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Winter Vacation - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2006/12/21

GOOD EVENING VIETNAM!


View Winter Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

After months of working extra and our friends saying we were working too much we were off on our Southeast Asia whirlwind tour.

We woke up this morning at 5:00 and planned to catch the 6:00 train from Koyoen station. We ended up leaving a couple minutes later than we expected to and had to run to catch our train. We both sat down, a combination of exhaustion and excitement about our trip. Then we looked around and asked ourselves why every else was on the train at 6:00 am.

We navigated through Osaka with our backpacks and finally made it to the airport. When we got there we had to go find a counter to pick up our tickets. This was a little bit of an adventure, but we found it eventually. I think after I asked one of the airport staff where it was. (but, that's a side note.) Once we got our tickets we checked in to get rid of our large backpacks and went to get some breakfast. We got some food and went through security to wait for our flight.

After our first leg of our journey we both decided if we had to the option that we would always choose Cathay Pacific to fly on. I'm not sure if it was the pleasant flight crew, the individual tvs by our seats that had a good selection of movies and television shows, the surprisingly good food or the ice cream for dessert that swayed us. But, whatever it was we made up our mind.

We had a couple hour stop over in Hong Kong. We wandered around looking in all the duty free shops and eventually found a sub-par expensive restaurant to eat in. We also found a good version of travel Scrabble in the airport after months of searching everywhere else. Who knew we only had to go to Hong Kong. After that we waited and our flight which left surprisingly a little bit early.

These are a couple shots of Hong Kong from the air and a sign showing we are in Hong Kong.

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Our flight into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was uneventful. [Side note: the official name is Ho Chi Minh City, but most people refer to it as Saigon. Most people means everyone except the government. This means I may write either one depending, so remember they are the same place. You've been warned.]

We landed in Saigon, but they didn't have enough immigration cards for everyone on the flight. It was a huge fight to get a couple immigration cards for us. At this point I knew that I was no longer in Japan. That and there were men in military uniform at the immigration desk. We eventually got through the immigration and customs. Here's Court filling out her forms.

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We got our bags then went out and saw someone holding a sign with my name on it. So, we went with them. Luckily it turns out they were from our hotel. Just joking Moms. We arranged for them to meet us there.

The staff from the hotel was a pretty friendly guy, he told us about one guy that stayed at their hotel for 15 nights and every night came back with a different girl. That and another girl who they picked up from the airport and 2:00 am and didn't thank them. We made sure that we thanked them.

I have never seen a city like Saigon. And I don't think I ever will. It was full of energy or more exactly motorbikes. Every one here drives motorbikes. Our driver said that he guesses in 5 or 10 years no one will drive cars because there won't be room for them. We took some pictures to try to give an idea of the motorbikes, but they do not do it justice. The thing is that the motorbike becomes the family car. We saw families of four on one bike and once we saw a family of five on one bike. Also, when people do drive cars they have to lay on their horn (or the Vietnamese brake pedal as I heard someone call it) everytime a bike cuts in front of them, which is often. There are some traffic lights there, but I don't think they really mean anything. By the time we had left Vietnam I sort of figured out the rule of the road is if it is bigger than you, get out of its way. Except for pedestrians, you don't hit them.

These pictures and video are from the next day and they don't do it justice. If you look at the all the bikes parked at the corner in the first picture you may get and idea. But to understand you have to multiply that idea by about 10 then you're half way to the amount of bikes. (And, I'm not exagerating.)

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It took about 30 minutes to drive to the hotel through all the traffic. We got let off across the street from our hotel. We had read in the Lonely Planet book that when you want to cross the street, you just walk out and as long as you walk at a constant pace everyone will miss you. If you speed up or slow down then you will get hit. (kind of like Frogger) Which is fine in print, but it's pretty scary when you have to do it. Luckily we had our driver there, so we just followed him.

We got checked in to our hotel into room 72 in a hotel with no elevator. We had to hike 7 flights of stairs. However, on our way up we realized that the room on the second floor was numbered 1 and the third floor was 11. It turns out we were actually on the 9th floor. We just made sure that we never forgot anything in our room. We were only making that trip up the stairs once or twice each day.

We got settled in our room, unpacked, showered then went back down to eat. The hotel had a fantastic restuarant. There menu was over 50 pages long and it was all good food. We ate and hit the hay knowing day 1 was over and there were still 22 more to go. Here are some shots of our room and our view.

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Posted by agc_cwm 01:43 Archived in Vietnam

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