HCMC and the Mekong Delta

My train arrived in Quy Nhon with a little over an hour delay. Something I quite liked since my estimated arrival time in HCMC was around 4:20am (this train was actually not my first choice but on the later one the soft beds were fully booked). So whatever delay we could get I was happy with. It just meant I could sleep a bit longer and arrive at a more humane time.

We ended up arriving with a two hours delay. What a bliss to sleep until 6am and have time to brush my teeth. I had arranged for a pickup service and my driver was waiting with a sign for me.

In the Beautiful Saigon 2 Hotel my room was not ready to check in and there was no shower in the communal area. But they had a bathroom at least and before breakfast I could freshen up a bit. While drinking my coffee I perused the tour menu and saw that the city tour and the Cu Chi tunnels could be done at the same day. Since this would save me a day I could spend one day seeing the Mekong delta.

I was not too sure about going there because the reviews I had read online didn’t sound promising. But since I had an extra day I decided on making the tour.

I booked the tour with the reception and after breakfast I was already on my way. Looking out of the bus window this city appeared as crazy as Hanoi. Probably even more so since it had a lot more inhabitants (ok, around 5 millions more, I looked it up).

Once outside the city traffic was less and we soon stopped in My Thon to visit the Vinh Trang pagoda. There was still a slight drizzle but this would eventually stop.

  
   
Back on the bus we drove just a bit until we arrived at the Mekong. Here we all got off and got on a boat that brought us to our lunch destination on Tortoise Islet. Lunch again was not great, so no pictures from there.

  

With the boat we went to the next islet where we visited a family that made coconut candies. The coconut is first shredded, then cooked, in a next step molasses is added and cooked some more and finally the mass will be spread on a board, cut into stripes, cut into squares and wrapped individually. Quite a lot of manual labor for a candy that didn’t taste great.

After the visit we were put on a hand-rowed sampan in pairs and I ended up with a rower who looked like Freddie Kruger.

The boat ride was no longer than ten minutes, but it was enough to get three new mosquito bites. Next stop was a honey bee farm where we sampled lemon tea with honey and got entertained with local music.

For the music please click here, it was interesting in an awful way.IMG_5402

And that was basically it. After that we got on the bus and drove back for two hours to HCMC. While still on the bus I got a text from Willemeijn that she was already at the hotel. I had met her at the Farmstay in Phong Nha and then again in Hoi An. Only this time we had decided to share a room.

So when I arrived at the Beautiful Saigon 2 Hotel she was already waiting for me. We shared our travel stories and then we walked for dinner with people she had met in Dalat. And with walked I really mean we walked. Forever actually!

The taxi wouldn’t take us because the street was right around the corner, but the place we were going to was at ‘district’ 9. I don’t really know how the numbering worked but after a while numbers were starting over with a different ‘district’ number. And we started at ‘district’ one….

I am just glad it was worth it. Her friends were really nice and the food was amazing. The place we had walked to was outside the usual tourist area since the couple who discovered it was renting an apartment around the area. At 11pm or so we called it a night. I had another tour planned and she was meeting her friends at the War Remnants Museum. You’d, Pollybert

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In Hoi An again

The most important appointment for the evening was the second fitting with the Bebe tailor. As soon as I had showered after my Cham Island adventure, I took one of the free bicycles from my Quynh Nahn Homestay and cycled into the old town. I also sent a text to Willemeijn, a Dutch girl I had met in my last day at the Farmstay.

At the tailor I had a big disappointment, I was just not happy with my clothes. I had told them that I wanted loose, wrinkle-free traveling clothes that were easy to wash and needed no ironing. Almost everything looked as if it was made to go to the office. That was definitely not what I ordered or what I had in mind. Because after a closer look the dress looked like the one they had drawn, I just hadn’t noticed that it would be so fitted. It didn’t match with what I had in mind. We settled on some alterations and in two cases that they would redo it. I was fine with that but couldn’t believe that it would work in the end. The next fitting would be at three in the afternoon the next day which didn’t leave a lot of time for other alterations if necessary.

When I was finally done I bicycled to Willemeijn’s tailor and together we went further into the old town. We had a lot of catching up to do since we had done different things in the meantime.

We went for dinner at a big place near the night market, recommend by Lonely Planet (which was noticeable by the crowds of Westerners) and I tried the Hoi An specialty of White Rose and pork with eggplant.

  

Willemeijn went for some rolls and stuffed squid.

  

Around 10pm we called it a night. I wanted to get an early start tomorrow to see the town in the morning. We agreed to meet at the beach around 1pm since her next fitting was at noon.

The next morning I bought my entrance ticket for the old town which included the visit of five sites. Hoi An town is on the Unesco World Heritage list and everything was within walking distance. I took once again the bicycle to drive the 7 minutes to the center and started with the Japanese Bridge.

  

After that I went to the Quang Trieu Assembly Hall next door and then just walked around the old town. There were almost no people at this early hour.


  

  

Walking further on the Tran Phu street I soon arrived at the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall.

  
     
  
  

I crossed the street and walked into the Quang Cong temple.

  
  

By then it was time for breakfast and especially a coffee. The central market was right across the street so I decided to stop there.

  

Thus refreshed I walked around the market. It was all around the Central Market Hall. Some stalls had their fares on the street, some were better equipped. Please note that each flower was separately wrapped.

  
  

The next stop was the Tran Family’s Chapel, not really a place where you could see a lot but it had a large shop in the back. The little I saw though looked old and interesting.

  
  

By then it had started to rain again (there had been a slight drizzle all morning) and I was ready for another coffee break. I had seen most of the things I had wanted to and it was only 10:30am. Definitely time to enjoy the rest of the morning before going to the beach. Here under the large trees I was save from the rain and away from the noise. I spent the rest of the morning reading and writing.

When my cell phone battery was almost dead I decided to head back to the Homestay. But on the way to the bicycle I passed the Sacred Temple.

  
  

Around noon time I took the bicycle again and drove to An Bang beach which was only 3km from my Homestay. I wore my bikini just in case, but while driving there the drizzle started again. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t go swimming in Hoi An. The rice fields on the way to looked lush and green while the beach was more a variation of grey.

  

So the bikini was maybe a tad too optimistic but I wanted to be prepared. We ended up having lunch there, pizza for Willemeijn and prawns for me.

After lunch we went back into town. I had my third fitting and was expecting the worst.

  

Maybe I should have done that from the beginning because all of a sudden the clothes were how I wanted them to be. A couple smaller alterations and I was done. So while waiting for them I drove around town and for some last impressions and snacks during daylight.

 

Back at the tailor everything was ready. While talking to my sales lady I picked up that they also do shipping. And since I wanted to send some things home, we agreed on my coming back with all the stuff and they would do it for me (and everything has arrived meanwhile).

Willemeijn picked me up from the tailor and together we drove into the old town. We settled on a small place next to the river and shared squid sweet and sour and another Hoi An specialty.

  

A last walk around the old town with a view on the Lantern Bridge and then it was time for us to say goodbye. She was flying out to Dalat the next morning while I was taking the train south to Quy Nhon. Yours, Pollybert