Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Saigon,Old Charms

Taken from HantuLaut's TravelPod.

New Saigon,Old Charms

Monday, November 23, 2009

This is the best time of the year to visit the Indo-China region.This is the time of the year when the climate changed from hot and humid to cooler weather, possibly a spin-off from winter in the Himalayas.The cool breeze takes heat off the land making it much more pleasant to walk around without suffering the intense heat of the hot and humid season that covers greater part of the year.

Cambodia ,Laos and Vietnam shared common borders with each other.With better roads now, overland journey from one country to the other is less arduous than ten or twenty years ago when overland travels were not only difficult and time-consuming but were also very risky particularly when going through less-traveled routes.

I took a bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.The journey took about 6 hours with about 4 hours spent on Cambodian soil and the rest through Vietnam densely populated areas before reaching Ho Chi Minh City.Although, there are some similarities between the two countries, the contrasts and differences are more obvious.

For those who are not well-versed with the history of the region, it would be hard to understand how the difference in ethnicity, color and culture could be so diverse and endemic to a region that were so closed in history for thousand of years.The image, color and culture changed conspicuously as one crosses the border from Cambodia into Vietnam.

The Khmers looked very much like the Malays,Indonesians or Filipinos and are of darker complexion.The Vietnamese are more Chinese looking and in contrast with the Cambodians are fairer.In Vietnam, some of the phonation of the Vietnamese words even sound Chinese.

Ho Chi Minh City, is a city of motor-bikes, there mush be million of them here.After a few hours walking the street I realised they also form part of the city public transportation system, unofficially though.You can either hire a bike and ride it yourself, if you have the courage to meander through the maze of motor bikes in highly congested roads and the possibility of being run over by another motor bike or worse still, by a car or truck.For a first timer, it could be very unnerving.The easier way is to hitch a ride from one of them for a fee.There are always a few of them hanging around any side streets looking for business.They are cheap, fast and seemed dangerous, if you are not used to itSaigon Notre-Dame Basilica
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
.There are three million of them in the city.

Taxis? It can drain your pockets very quickly.This must be one of the cities of the world where the taxi fare is ridiculously expensive.Never pay your fare in US currency, the mistake I made when I first got here.

Coming from Cambodia where the US Dollar is common denomination anywhere you go and you don't have to worry too much about exchange rate, I assumed neighboring Vietnam would be the same.Based on this assumption I didn't change currency at the border.

The taxi driver will take advantage of the exchange rate if you pay in US currency.The one I took converted US1.00 at 15,000 Dong.When I got to my hotel I checked the hotel rate was around 17,500.

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