Monday, March 05, 2007

11st Jan - 6th Day (Adventurous Journey from Phnom Penh to Saigon)

Gotta take this opportunity to thank my dear friend (my batch-mate from my Mandarin Public Speaking Class ages ago haha.....), Bryan who's kind enough and let me bunk in with him in Phnom Penh. A successful guy who's now a Finance Director with a Malaysian hotel in Phnom Penh, he accompanied me to the Killing Field and roam around Phnom Penh.
Take k Bryan!

After Bryan sent me to the Psar Thmei, I quickly settled my breakfast with this nice "沙河粉"-type of noodle. Delicious - the chicken is salted and the soup is simple.

Doughnut with thick caramel-like dippings - my lunch as I travel from Phnom Penh to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), an adventurous journey which I will remember anytime.

The famous and unique Psar Thmei.

I couldn't be blamed for taking this shot right?
He was waiting for a bus with his daddy and usual, the friendly-child-magnet me attracted him so much and I ended up taking this shot. You can tell from the pics, he wanted me to take the photo!
Anyway, we were heading to different places and they boarded their bus while I am still waiting for mine. I didn't take the conventional or normal bus routine straight to HCM City but chose to delve in to a little adventure as recommended by the travel bible, LP (Lonely Planet). Stories ahead......
Taken in front of the bus-station.

This tuk-tuk driver insisted that I take his pics and show him afterwards! Taken with the sun at the back hence the ray cutting across his face.
I was determined to take on some adventure so I forgo the option of taking a direct bus to HCM City via Moc Bai which costs US$9. Instead I took a local bus to a small town near the Mekong river called Neak Luong. From there I have to take a outboards to Kaam Samnor, which is the border of Cambodia-Vietnam. Then, I have to take a moto to Vinh Xuong and finally to Chau Doc. From Chau Doc I will have to take a bus to HCM City.

The trip was full of surprises!!!!!!!!! Indeed, tonnes of surprises. I should know what lays ahead of me when I boarded on the bus heading to Neak Luong. I was the only non-Cambodian on board which of course draw lots of gaze from the locals. Looking back now, I am sure that they must be laughing at me for taking such a stupid decision to take this route!
After a strenous 2-hr ride on the bus (surprisingly the bus is not that bad indeed cox it's better anytime than the red Leila bus in Sandakan or the city bus in Ipoh for that matter, Got air-cond somemore my fren!), I finally arrived at the town of Neak Luong. I asked around and made my way to the small jetty to Kaam Samnor. As usual lots of locals surrounding you hoping you to take their boat and being the budget traveller I am, and as recommended by LP, I wanted to wait for other travellers so I can share the whooping cost of US$20 for the entire boat! However, as I realized there's no other traveller around (oh....... I started to feel a bit worried here......), I couldn't wait any longer as it's already almost 1pm that time. I decided to charter the whole boat and yes, US$20 left my hands unwillingly but I have no choice.
As we were leaving the river banks (it's Mekong by the way), a medium-height man in uniform jumped in and there we go.... me, the boat owner who speaks no English and a suspicious man in army camourflage uniform. I couldn't confirmed his identity whether he's a real soldier whatsoever so I just shut my mouth. Yes, the mouth is tightly shut but my mind went haywire that time. As in Ally McBeal's plot where Calista's character will imagine some stupid unimaginable things, I had my fair share of that. What if he's some robber? The whole boat ride is about 1.5hrs along the wide big Mekong river and I was not conversant in Khmer! If he's a robber, he may work with the boat owner and rob me off then just throw me into Mekong River! No one will know or see them doing that!!!!! I'm going to die in foreign land!!!!!
Of course that didn't happen as it turned out he's a real soldier who's posted at the border of Cambodia.
Taken during the boat ride along Mekong River. Got my tan there as well, no shades on the boat for a 1.5hr ride in the noon time.

OK, back to the story of the adventure, I reached the border and immigration office finally and rushed to get my passport stamped. Another shock came as I'm the first passport the officer stamped on that day on the route Phnom Penh-HCM!!! Again, I am worried about not being able to reach HCM on the same day which means I have to stay a night in Vinh Xuong or Chau Doc. But thank God I got on a moto and reach Chau Doc after about 1 hr ride on the moto with my 20kg backpack on my back.
I wasted no time and went to the bus station in Chau Doc. The moto driver tried to abandon me before crossing the river via ferry to reach Chau Doc, saying it's very near within walking distance but I insisted that he send me to the bus station itself. It turned out the moto ride from the ferry jetty to the bus station is about 5mins! This shows how important for us to insist on something sometimes!
There were still plenty buses around and I was relieved. However, it's already 3pm and the journey from Chau Doc to HCMC takes about 6 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I immediately regretted my decision to take on the alternative route because otherwise, I will be having my shower in the comfortable cheap hostel in HCMC by then!!!

Taken on the ferry crossing unknown river, on the way to HCMC.
It turned out the journey is endurable. The bus is actually a modified MPV and surprisingly new and comfortable indeed. My regret subsided subsequently as I get the chance to see the picturesque sunset view above and met some nice Vietnamese in the bus. What a way to start my journey in Vietnam?

The small doughnuts of course is not sufficient for me. I bought this small packet of glutinous rice with some sweet paste (something like 莲蓉) and sprinkled with some peanuts. Regretted not asking for the name of it.

Met this uncle in the bus from Chau Doc to HCMC. Pics taken in a foodcourt along the way. His name is 阿国 and he can speak a little bit Cantonese with some Hongkie accent. He used to work with Vietnamese government and travel to a lot of countries and persuade the Vietnamese to go back to Vietnam and ensure them no legal action will be taken on them. That is why his English is quite good and he can speak some Cantonese. A lot of Vietnamese who fled the country during the war were making fortunes everywhere around the world and the country wants them to come back and invest their money in Vietnam. It's a logical move, just like Malaysian government's effort to recall all the Malaysian professional overseas. 阿国 now quitted the government job and now doing his own business. The shot above was taken in insufficient light and he really looked like the father of my buddy.
The adventure ended about 10pm as our bus reached the bus station. I took a cab from the bus station to the HCM city centre and I settled in the Yellow House in the famous backpacker street in HCM City, the Pham Ngo Lau.

1 comment:

alan said...

nice photo.. so damn good in taking photo adi.. bravo