For the next 12 days I am doing the G Adventures “Vietnam on a Shoestring” tour, courtesy of G Adventures and STA – (finally some travel agent benefits!)
We headed to the airport on Wednesday night, for our 12:05am flight with Malaysia Airlines to KL and onward to Ho Chi Minh. After quite a wait in the check in line, we exchanged $20AUD for 300,000 Dong (and the start of never ending Dong jokes) and had an exceptionally strong and tasty cocktail at Little Ludlow,before heading to our gate. Now somehow I managed to overlook preselecting seats for our flight until 2 days before (considering I’m a travel agent I’m not sure how I managed to forget this!), and as such we were seated in the middle row of 4. This wasn’t really that bad, there were many other factors which made the flight one of the most hellish I’ve been on.
For some reason, I thought an overnight flight would be a good idea, as we would arrive in the morning to our destination, and have more time there that day. I was mostly proven wrong.
Apart from the obvious fact that sleeping on plane just downright sucks, we also happened to have a baby and a toddler in the bulkhead seats 5 or so rows in front of us, another baby over to the left somewhere and a family of 6 behind us.
Which would have been fine, but the (older) kids behind us did not deal well with take off and filled a few bags with vomit… Then halfway through the flight just when we were getting into as deep a sleep as you can on an aircraft, the 6 year old behind us decided to scream and cry, literally screaming, and as it turned out, was having night terrors. The parents did not do a very good job of handling the situation, and to be honest, I think it’s kind of irresponsible to take a child who gets such violent night terrors on a midnight/overnight 8 hour flight. Not a whole lot of foresight there on their behalf.
On our descent, we also had the pleasure of listening to at least 3 more people empty their stomachs of plane food into the supplied paper bags. Worst. Flight. Ever.
As a side note, I found Malaysian Airlines slightly disappointing – but perhaps after flying Qatar and Etihad last year, my standards have been raised.
We had a 3 hour layover in KL, during which we got coffee and Steph purchased a book to read and we lamented about how tired we were.
The flight to Ho Chi Minh was just under 2 hours, immigration was quick and so was baggage and customs. It is a smaller airport than I envisioned.
After changing into more comfortable clothing for the 29 degree heat, we blindly went to find a cab and hoped the one we got into wasn’t going to rip us off. The meter was on but we couldn’t really understand how it was adding up!
It also felt like our driver wasn’t 100% sure where he was going, but he did call the hotel at some point and we ended up at our hotel Hoang Phu Gia eventually.
After a confusing episode trying to figure out how much we had to pay (turned out to be 220.000=$12AUD), we checked into our hotel, and went for a quick walk in the hot sun to find an ATM and wait for our room to be ready.
It was here that we had our first experience trying to cross a road. Which is still terrifying. It’s a case of just walking in and around the traffic, crosswalks don’t mean anything and there’s not really any lights.
After this, our room was ready and we finally showered (heaven!) and slept for a good 3-4 hours. We left the room at about 5 and took a walk down to the Coop Mart – giant Asian supermarket awesomeness, where we got a few big bottles of water for our trip to the Mekong Delta the next day (booked through the hotel for 325.000 -about $18AUD each).
At 6pm we met our G Adventures tour leader, Sarou, and 5 other members of the group from Ireland and England.
Sarou took us out to dinner at a restaurant which I assume mainly catered to foreigners as they had an English menu and a random page of “Mexican” food there too.
Luckily for me there were 2 pages of vegetarian options. We had vege rice paper rolls to share, Steph ordered Pho Ga and I had chili lemongrass fried tofu and garlic morning glory. Even with some drinks the whole meal for both of a worked out to be about $20AUD !
We left the group early and went out by ourselves to the Chill Sky Bar, a fancy roof top bar overlooking the city, just a few minutes walk from where we had dinner. The view was beautiful, and the drinks were amazing. Pricey for Vietnam but cheaper than Australian cocktails – I think for 2 drinks with service tax it worked out to be about $16Aud each.
After this we just went back to the hotel for as much sleep before our 7:30am departure to the Mekong Delta the next day!