After spending just over a week in Bangkok it was time to travel again. My visa was running out and rather then do a visa run again I decided it was time to try another country. Not that I have finished with Thailand just yet. For various reasons Vietnam was my choice and this would involve flying from Bankok to Ho Chi Minh city.
This involved booking the flight online, arranging transport to the airport and with a bit of research finding out I could get a local bus from Ho chi minh airport to the town itself saving a few pennies. Easy peasy eh. Well this is Asia and not everything is always so easy and there is always the risk of being scammed.
“I’ll get picked up here?” I asked as the guy behind the desk at the hostel who counted my money for the bus to the airport. Yes no problem I was assured.
“Don’t I get a ticket?”
“It’s too late to book now. I will book in the morning then you get your ticket”
“Ok.” I said Ohhh kay I thought.
Half an hour before I am due to be picked up they call me down. My lift is here. Great its early. I hate waiting. Going down stairs I am faced with one woman asking for my ticket while a different guy from the hostel desk is asking for the money for the ticket. I explain to one that I have no ticket yet while explaining to the other that I am still owed my deposit for the hostel key which is going to be used for paying for the ticket as arranged by the other guy. Of course this all seems to lose something in translation as both the girl and guy talk to me at the same time and I try answering both at the same time. The girl is determined I cannot get on without a ticket and the guy is adamant I already have the ticket and waves the ticket book under my nose showing me the copy they keep. After much tooing and throwing I get him to turn the ticket book back one page and lo and behold there is the ticket stub I should of had with the word paid wrote on it. He then insists on passing the stub to me reaching over her to do it then I pass it back to her. So far so good. Then its on with my backpack and out the door in 40 degree heat and 70% humidity to my waiting air conditioned bus.
Only there is no bus. Instead I have to hike with my bus pass over the bridge heading to Khoa San rd past the hostel that I had left a few days previously to avoid all this walking through the heat and past all the packed stalls and onto Khoa San rd itself where I get to stand with no shade for half an hour until my bus finally arrived. My backpack with many others is unceremoniously slung onto some spare seats at the back and I climb into a vacant seat and off we go. Only the aircon is not turned and the only fresh air comes in from the window, only its not because its the full heat of the day and traffic is slow and not enough speed is made to blow air into our cramped bus. I can hear an air blower going and its coming from the drivers seat. In fact I can just make out his hair blowing in the cooling wind just past the mountain of luggage stopping said cooling wind from reaching its hot and sweaty passengers.
Eventually I get to Bangkok airport and this is where they have got it right. Its big, it airy and has plenty of shops and cafes and it seems pretty efficient to. Also my friend Nicky from Phetchaburi turns up to wish me a safe journey. She was supposed to be coming with me for the first week but passport problems meant she could not make it. After a brief check in and security check I’m in the departure area. You can get a free hours wifi here plus I find some big comfy padded recliners tucked away to the side so its a brief nap and some surfing for me before boarding starts.
The flight goes great and I have plenty of leg room as I booked a seat by the emergency door for no extra cost. Apart from a brief hiccup where I am waiting at the wrong bag carousel for my luggage everything goes fine on landing. This does mean I am the last to leave as I always pack my rucksack into a travel bag that doubles as a rain cover and it takes a while to unpack, but it also means most of the touts selling taxis to hotels have gone. What few are left I brush passed because I have done my homework I drew some cash out of an Atm and I know there is a cheap bus that will take me into town for 10,000 dong. 5,000 for me and 5,000 for my bag even tho the bus is practically empty. It work out about 30p. All my change comes in 5,000d coins but more on this later.
The bus journey is brief and I am dropped of at the bus station only 1k from my digs. So checking the map on my phone I head off in what I think is the right direction. Crossing the traffic is an experience reminding me of the traffic back in Bangalore India only here its all mopeds. To the right of me on the other side of the road is a big park with people picnicking. On my left are shops, restaurants, bars and a few hotels. This is where my digs should be. Its hot, its humid my backpack is weighing in at 20kilo and I need a drink and a shower. I am getting pestered every few steps by Vietnamese asking me where I’m going, offering me a ride or their hotel. I really hate this pestering which is so rife it seems in south east Asia. I stop to check my map. It appears I have walked half a km past the digs so I have to turn around and walk back. I am certain I have checked every building and did not see it.
After some more walking and according to the map passing the hotel yet again I am stumped. There is nothing for it but to ask. So I do and am directed down a back alley further up. Alarm bells ring. I ask someone else, then someone else all answers are the same. Down a dark alley next to number 119. So nothing else for it but to go. The alley splits half way down and after asking once again I finally find it standing next to a hotel and a local restaurant. Every space here seems to be some sort of business. I check in, hand over my passport then go down to the lobby for a much needed drink. As it turns out they will not accept my 5,000 dong coins for my beer as all Vietnamese in this town think coins are dirty and full of germs.
Well what do you know that bus driver scammed me!
Thanks for reading.