Day 4: Travel Day: Da Lat > Saigon > Bangkok

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Since one of my goals on this (very short) month long trip was to do a little soul searching, I decided to take off by myself and travel bolo for the rest of my trip (for the most part). I left Dario in Da Lat Friday morning to catch a bus back to Saigon. It’s funny being in another country with other people; sometimes I defer to others to help me make my decisions, as if I don’t trust myself. It’s never been a problem at work or when I’m with my family, so I don’t know why I’d have trouble taking the initiative otherwise. Dario mentioned that one of his travel goals was to navigate the world and make-do on his own…I guess that’s a goal of mine too in some ways.

I had a lot of plans for my 8 hour bus ride to Saigon – I was going to journal, read, and take care of some unfinished business. But I forgot how jumpy the bus is – after 20 minutes of journaling, I got a FAT-ass headache and had to go to sleep.  After about 3 hours, the bus made a stop so that everyone could use the WC and had a chance to get lunch. I didn’t know that we had that much time to chill (we didn’t have that much break time on the overnight bus to Da Lat), so just I got a snack and then watched other people eat for about 20 minutes. I feel like such a little kid out here — I don’t even know how to ride the fcking bus.

The bus was pretty packed, but for some reason I was the only person throughout the whole ride that wasn’t sitting next to anyone. I think that was due to the kind tour guide on the bus that moved people to other seats even when one sat down next to me. He even sat down and crashed next to me while I napped near the window. I thought he might have been kinda sweet on me — he seemed very accommodating to me during the trip. That thought was confirmed when he tried to talk to me in his limited English and then asked me for my phone number. HAHAHAAH!! Since it was such an innocent gesture I was like, fuck it, and just gave it to him. I was about to leave for Bangkok that night anyway. I think he’s like in his early 20’s. To kill time while he awkwardly sat next to me, I had him give me a basic Vietnamese lesson – but translated his Vietnamese into the written Cantonese that I learned at City College some years back (to help me remember how to pronounce things).

  • Hello — “xin chao” = “xin jiao”
  • How are you? — “ban khoe khong?” = “bat hue cong?”
  • How old are you? — “ban co gia dinh chua?” = “banh go yah dingh jua?” (this one I tried to use on him to figure out how old he was, but he wouldn’t tell me)
* * * * *

After getting off the bus, taxi drivers swarmed around the tourists to get them to their hotels. I took up one guy’s offer to go to my hostel and then realized that I would be going by motorbike, not by car. I wasn’t sure how I’d fare on the back of a bike with my HELLA HEAVY-ass pack and the loose turtle shell helmet that was given to me, but I was tired and needed to get to the airport in a couple of hours.

I don’t think I’ve screamed that much in a long time. While I trusted my driver, there’s something hella unsettling about going head first into on-coming Saigon traffic on a scooter. Literally. HEAD ON!! We almost hit a handful of motorbikes’ face-to-face while driving down the streets, but since folks out there are so used to driving like that, they just slow down and stop before any collisions can happen. Usually. My driver was like, “don’t worry, I’m a very experienced driver, I’ve been doing this for many years!!” Yeah I knew that, but this shit was bananas!!

As we rode down another packed two-way street, a group of four young boys ran past us and threw a ball straight into the traffic. They screamed with delight as it bounced off of a motorbike’s front wheel and flew down the road ahead of us. “What are they doing?!” I asked my driver. “Oh, they’re just playing games,” he said. Damn. Playing in the street is taken to a whole new level out here…

I finally got to my old hostel where I retrieved my shoes (I accidentally left them there when I first arrived in Saigon) and got some dinner. The pho restaurant that I had frequented before still remembered me and brought me a small bowl of pho tai without even taking my order. That’s what I’m talkin about.

* * * * *

A few hours later, I caught a taxi to the HCMC airport and took the 1 hour flight into Bangkok. I have this deep fear of missing my flight when I fall asleep at the airport —  it almost happened that night! I arrived into Bangkok around 12:30/1 am and took a cab to Bangkok’s infamous Khao San road, where all the tourists and backpackers go to hang out and do shit. OH WOW.

Khao San road seems like a loud, giant, hyper-capitalist, post-apocalyptic rave to me. Tourists were crawling all over the place, as bars and night clubs pumped out loud high-energy music songs non-stop. Billboards and bright lights polluted the sky all around the street. I was a little bit in shock after just coming from Saigon’s tourist area — this place is on straight CRACK.

Before I left Da Lat, Dario suggested that I look on Lonely Planet’s online discussion boards for recommendations on what to do during my travels. I took some bad advice from one post and went to Khao San Road without any hotel reservations since I some guy said that I folks could just shop around when they got there. BIG mistake. My pack felt like 50 lbs. on my tired back as every hostel I went to on Khao San Road was full and didn’t have any rooms available. Even after going to the quieter Soi Ratanbutri street down the block, I found that there were still no vacant rooms. I finally went to the end of the road where one tiny spot had one double room available. The “front desk” area looked like someone’s cluttered school desk at home, with a dog and a small filing cabinet being the only useful things filling the space behind the “front desk’s” fence. Yes, it was a fence. Being that I was so fatigued, I took the room immediately and went straight there to go to sleep.

My room was a box. A white painted box with two beds. And two pillows. Check out the pictures. I had heard of such things in my Lonely Planet guide but nothing had mentally prepared me for that. I think the walls were made of balsa wood. When I put my backpack down on one of the beds, my “neighbor” next door yelled at me to shut up. There was no window, just a fan that blew from side to side and a fluorescent light to illuminate the room. It didn’t even have any electrical outlets so that I could charge my phone and camera. AWESOME.

I mentally took it in as a cultural experience, went to take a shower in the communal “bathroom” area, and went to bed. For about 2 hours. Somehow my door flew open sometime around 6 am, undisturbed. Luckily I was awake, but that kinda freaked me out!

* * * * *

I woke up this morning to more vendors, tacky-looking tourists from around the world (from dreadlocked white hippies to whole families), bad western food restaurants, and lots of tuk-tuk’s and tour guides trying to rip off dumb tourists. I am pretty much over this place. This is why I’m still on the computer at 11 am today.

I’ll hopefully be off to the south of Thailand tomorrow!

Check out a few of the photos on flickr:

Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery



Posted: December 18, 2011

Author: Tiffany

Category: Asia, Blog, Thailand

Tags: , , ,


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