Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Soggy Saigon---7/3--6

This kind of sleeper bus was quite a different than other buses I have riden in SE Asia or South America. Inside the the bus that accommodated about 32 passengers, the arrangement was for two window rows and a center row with upper and lower berths. We left at 8 AM for our run down the Central Highlands to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) some 7 hours away. I found it odd that they would be running a sleeper bus during the day, but I guess many prefer traveling this way as opposed to sitting upright. I am 6 feet tall and my feet were hard against the foot well so they must not design these sleepers for taller people. The cost for this comfortable ride complete with WiFi was 220,000 dong----about $11 USD.


The extensive road construction along the way delayed our arrival into HCMC until 4PM, but fortunately the Singh Bus Company was just two blocks from the Ha Vy Hotel where I was planning to stay.

The last time I was in HCMC in 2005, while staying at this hotel, I learned the owner, Tran Tam, had been twice denied a Visa to the US to see her daughter and son graduate from school. Each application had cost her $200. I advised her to emphasize to the US Consulate interviewer that she was an owner of the hotel and employed many employees and that she intended to return to manage her hotel. I also wrote a letter to the US Consulate as well. On her third try, I learned from her daughter, that Tran was successful and was able to visit her children and even attend a wedding of another relative. As thanks for my suggestions and recommendation, she mailed me a beautiful silk embroidered artwork of a village scene.

I learned from the hotel staff that she had sold the hotel in 2011, and now just returns to Vietnam from the US during the annual Tet Festival. Her daughter is an accountant in the Silicon Valley area so I suppose she sponsored her mother's stay in the US.

In my travels, I have heard similar stories of the difficulities people from other countries have in getting a visa to the US. Apparently the US Visa regulations, assume that people who want to visit are actually trying to come to the US to stay and not just visit. This contrasts considerably with my experience, where most places I have traveled to allow a visa on arrival, or an application process like I had to do for my travels to Russia, China and Vietnam.

During my stay in HCMC---they still call the central part of the city, Saigon----it rained most afternoons and evenings. I planned my touring to early mornings, but occasionally got caught in a warm downpour.

Here are some of the tourist sites I visited as the rainclouds formed up.

The Reunification Palace with the second picture that shows the tanks that broke through the fence that symbolized the end of the Vietnam War or as the Vietnamese call it "The American War."
Notre Dame Cathedral near the Central Post Office

The Central Post Office with its beautiful architecture both outside and in and a portrait of Ho Chi Minh overlooking the customers.



People's Committee Building which is adjacent to the Rex Hotel and its rooftop bar which was used as a reporting place for journalists covering the Vietnam War before and during the fall of Saigon.

View of the evening rains from a streetside restaurant and bar in the Pham Ngu Lao area where I am staying.

The tangle of electrical wires is a frequent sight in many SE Asia countries. Some are illegal taps, some are wires that no longer work---what an amazing maze. They even have T shirts with pictures of these wire mazes along with the names of the cities.

I had a number of options that would get me out to the Saigon (SGN) airport for my 9:45 AM flight with AirAsia---bus, taxi, or mototaxi. The price range for transportation to the airport would be from 6,500 dong for the bus to 150,000 dong. Shortly after breakfast, I went to the bus stop thinking that if the 152 bus did not show up soon, I would then take a taxi or mototaxi. Within five minutes I got on this bus for a 30 minute ride during rush hour. The closer the bus got to the airport, the fewer passengers remained aboard until I was one of the last two. The bus stopped first at the domestic terminal and at the international. So easy and at a cost of just 33 cents.

For air travel within SE Asia, I find AirAsia among one of the outstanding low cost carriers. My 1 1/2 hour flight from HCMC to Bangkok cost just $63.


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