist” and sure enough he bought two bracelets and immediately gave then to us, a pink one of Jo, which she wore continually in HCMC but never since and a black leather one for me. This bracelet is now described as “the gift from my gay Aussie friend”. Finally, organised trip to a temple and the Cu Chi tunnels for the following day.

Jade Pagoda, HCMC  

Pullman Hotel, HCMC

Cao Dai Great Temple

The trip to Cao Dai Great Temple, well, I have to ask if it was really worth sitting in a bus for nearly four hours to see a temple. I’m not knocking the temple as it was very impressive, but four hours?? And as for the Cu Chi Tunnels, mmm, really don’t know what to say. I mean impressive, I think we were told 18,000 soldiers lived in the group of tunnels we visited and the devious booby-traps we interesting but….. in the end I suppose it just wasn’t that impressive. Still had to be done!!! Tomorrow is Monday and time to travel onwards. Bus tickets have been purchased and hotel, The Victoria Resort, booked in Can Tho for a further three nights.

The Cu Chi Tunnels

Can Tho (Mekong Delta)

We arrived in Can Tho early afternoon and take a taxi straight to the hotel where they have a very special surprise for you while you’re checking-in, not only the customary cool welcoming drink but also a shoulder and neck massage. Most welcome but being so hot and sweaty I felt embarrassed and pitied the poor masseur!!! Lazy afternoon by the pool bit it was cloud bathing rather than sun-bathing. Evening spent in Can Tho and the simplest way there from this hotel is simply catch their ferry which runs until 10 in the evening. A long walk if you miss it!!!!. Coincidentally, the French couple who are on the temple and tunnel trip yesterday were on the same coach.

Tomorrow we have designated as a lazy day. Pool, lunch locally to the hotel and booked tickets for a tour of a floating market, rice noodle factory, rice factory and fruit gardens but as this is a 5:30 am start we felt entitled to a lazy day!!! Up at the crack of dawn or perhaps just before it for breakfast and an early start. Now, I don’t know whether it was because we booked through the hotel for this tour or whether it was just our good luck but we were the only ones on the tour whereas some of the other tours we saw had 20 or so tourists on them. When you’re actually at the floating market it is manic and definitely a case of having faith in the “skipper” of the boat and try not to panic – too much!! It was quite an amazing morning, so many “stalls” and so many boats.

The Victoria Can Tho Resort

Arrived back at the Victoria early afternoon and decided we would lunch by the hotel. We passed a “bar” with a dozen or so Vietnamese guys sitting outside drinking beer when one of them calls out “where you from”, so got chatting and suddenly I have a beer thrust into the my hands and the guy’s saying “bottoms up, English” so I politely take a sip and try to pass the beer back but no that’s not was required. “No, no, bottoms up” what could I do but oblige. Down the hatch in one!!!! Well that wasn’t expected nor what happened next. Just a little further down the road we find somewhere that sells lunch and although we’re having severe language problems we order, veggie for Jo and chicken legs for me, well that’s what I thought, the waiter said chicken and then pointed to his thighs and silly of me but that to me means chicken legs. Soon our food arrives, Jo’s veggie and my chicken CLAWS!!!!! Half a dozen or so deep fat fried chicken claws, where the hell is the meat on that so decided to top up my “bottoms up” beer. Dinner in Can Tho again and carefully avoided claws and snakes!!!! Although while having dinner the French couple pass and greet us once more.

Rach Gia

Time moves on, it’s now Thursday 1st May and we are on the move again, firstly down to Rach Gia staying at the Hoa Binh hotel for one night before moving on the Phu Quoc, the island that wasn’t on our original plan. As we were only there a few hours it’s difficult to make an informed opinion of the place but in the evening it seemed immensely difficult trying to find some to eat and it appeared we were about the only Brits in town.

Phu Quoc Island

Rapidly moving on, yet another early start to catch the ferry and at 7:15 am the taxi driver is outside and waiting to take us to the port where we have return tickets to and from the island and The Long Beach (Ancient Village) Resort booked for three nights.

We leave Rach Gia in bright sunshine but as we get closer and closer to the island so the clouds get thicker and thicker until the rains starts to fall. Rather spookily by the time we get to the island the rain has stopped and we stroll of for a bit before finding a taxi to take us to the hotel. We had literally just got into the taxi when a local guy taps on the driver’s window and some conversation in Vietnamese commences and it soon became apparent they wanted to share the taxi. How could we refuse, although, I was concerned how we would manage to sort out the cost of the taxi but on arriving at the hotel the Vietnamese guy just asked for 100,000VND which was find as the meter was reading 200,000VND. Besides, it would have been very unfortunate for them had we declined as the sky opened and thunder and lightning commenced.

The Long Beach Resort had a strange layout as a reception area is about the furtherest from the road and although walking past the restaurant and down the “main street” to reception wasn’t far, the weather so was hot and humid that we were drenched by the time we got there. As we arrived early our room wasn’t ready and in addition it was a major weekend holiday for them. So, while we waited we strolled along the beach in the direction of Duong Dong and had lunch and a couple of beers in an Aussie Beach Bar. Long Beach is namely very correctly it is a LONG BEACH!!!

After three early starts will decide the rest of the first day is spent in idleness with the exception being stocking up on beer and more importantly try to change our ticket back to the main land as while crossing Jo noticed there was also a Phu Quoc to Ha Tien service and this would save hours in travelling time. Bearing in mind, we had difficulty finding somewhere to stay on the island because of the holiday weekend we were very surprised by how quiet the pool was. Just another couple of European couples and that was it….. until about 4 o’clock when suddenly the Vietnamese came out of hiding. Every time we were at the pool in the afternoon the same thing happened – quite bizarre.

This first evening I was very keen to get our tickets changed and having spoken to the Tour Guide at the hotel, we took his advice and went to the John’s Tour offices literally 5 minutes walk for the hotel. The guy at John’s Tours was most helpful and gave us costs not only for the ferry crossing but also a cost for a package that would take us from island directly to Kep, including ferry, buses and, most importantly Cambodian visas. Of course, sods law would have it that as we agreed to this the power disappears. Just a couple of minutes further down the road we stock with beer etc and by the time we pass the Tour shop power has been restored and the deal is made. We probably lost about �5 each on the ferry crossing tickets that we didn’t use but according to our guide books we will have saved hours of travelling.

The whole concept of this resort is based on a Ancient North Vietnamese Village and it has been done very well but as a consequence the rooms are naturally dark. So when the storm started some time during the night I had no idea when it was and it continued for hours until about breakfast time it finally stopped.

Long Beach (Ancient Village) Resort


Kep and Around

Sunsets from Vanna Hill Resort, Kep


Nataya Coral Bay Resort, Kampot  

Phnom Penh


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