In February 2009, I was invited for a trip to Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand by my boss, during the annual break/holiday. My boss subsidized the fare tickets, lodging, and meals, and I only prepared some money for shopping and buying souvenirs.
Preparation for the vacation was started from 4 months earlier. As for me, was saved from half year earlier. We checked & surveyed for cheap hostels, and cheap tickets, and places that we would like to visit.
At Soekarno-Hatta international airport, first, we take care of immigration administration. We filled out some forms and got a stamp in our passports.
Our first destination was Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was night already when we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City. We took a taxi from the airport directly to the hotel. In Vietnam, the areas are separated based on districts, so from the airport we passed around 5 districts.
In Vietnam, the food is delicious and quite inexpensive, just like in Indonesia. Our favorite, called Banh Mi, looks like a hot dog, but filled with all sorts of vegetables, various meats (chicken, pork, beef), and eggs. The price is only 20,000 Vietnamese Dong or around 10,000 Indonesian Rupiah. It’s cheap, isn’t it? J
In Ho Chi Minh City, the streets are very clean. Though there is no trashbin on the road-side, but the streets are very clean. It made us feel regretful, if we throw our garbage or cigarette carelessly (as usually happen in Indonesia). We usually brought a small plastic for putting our trash during the walk. We kept saying, if Indonesia is like this, clean & tidy. One thing scary here in Vietnam is the traffic. It’s really not orderly, and without rules. It just like at the intersections, all the traffic lights are turn on green from every directions at the same time.
The first day we got up early, breakfast Banh Mi, then to the local market. But, as we used to drink coffee while smoking once in the morning, we looked for a comfortable place to smoke. Then we found a small coffee shop at the corner of the market. It is a comfortable place with a relaxed atmosphere.
They served the coffee in different way. They brewed coffee in an aluminum container, then it ran down toward small holes at the bottom of the container. It tasted like expresso, better with milk. And the other thing which is different, usually coffee is better served hot, but here, it seems like Vietnamese love to drink all kinds of drinks with ice.
After drank a cup of coffee, we went to the market. The market there was clean and neat, there was no garbage, no bad odor, nor puddle. The smell is the scent of merchandises there. For example, the scent of coffee or tea on the block of coffee and tea,the scent of flowers and incense on the block praying needs, the smell of food at the food court market. It was fun shopping there, because we found many different and interesting stuffs. But I had to control myself for not shopping wildly, because there were two more countries to go.
Then at noon we were resting in a place like the town square. We took some photographs first. Then next, we went to some temples. Armed with maps, and learned to read map, we were walking. After a long walk, finally we reached the first temple. The place is quiet and clean, the smell of incense wafted through the air. We went in and sat down, looked around while resting after a long and tiring walk. On the offering tables there were statues of some gods, dressed in beautiful clothes and laid out like a throne, surrounded by magnificent and colorful lamp and flowers. If we put offering money, there was a person who then recited prayers for the benefactor. We bought incense, and prayed too, according to our own beliefs, of course.
Throughout the day we traveled from one temple to another temple. The latest temple we visited was the temple of Sun Go Kong (Golden Monkey King) & Judge Bao, which I usually watch on TV. It was kind of funny and nice actually. Because of our exicitement, we forgot the time. It was already afternoon, then we decided to get back to the motel by taxi.
The next day we were going for a walk to the market that sells the attributes of the war between Vietnam & America. But first, we looked for a bus ticket to Cambodia. There are many bus agents near the hotel, like a small terminal. The ticket price was USD $ 10 for each person.
Eating at a roadside food stall in Vietnam actually was very convenient. Because the streets and sidewalks are clean, felt like you were eating at a restaurantJ. We decided to eat something that does not exist in Indonesia. There was one street stalls, which sell noodles like a very smalll hose, with fresh vegetables and meats such as soup and broth. Because we do not know the name of the food, and the seller did not know English when we asked what the name of the food, so we call it "Soto Vietnam"(Soto is a kind of traditional soup in Indonesia)
At night, we walk in the opposite direction with the direction this afternoon. The hotel man said that there is other market, so we went there and we looked for dinner as well. In the market there are selling Banh Mi, so we buy Banh Mi for dinner. Then there was a cart, which is different with Indonesian cart. The seller was selling like dawet or wedhang ronde (tradition Indonesian hot ginger drink with other ingredients) , but again they put ice and it felt weird, like drinking weird sugar water. It seems the Vietnamese are not used to drinking hot beverages.
Afterward, we returned to the hotel and continued packing for the next trip to Cambodia. So see you on my next story “My Trip to Indochina (Cambodia, Part 1)