Vietnam: Part 3 – The South

Vietnam: Part 3 – The South

Mar 26-Apr 3, 2019

Dalat

Leaving Timothe’s was harder than we thought. Essentially we didn’t know how we were getting out of there but only that something would work out. The guy at Timothe’s called around to find out when a bus was coming by that would take us to Dalat. I didn’t want a night sleeper bus (I’d heard that the bus drivers do drugs, fall asleep, etc…and that there are a lot of accidents with the night busses. When we got to Ho Chi Minh Luc read in a newspaper that a night sleeper bus had got in an accident and people died). So essentially we got a ride to the main road and stood there wondering when the bus would come by.

Eventually, it came and it was a sleeper bus but we would be on it all day so no worries there. We were shown to the back and we were the only tourist on the bus that we could see. We laid in the back and just chilled out as we stopped about 25 times. Finally I asked to use a toilet as it really wasn’t clear when we would stop, and about 5 mins later he pulled over and the girls all went into the bushes and the boys somewhere else. It was like a re-enactment of the Camino with toilet paper strew everywhere. This wasn’t their first rodeo. It was so odd to me that we didn’t stop at a gas station or rest area and that everyone on the bus was just expected to squat. Okey Dokey.

Then after about 5 hours, the bus stopped and the driver told us that we were getting off. Well of course we had our stuff strewn everywhere because we’d been watching Mapsme and we were still a ways away from Dalat. We pilled all our stuff together as everyone on the bus continued to look at us and yell “Dalat” and we scrambled to not forget anything. Of course, Luc left his 3rd hat behind. Sigh…

We got out of the bus, and were shuffled into another smaller bus. I said “Dalat?” and the driver nodded yes. Ok then. Thankfully he didn’t ask for more money.

We finally made it to Dalat and to our hotel. Into our room and quickly we find that the light in the bathroom doesn’t work. We asked them to fix it and low and behold he couldn’t fix it so I asked if we could move and everything was booked. So then I asked for candles. Yep, candle light in the bathroom. If you can believe it, there was a bath (that didn’t hold water well) so I decided to have a candle light bath that night and only had to refill the tub 3 times.

We went our separate ways for dinner as we were starving and of course an epic fight sprung up because everyone wasn’t thinking straight and I wasn’t going to eat shitty noodles. So I took off and had a delicious burger and fries while they ate noodles.

The next day we walked to the lake. Dalat is the city of romance I think. There are flowers everywhere and because of its elevation, it’s a lot cooler. I was happy to have a brief reprise from the heat. The lake was beautiful and we went for a float around the lake on a giant swan. Vivi doesn’t get to do a lot of things that she wants (zoos are expensive!) and she wanted to do this so I was so happy to be able to make it happen. We continued on around the lake and it really was quite beautiful. After we headed back to the hotel, the power went out as soon as we got there but they assured us that they had fixed the light in the bathroom but there was no way to check. We ate at the restaurant that I ate at the previous night.

Luc and I came to an agreement finally. I’m choosier about where I want to eat. He will eat anywhere but likes cheap. Quite a few times we found ourselves walking from restaurant to restaurant and I didn’t like what was on the menu. I wasn’t feeling it and I was sick of noodles and rice after 2.5 months. Luc would get more and more frustrated. So we came to an agreement: if he wants to eat somewhere and I don’t, then he can eat there. Same for me. It might mean that we eat in different places, but we’re not settling and resentful. Vivi has the best of both worlds. She can choose what Luc is eating or what I’m eating and no hard feelings on either side. Interestingly, since we came to this agreement, we haven’t really had to implement it much.

The next morning we needed to get to the airport early so we’d asked for a taxi to come and get us bright and early. The taxi showed up with a flat tire. So he needed to fix it and when he was fixing it I noticed that he only had 3 of the 4 lugs on the tire. I looked around the car and it was the same on the other front wheel. Really? The driver assured me that it didn’t matter (yeah right). Well we already don’t use a car seat anymore and now only 3 lugs? Forget about it. I felt a bit high maintenance but knowing we had an hours drive, I really didn’t want to think about it the whole time wondering what was going to happen so I asked the hotel to call us another taxi.

Ho Chi Minh/Saigon

We got to Ho Chi Minh by way of an airplane. We could have taken a bus or train but it would have taken 10+hours and I was just a little worn out of road transportation TBH. This plane ride was about 1 hour so we bought our carbon offsets and away we went.

This was our 3rd fancy hotel that we stayed in for FREE. We were starting to get a little too used to the fancy hotel! We headed out in the blazing sun to get some lunch. There were a lot of restaurants that catered to tourists or expats which was right up my alley but the price went up drastically now that we were in the city.

Back to the hotel, where we swam in the pool overlooking the river. Dinner… we could have had an all you can eat buffet for $50/person but that was out of the budget. Instead, we made friends with the hotel food and beverage manager and he gave us some free beer (they had run out of the IPA that I wanted), extra helpings of bread, a free salad and free desert. Luc sent him a thank you note later as he was so impressed and it felt good on the wallet.

The next day, I went to the gym and then did laps in the pool. We walked around a bit, I sweated like crazy and then we headed to the bus station to go south.

We had bought the tickets ahead of time but that didn’t make it any easier. We got dropped off with our GRAB and asked what window we needed to go to. Oh the one with 40 people all trying to get to the front (read: no nice lines). We had about 10 mins until the bus left so Luc pushed his way to the front and the guy was the slowest! He had to reissue different tickets for us and then told us that the bus was in the back and the license plate number. Meanwhile I was watching all our stuff like a hawk. This was the place where you get robbed I was sure.

We walk to the back and there are about 50 busses parked everywhere. It was crazy hot and we were asking where was the bus? Running with all our backpacks here there and everywhere. Mental note: get to the bus station well ahead next time. We hopped onto the bus and it basically left 2 mins later. Phewf! We were on another sleeper bus during the day so it was nice to be reclined and just chill out.

Can Tho

We got to Can Tho and the heat just wouldn’t stop. We had rented a homestay so we were on the top floor with great AC in a small little room. The toilet was one floor down and the shower was one floor below that. I stayed in that night because it was just too hot to go outside.

The next morning we awoke very early before the sun rose so we could do a river cruise to the biggest floating market in Vietnam. Our guide, Lyly and our boat driver were awesome. So friendly and cute. The guide made us more bamboo bling bling while we floated down the river to the most beautiful sun rise. Eventually, we made it to the floating market which was pretty cool. We couldn’t really buy anything as they sell large quantities to resellers (think Costco for fruits and veggies on the river). Then we had a delicious Pho for breakfast right from the boat.

We cruised down the river and saw mud skippers and then we went to a rice noodle making business. We watched how the made big circular sheets of rice flour over a hot fire, then transferred to a place to dry in the sun. Hard work, 7 days a well. Everyone there was family.

We headed home for a much needed shower. Later we went out for dinner. We basically hid upstairs in our room in the AC for the afternoon.

The next day, we walked out to get breakfast and look around before it got too hot. Then back to the train station (with lots of time to spare) and back on a sleeper daytime bus to Ho Chi Minh. All in all, I’m not sure going to Can Tho was really worth it in the end. I liked the floating market but for the amount of time we were in a bus and in the room in AC it seemed like maybe we should have skipped it.

Ho Chi Minh/Saigon

This time we had rented an Airbnb that was a GREAT price on the 35th floor. I was in heaven. Our own kitchen, really spacious, and our own WASHING MACHINE. We decided we would wash everything we owned. It’s not so often you don’t have to pay to wash your clothes so we took advantage of the machine and the days that we had there (4 nights I believe) and started washing.

The next day Vivi and I wanted to just chill. We’d been moving around so much we just needed a day off in the AC. Luc, of course, needed to see more and do stuff, so he hopped on a GRAB scooter and took off for the day. We did girly things like face masks and watched a movie. It was so nice to just be.

That night my stomach started hurting and I could tell it was the tell-tale sign that I wouldn’t be able to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels with them the next day. That night I took all the things I needed to take for my tummy but in the morning it just wasn’t better so I stayed home again while they went to the tunnels. I really wanted to see the tunnels but it wasn’t meant to be. They had a great time and I’m so happy that Vivi got a chance to learn about them.

The next day we got on yet another bus that would take us to Cambodia. This would be a two day bus trip to get to Siem Reap.

Reflection:

  • Vietnam is a vast country with so many beautiful and varying landscapes.
  • I’m thrilled that they take credit cards more readily here.
  • I had heard that the younger generation can speak English and the older generation (because of the war) but the in between generation can’t so much (unless they are involved with tourism) and I’d say this is a pretty accurate generalization.
  • I learned that Vietnam has been claiming their independence from many different countries for many many years. This impacts a culture I would say when you’re fighting to be a country with its own unique culture. It seems to me like Vietnam is a young country now defining itself.
  • This is the country where we bus, plane, train, and boat the most in our trip.
  • It seems like a whirlwind of activity and by the end of it, Vivi and I are absolutely spent. It’s a little too fast or too much and I can notice how we all get a little more tense when we don’t get a break from moving.
Watch Luc's GoPro Video for the highlights
Watch Luc’s GoPro Video for the highlights
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Jermann Camille
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Jermann Camille

C’est vraiment intéressant votre voyage à Dalat .Il y a plein de suspens avec votre voyage en bus ,mais heureusement que vous avez pu trouver un bus avec des couchettes au moins vous avez pu vous relaxer.. Comme tu en parles Robin la nourriture toujours des nouilles et du riz ,c’est doit être un peu lassant.Il y a pas d’autres choses ? Un plat staek pommes frites ça fait du bien de manger une fois. Il y a sûrement eu beaucoup de differents légumes, et de fruits exotiques à goûter ! J’espère que votre prochain voyage en Australie se sera… Read more »

Greg
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Greg

I loved the agreement you and Luc made with regard to dining. Terri and I have vastly different palates also so it is not uncommon for us to go to multiple places to eat. I’ve heard it called progressive eating.

This works especially well with Spain’s tapas culture but really, you can food crawl anywhere. The secret is to order small amounts of whatever a place specializes in and be okay with not eating everything in one place.

Donna
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Donna

Hi Robin.. Once again Thank You for sharing your story… Wow! I feel that somehow I can now appreciate just how hard it must be to travel so continuously … the three months I had in Europe was nothing like you have done… and I think I made more longer stops and of course not so hot and all by train… Incredible experience for you and family… Love your story and following along… Soooooo appreciate the photos too. Stay cool!! And bring some of that sunshine home to Canada with you.
Safe travels Always. Donna