The drive from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City (henceforth known as HCMH) was in what can only be termed as the antithesis of a ‘sleeper’ bus. This was an ‘awake bus’, a bus for those who if they do fall to sleep, it shall be for a thousand years so they MUST stay awake and the bus and driver conspire to assure this is the case. Okay so I am rambling a bit here but this kind of bus (and sleep deprivation) does seem to scramble the brain circuits somewhat. Also, the road he took us on was winner of ‘the worst road on our journey thus far’ award. This was not a road with potholes, this was a series of potholes connected by the flimsiest strips of tarmac. Our driver was not content with this being the only thing to keep us from nodding to sleep also added a good few melodic horn blasts to soothe our collective little ears.
We stopped on a regular basis, possibly to reset broken bones caused by the vigorous shaking they had received on the bus or possibly just to stuff our ears with whatever we could find to keep out the insistent horn blarps. You know things like small rocks or children’s wet nappies! One of the stops though was at a nature resort in a valley which really did look amazing. As we have travelled around the place I am beginning to really like the Vietnamese they are a people who simply grab their chances and do whatever it is, the very best they can. Some of the hotels here have been the very best and cheapest that we have stayed in and at the resort it showed that have a real flair for things which showcase their better scenery to its very best.
We arrived at HCMC earlier than expected and it showed all the signs of being a city on the ‘up’. From our first ‘from-the-bus’ glances, it all looked very businesslike and has quite a good number of high rise buildings and posh shopping malls in its centre. It seems a world away from good old Hanoi, which I quite took a liking to, so it will be interesting to see what I make of this new place over the next few days. Our bus stopped just round the corner from the hotel which we had booked for the next couple of nights – hoorah.
Although it was quite difficult to understand and make ourselves understood to the chunky little Vietnamese female manager, we soon enough, after hiking our bags upstairs, got settled into our hotel room. The room itself was okay though a little old fashioned in style. We found that we had a balcony, well when I say balcony perhaps that is overstating the window box that we had but it was all good and no sooner had we settled than we went out to explore our surrounds. Our immediate area was simply HCMC backpacker central, well at least the main road was, that our little street was adjoined to. There were lots of bars and small noodle places and even more bars to boot. The Lonely Planet write up for the area gave a couple of places to eat but the first we found had long since shut up and departed so we carried on for a bit of a walk.
Across the road at a small park we found young people kicking around what looked like a rattan ball with feathers attached. They were playing keepy uppies and it all looked very energetic but even though it was early evening it was still far too hot for us to buy one of the balls and give it a go. Also some of the moves the guys were using were quite acrobatic and flicky and my body nor my moves are neither acrobatic nor flicky so there.
After we had got our bearings around the hotel we grabbed a quick drink and then went back there for a quick shower before coming back out to explore even more of the district. Liz had been keeping in touch with Sue and Lucy the mother and daughter we had met in Dalat, via mobilia means, as they were due to be arriving in HCMC too via plane and we were hoping to meet up for a drink, though it presently did not look that hopeful as the ladies’ flight had been delayed. So we tried another Lonely Planet eating recommendation but this was another which had long since fallen by the wayside so we ‘winged it’ regarding our choice of restaurant.
The eatery we went for was on the main road so good for people watching and the menu looked very appetising but when we ordered, Liz’s noodles turned out to be instant ones and the goat ribs that I had ordered had no meat on them whatsoever – they were complete and utter rubbish. I then did something most unheard of for us Brits, I actually complained, my dander was up and I vented my frustration on the manager. After some time looking confused he finally understood what I was babbling on about and said I did not have to pay for the ribs, so only slightly mollified we left and went further on down the main street for a bit of a drink. Sue and Lucy had messaged us and their plane was a bit too late so it was just going to be the two of us going on for a beer.
We must have had more than the intended one beer though as we actually found ourselves (or lost ourselves) drinking until two in the morning!
We spent a lot of the time ‘people watching’ and trying to guess which were the ladyboys from the ‘people’ who were strutting their stuff and flagging down cars across from the bar we had encamped in. Whilst there, Liz made a new friend in the waitress, a girl called Sarah who was wanting to better herself but needed the job to do it. She was studying hard and holding down this job which kept her awake till the very early hours before pressing repeat and doing it all again the next day – no way I could have done it but good on her!