Thursday, 12 June 2014

Day 2 - Saigon-Can Tho - So Unfamiliar

Having booked a bus to Can Tho at 1pm, we planned to get some SIM card and sandal shopping done before we had to catch a taxi to the bus office at 11am. On instructions from the nice man at the hostel reception we headed to a big electronics store and managed to communicate to the lady at the desk that we were after a couple of sim cards so we could call each other when doing separate things and get our bearings with Google maps.
Unfortunately we seemed to be pretty low priority; although the lady got started on getting us Sim cards, she put them aside every time someone else wanted her help. Eventually we could test our new numbers and set off back into the heat of the day. By now it was 10am or so and I was ready for breakfast. We formed a plan of walking to the tourist district in the hope it would be easier to find food, but I was sidetracked by a cafe selling croissants. It seems strange being in an Asian country eating bread, since in China last time there was none to be found, but apparently the French influence in Vietnam means there is an abundance of bread and pastry here.
I wasn't sure if my croissant was going to be worth the 40.000d I paid for it, but it ended up lasting for two breakfasts and tasted what I think a croissant should taste like - but I am not a connoisseur of French food by any means. After getting my croissant we realised time was getting on and crossed the street to a fast food place that looked suspiciously like McDonalds and ate there instead of going any further.
After packing we headed downstairs, where somebody called us a taxi to take us to the bus office. I showed the lady at the office our tickets and she jerked her thumb at the bus standing outside. We climbed onto the bus, still wearing our big packs, and the driver also jerked his thumb into the bus without even looking at my tickets. Feeling a little bit anxious that these people were sending us in the wrong direction, I sat next to a lady who shuffled out of the way to give me a seat, while somebody squeezed onto an occupied seat to give Dad hers. I managed to have a brief, stilted conversation with the lady next to me which assured me that we were on the right bus and that I wouldn't have to sit with my pack squishing me the whole way to Can Tho.
At the main bus station we were helped by a boy and two men to work out what bus we were catching. After waiting an hour we hopped on the bus. When we got to Can Tho we caught a transfer shuttle to our hotel, all squished into a van next to people who shared their seats with us.
With help from the man in the hotel reception, we wandered to one of the popular food streets and ended up in a vegetarian restaurant he told us about. It took us a while to work out that it was actually vegetarian because the menu items were things like fried rice with mixed meats or fish or field mouse, but we worked out that the meat was actually tofu or soy protein. We ordered rice with mixed meats and it was not very warm, which was worrying but didn't end up causing us problems. I enjoyed all of it except the field mouse, which was weird.
Navigating the bus situation had left us tired so we headed back to the hotel via an electronics shop, where we took photos of a curved TV, and an exciting nighttime fair where there were lots of little rides and lights and noises and balloon sellers for children. We watched a group of young kids practicing martial arts and older kids trying to flip each other onto the floor. Its position on a main road and it taking place at 8pm at night was very strange.
1. At the bus station in Saigon 2. Breakfast on the bus: banana in a baguette 3. The view of Can Tho from the top of our hotel 4. Vegetarian dinner, only eating at this place and we didn't even know its name 5. Night time fair 6. Martial arts 7. Apple juice from the Coop mart next to disgusting "lemon" drink bought from a vendor in an alley - can't find out what it is

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