Day 5 in Vietnam
03.26.2015 - 03.26.2015 95 °F
We woke up in the morning for our first major day of travel. Time to leave the Mekong Delta, which was sad - this was the first place we would have to leave that we knew we would not return to - likely, ever. It was very bittersweet.
We had breakfast in the dining area, made by the housekeeper (egg?), accompanied by fresh cut fruit and yogurt that we didn't ask for and weren't charged for. These people were fantastic hosts, let me tell you. Cary played on his iPad while Maggie slept in. Rick and I had Vietnamese instant coffee with the "gloppy stuff" that we had by now realized was creamer (sugar added!). Best instant coffee ever!
Thuy (the homestay owner) had arranged for our bus tickets already for the trip back, and we had to catch the bus at 11am. She called for our taxi to take us the 7km back to the bus station. The taxi driver got a flat tire on the way there, so she called another. We started to get nervous, as our taxi didn't arrive until almost quarter till. We walked out to the road, gave Thuy a hug, and got in the taxi.
When we got to the bus station, we split up to try to make things go faster. I ran in to the counter to finalize the purchase of the tickets while Rick herded the kids. We were able to make the transaction quickly and get on the bus just in the nick of time.
During the four hour bus trip back to Saigon, we read books on our iPads while the locals watched music videos on a TV screen at the front of the bus. There must be popular Vietnamese pop songs, as the same songs played over and over. LOL
When we arrived at the main Saigon bus terminal, we knew we had to catch a smaller shuttle bus (operated by the bus company) to a stop closer to our final destination - our old hotel in Saigon, who had agreed to let us leave our bags there while we explored Saigon for a final day. Maggie had to use the bathroom though, so we were sent on a bit of a journey to find a bathroom at the bus station, all the while being accosted by taxi drivers trying to take us somewhere. We attempted to politely decline while making our way to the bathroom. Maggie was frightened by the squat toilets we found in the bathroom that we had to pay to use. (I have no pictures of this.)
We made our way back to the shuttle bus and boarded. I should mention that nobody at a local - or charter - bus station speaks English. (Or taxi drivers, for that matter.) Trying to find the right shuttle is quite crazy, and even when you think you have found it, a little bit of faith is still necessary to feel confident you negotiated it correctly. We boarded the bus not sure we had the right shuttle, but operating completely on faith. But sure enough, we arrived at the correct station, and got a cab from there back to Pham Ngu Lao (the backpacker district where our old hotel was).
We left our bags there and rushed to go to Kizciti, which we had read a lot about and were excited to visit. You can think of it as a shopping mall, where each "store" is a different occupation that kids can try out - from fire stations to hair dresser shops to airplane pilots to magicians and everything in between. At each stop, the kids earn money which they can use at even more "stores" to buy ice cream or watch movies or a host of other things. We had tried to visit a few days ago, but they were closed on Mondays. Now that it was Thursday (ish?), we thought we were safe.
Unfortunately, they were closed. Again.
We tried to make up for it by spending a few hours at the park across the street. Cary and Maggie both played in the park for a while and then grew bored of it. We caught another taxi and headed back to the backpacker district for dinner, where things were familiar and we were close to our bags. We had dinner at a local restaurant, Made a stop at Baskin Robbins for ice cream, and then grabbed a taxi to the train station for our sleeper train to Nha Trang.
We had pre-purchased all of our train tickets ahead of time through a local Vietnamese travel agency (Vietnam Impressive), and I'm glad we did. On this leg of the journey, we had booked a 4-berth "soft sleeper", which allowed us to have the whole room to ourselves. We purchased some beer before getting on the train, and were off shortly on our journey. The train was fairly comfortable, two upper bunks (me and Maggie) and two lower bunks (Cary and Rick), which also serve as couches during the day. As our train took off at 8:30 and Cary was already tired, we put the kids to bed and had Maggie lock the door while we explored the train. We walked to the front into the food car where we had a beer and talked about the journey so far. It was a cool experience to be jetting off to who-knows-where on a train in Asia. After our beer, we retired to sleep in our cabin. All was right in the world.