Friday, March 7, 2008

Ho Chi Minh City, here we come!

"The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences."

~Chris McCandless, Into the Wild ~

I should have given up on this travelogue as they are piling up in my desktop but I know I promise someone I would post our little Vietnam adventure so, here we go.


I love going somewhere with my backpack. That is the truth.

If I could do what Chris McCandless a.k.a Alexander Supertramp did in the movie, Into the Wild…I would. Although, I can't promise I would also burn my money so as not to make people cautious. I know that money can make people cautious but at least I have something to be cautious about, say, buying my own meal? I don't like to die because I got poisoned eating weeds. :-/

Anyway, the next morning, we decided to embark on a new adventure. Our next stop?

Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam which is located near the Mekong Delta.

This time, we chose to ride the Mekong Express bus and forego on experimenting for other rides like the GST Bus, Capitol GH or Angkor Express. We wanted the most recommended bus line. A little expensive than others but at least we're getting what we paid for. We purchase our tickets ($12 each) a day before from the lobby of our guesthouse in Phnom Penh so on the day of our departure, we’re all set.

mekong express bus station

This is the Mekong Express station. The woman is one of the couple we met inside the coaster who were with us all the way to Mocbai border. They seem to be a nice couple but we never chat, just little gestures. I also noticed that they brought their own food so that they don't have to buy anything during stopovers.

A few minutes after seven in the morning, a coaster fetched us from the guesthouse and brought us to the station. Inside the coaster was a White couple who gave us a smile and a nod. I was sure they meant to say "Good morning!" but since we look like Cambodians and they had probably enough of the looking locals, they forgotten to say what's on their minds. Okay that was just me and my wild interpretation of things.

I had my heavy backpack getting on my nerves (it usually does as the travel progresses) and managed to smile back. There were just the four of us inside the coaster and we got to the bus station before 7:30am. There was this guy who took our backpacks and gave us claim numbers. Then we went inside.

inside the bus

Inside the bus. That is our little, skinny and able English-speaking lady attendant on the microphone informing us that we will be departing soon.

I like riding the Angkor Express but Mekong Express is better. It’s not as new as the first bus we rode on the way to Phnom Penh but at least there’s this lady attendant who was always right on the dot telling us everything we needed to know. Like, where are we now, when is the next stop over, how many minutes we have stay before the bus leaves, even tidbits of history about the place. These information are crucial I think, it helped us in so many ways.

Our attendant is a little, skinny lady who seems to know her craft. She speaks in English with thick accent but we understood her. She talked fast and I had this feeling that she had everything memorized. She looked at the ceiling every now and then and said the magic “ahhh” and "ohh" everytime she gets lost with her words (which I find cute). She reminded me of someone (before when I still lived in the province).

crossing the water

Locals looking at the bus while our bus board on the cargo ship.

Going to the Ho Chi Minh City, our bus boarded into a huge boat so that we could cross the Cambodian boarder. The idea was like a ro-ro (roll-on/roll-off) but it was for a short time only. Then we traveled again by land.

As usual, we had stopovers for eating, drinking, pissing or just hanging out and feeling the land on your feet once again. The whole travel would take eight hours so I really appreciated these stopovers because it also gave me the opportunity to step down on the bus, look around, chat with the locals and take photos. The most important of all things, yes, taking photos otherwise, I'll have nothing to share with you and everything would just be a nonsense blabber.

another stopover

This is the stopover.

We got to this one stopover. It has a huge eatery shop with a bunch of fruit vendors on one side and a little resto on the other. People were flocked into the huge eatery shop that I went there myself to get something (I dunno what). Oki was somewhere buying herself some food, I believe.

I don’t know what will I have so I went to the vendor selling all sorts of drinks. On the queue was this French guy who ordered black coffee. I wanted one too but knowing my experience with stopovers, I don’t think I will be able to enjoy my coffee. So I bought a soda instead. I don’t know why I bought it, as I don’t even feel like drinking anything.

fruit vebdors

Fruit vendors selling pomegranate, orange, banana, etc.

So anyway, I decided to just look around and take photos. I met this woman who asked some money. I told her, “I don’t have money, but I have a Sprite!” and modeled the soda to her like one of those soda commercials. She seemed to like it, (the soda) so I handed it to her. I went to the other side and found two White young couple smoking. I wanted one too but opted not.

the mommy and the child who got my Sprite

She looks like she's irritated in this picture but she's not. In fact, she was happy that I was there butting in her business. She's the recipient of my cold, icy Sprite. The boy could be her child.

Instead, I decided to go inside the bus and found Oki eating a grenade! That sounded a bit off, but granada is actually a pomegranate, a local fruit which we also have in the Philippines. I believe I bought some of that when I was in Sagada in Mountain Province.

Oki's granade

Oki eating the grenade!

To our relief, we arrived in Mocbai, the Cambodia-Vietnam border to have our passports stamped. When we got the border, there was this long queue. Imagine batches of buses full of people coming in and out of the boarder. Our able lady attendant took all our passports and asked us to wait at the other line, which we did. I have imagined the long line of people but hardly I imagined that it would take long to wait. My shoulders were giving up on me. I had troubled enduring the whole seven hours but what’s 45 minutes more? Yea, that long!

We saw batches of passports held by a man passing us by. I asked Oki what’s the deal here because I felt like something fishy is going on. These people going in and out of the line were like pimps going straight in front of the line and to the counter where a man was stamping passports. One of the guys was smoking too. I thought smoking was prohibited inside. Grr.

queue at the border

This is the other part of the couple who was with us from the coaster in Phnom Penh all the way to Mocbai. He looks pissed here. And so am I. The person stooping down in front is Oki. I believe she's also pissed. Ha!

The couple we met in Cambodia who was also inside the coaster and the Mekong Express looked tired waiting. I was snorting already but it’s not as if I could do anything about it, right? We’re just foreigners trying to have our passports stamped. We don’t want any trouble.

getting out of the border

At the Mocbai where you get your passports stamped. Boy, was I glad to see the outside view.

After the hullabaloos and the long wait, I think that the most important thing to say is that, we arrived in the city. Tired but safe.



pieterbie said...

I guess that is what you really call travel. Unknown to me such long bus rides. I have made long car journeys. But I am also always glad when I arrive at my destination.

tutubi philippines said...

backpacking vietnam pala yan
plan ko puntahan yan next year :P

kyels said...

I'm waiting for my turn to backpack which is soon I hope! Anyway, how long were you at Vietnam?


Sidney said...

That is a long journey but to put in another quote..."life is a journey, not a destination".

It seems you got a never ending vacation! Lucky you!

Toe said...

Well, that's Indochina for you. :) Ganyan talaga when you're traveling...especially in exotic places... but it's all worth the hardships, diba?

Good you didn't drink the coffee during the stop-over... mahirap na yung tubig sa mga ganyan. :)

Ang sarap ng granada ni Oki. :)

my gulch said...

yes, very long indeed. and i promise myself not to engage in such long travels when I turn 40 or so. ;-) but it's sure a fun way to meet and greet people at random.

wow. goodluck on your travel next year. i hope you'll have fun. oh you will.

we were there for 4 days. there's so much more places to explore in Vietnam but days and time...we do not have. yea...hope you'll get to taste your backpack adventure soon!

i'd like to think my journey will not end. i love traveling, i really do. if that's the only thing i could do, i would be glad to do it. there are important things that i only get to learn and experience when i am traveling.

super worth it talaga. oo di na ako uminom ng kape although gusto ko talaga. well, di masyado dahil sa sanidad (malakas na ata ang sikmura ko sa mga ganyan!) naisip ko lang na di ko din yun mauubos dahil ilang minutes lang naman ang mga stopover and naalala ko yung huli naming stopover puntang Phnom Penh, di man lang nangalahati yung food ko.

oo masarap ang granada ni Oki..hehe. parang nakakatakot pakinggan anu ba yan!

Lies said...

The longest I've ever had to stand in line was eight hours. Queueing is so not my thing! Still, the wait seems to have been worth it, so... ;o)

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