Day 14: Phnom Penh to Saigon (HCMC)

by - May 11, 2011

The amount of travelling I am doing is getting a bit grueling, but I am getting to see a lot of stuff.  I hauled myself out of bed again this morning to get the bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. Or Saigon.  Just to clarify, Ho Chi Minh City is the governmental name for the entire urban conurbation, but Saigon is the name of the city centre and is what the locals call it. Saigon has a lot of romance about it - it is a name like Cairo, or Istanbul, or Singapore that just sounds exotic, so I shall refer to it thus for the sake of the blog.  The journey was pretty hassle free, though there was a lot of waiting around at the border. The bus company I went with (Sapaco) were very good and took all of our passports off us at the start of the journey so that they could process them, to save us messing around at the border.  There was only so much they could do however and I had to pass through the fairly strict looking Vietnamese border post to get in.

I arrived in Saigon at about half 2 and headed off to my hostel. I had remembered the name of it this time - Madame Cuc’s (it had come recommended from family friends). I just didn’t know where I was, so decided upon getting a taxi. Stupidly I forgot that a taxi in Vietnam is a motorbike, so my first taste of Saigon was weaving through the streets, with my full backpack on, on the back of a bike. It was one of those experiences which was both exciting and terrifying - I will admit that as the bike tilted to go around corners I closed my eyes.  When I arrived at the hostel I found out that the flights for my next trip (to Russia) had been booked, so I spent most of the afternoon and evening busying myself planning not only that, but the Vietnamese section of the trip.  My first impressions of Saigon are that it is an odd place - the communist government is far more prominent than I expected it would be (Facebook and BBC are banned) and yet the TV is showing loads of western programmes - even Dr Who was on, and I saw KFCs and Pizza Huts on the way in.  I can only assume that the country is in transition, because the two extremes seem far too polar to coexist for long.

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