Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ho Chi Minh City Day 2

I should first explain that all the time stamps (the time of the posts located at the bottom of each posting) are in Vietnamese time. Even the ones I posted before we got here.

The flight from LA to Souel, Korea was soo long, easily the longest flight I've ever been on. We flew with Asiana Airlines, who left us quite impressed. They worked so hard on attending to our every need. Lots of food and drinks, we were quite full by the time we landed in Korea.

The airport in Souel was easily the cleanest airport I've seen. It looks like Chinook Mall on the inside. Koreans were also seemed to be very friendly. Kheang's head was turning every time a Asiana stewardess/flight attendant passed by. In Souel we transfered flights and were on our way to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was exciting flying over Japan and seeing Mt. Fuji. It reall stands out from a distance! As we got closer to Vietnam we flew through a storm. There was quite a bit of turbulence and lightning, which didn't seem to bother Kheang who slept during the entire flight. The airplane on the way to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) had built in screens in the back of the seat that allowed you to pick from a dozen movies/tv shows/comedy sketches like "just for laughs" and it was great. It really made the time pass by. I watched Ice Age 2 and Fun with Dick and Jane. I figured I'd watch some humorous movies to put me in a good mood. Kheang tried to watch King Kong but fell asleep within five minutes of it starting. I'm quite envious of how easily he can fall asleep.

Landing at the airport of HCMC was pretty exciting and a little intimidating too. Every person that worked there was in army like uniform. This is the first place where we started running into language barriers. Immediately you could feel the humidity. We got our baggage and went outside where we looked for a person to pick us up from the guest house that we booked at the LA airport. While we waited a dozen people tried to get us into their cab instead. It took a while to find our pick up guy, but we found him (or rather he found us) and we were on our way. We got to experience Vietnam traffic, which is quite different from anything I've seen. There are street signs but there might as well not be there. When approaching a corner simply honk and listen if anyone honks back. If you think the honking indicates a smaller vehicle, proceed. If you think it indicates a bigger vehicle, yield. That's pretty much all you need to know.

We were driven to the guest house and shown to our room. It was quite clean and western-like. Two bedroom with a bathroom and a desk for $13USD/night and free internet access. This is why I can write such a long post. Our guest house is located in Pham Ngu Lao, a neighborhood for backpackers.

The next day (today) we set out to find a place to eat, exchange some currency and look around. Crossing the street was fun, you pretty much go whenever you want to and people will drive around you. Kheang says I put him to shame as I made my way across while he was about to show me how it's done. ;) We ate at Pho 2000, which is where Bill Clinton ate when he was here. We ate some pho (which was so good) and had some milkshakes. Hopefully the milkshakes won't make me sick. Kheang, I think, has some immunities to the native bacteria. It was about $5 total for our drinks and meals. While exchanging money at the bank one of the locals was quite eager to practice her English speaking skills. It made her quite happy that I spoke with her. She's pretty good! We decided that we are not staying long. We figure we can always fly here when we're old (although Kheang is pretty much there) and check it out then. We got a bus ticket that will take us from HCMC to Nha Trang to Hoi An and then Hue. At each of those places we'll look to rent motorcycles at each of those places and ride around. We still haven't given up at the idea of buying a motorcycle. We'll look to do that at Hue and ride to Hanoi.

The bus to take us to Nha Trang comes at 7:30 pm, so we have some time to do some more walking around. My friend James, who's been here twice now and is coming back again shortly has requested that we go say hi to his friend Non, who is fluent in English and Vietnamese. That'll be nice, maybe she can teach us a phrase or two. Trying to use the little bit of Vietnamese that I learned is quite funny. I'm usually faced with a blank stare so I'll point to the book and they'll help me with the pronounciation. Maybe I'll get better by the end of the trip. ;)

Unfortunately this place doesn't have USB ports, so I'm not able to upload any photos. I've only taken a few so far, but that will change as we get out of the city and start doing some real sightseeing.

I've typed this in a bit of a hurry, all while talking to people on MSN, so apologies for any mistakes or anything that doesn't make sense.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Waiting in LA

At 25 cents a minute I'm getting some crappy internet access. I only have two minutes left so gotta keep this short. We've found a guest house in the guide book that we could book online and they even pick us up at the airport. We've got our first place in Vietnam booked! They have internet access so I'll add more from there.

LA airport is a zoo, and it's so smoggy!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm ready!

It's 3:23 in the morning and I'm done packing! Kheang will be here in an hour and a half -- plenty of time to catch some sleep. :)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A little background

Last year I really wanted to go to Asia. I had thought about Japan but decided it was too expensive. China was also on my list, but I was concerned about the culture shock. I decided I was going to check out Thailand because it has a pretty well developed tourist industry and then fly over to Cambodia to see Angor and the surrounding temples. That was the idea and I was pretty set on it.

So how did Thailand become Vietnam? Well..

While hiking with the
Calgary Outdoor Club I met Mr. Ung, a High School science teacher hailing from Cambodia. As we became better friends I thought I would invite him on the trip. To have a friend who speaks Cambodian with you in Cambodia would be priceless. However, Kheang wasn't that interested in seeing Thailand, as he's already been there and he proposed the idea of going to Vietnam instead. Though I wasn't too keen on it at first, I gave the it some thought. While reading about Vietnam I stumbled upon the photography website of QT Luong. I was sold.

There isn't much of a plan in place. Kheang wanted to take motorcycles through the Ho Chi Minh trail, which cuts right through the jungle. The north Vietnamese used it to supply their armies during the American war. I liked the motorcycle idea, but suggested that we follow the main highway instead. It was a deal and that's pretty much the plan. Ideally we'd like to buy motorcycles so that we don't have to come back the same way, but if that doesn't work we'll take the bus or train from town to town, and rent and ride to the surrounding areas. Either way, it seems like a great way to see the country. When we reach Hanoi and are done exploring north Vietnam, we'll try fly over to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and try and get over to Angor. After we'll have to return to Ho Chi Minh for our return flight.

So that's the general idea, but nothing is written in stone. We'll see how it goes.