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Ho Chi Minh - Part 2

Wet n Wild

storm
View Around We Go on LauHot10's travel map.

Arrangements had already been made for us to stay above the gallery again and they had looked after one of the backpacks for us while we were away. We joyfully reunited with yoghurt space, had a kebab from one of the street vendors and then headed to bed.

We decided to stay in Ho Chi Minh the next day to tie up some loose ends and plan our next move. Now that we'd experienced the freedom of the bike, we soon forgot about our sore bums and went back to rent one for the day. We steered clear of our old friend and went for a semi-automatic instead, it was smaller and maybe a little more agile for getting around the busy city. Our first priority was how we were going to head North and we decided that we might like to take a train, so we needed to find the train station. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful as we'd forgotten the map and the hand-drawn one in Adam's guidebook wasn't detailed enough, so after a bit of guess work we had to abort the mission. We did manage to navigate ourselves to the post office though, where I proceeded to burn my leg on the exhaust as I got off the bike. Adam then went in to see if his package had arrived while I doused my wound with cold water. He returned triumphant with parcel in hand, so that was one thing that could be ticked off the list and we were both pleased that his camera would be working again as it's far superior to mine.

We then popped round the corner to grab some lunch at a small restaurant we had been to before. You have to take your shoes off when you go in and then climb some very narrow, steep stairs to the upper level. Then you seat yourself at the low tables on round, flat cushions, it is very bright and airy up there and has a modern, Asian vibe.
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Then we both consumed steak sandwiches and chips, not very Asian but very tasty! I ordered a glass of ice and continued to tend to the circular red patch on my inner calf, although I feared the damage had already been done.

After lunch we decided to make our way back to our room to get the map as we weren't having much luck without it. Needless to say we got ourselves a little bit lost on the way back but in the end saw some landmarks we recognised. When we were just one street away when the first drops of rain began to fall and they soon multiplied. We took refuge under the awning of a fruit stall and waited it out as we had also forgotten our rain gear. I was a little sick of mine any way as it had begun to rip and it had also gotten quite muddy. When the rain began to ease we decided to make a dash for it and didn't end up getting too wet.

We picked up the map, I grabbed my normal rain mack, Adam his poncho and we headed out the door once more. With the detailed street map to refer to, finding the train station was very straight forward and we were there in no time. When we found the right person to talk to we quickly established that train travel was an expensive business, well in the context of our budget. It would be a 20 hour trip to Da Nang and with two sleeper tickets, it was going to work out as double our daily allowance, we decided that we couldn't justify spending the money. So our only other option was taking the bus. There are plenty of tourist buses available which are called Cafe Tours (why?) and the tickets can be bought at one of the numerous travel agents in the tourist area. Going on them doesn't really appeal to either of us though because we'd rather do what the locals do as much as possible. So in the pursuit of authenticity we had to find our way to Ho Chi Minh bus station.

I located it on the map no problem and we set off once more. We took a wrong turn at a roundabout and headed over a bridge, and I said to Adam, 'those clouds look a bit ominous.' Sometimes it's not very fun being right! The clouds were dark, huge and heavy in the steely grey sky. Suddenly the atmosphere which was already thick with moisture broke and as if some had turned a tap on full the rain began to fall. We quickly pulled off the road and once again took refuge on the pavement by a shop front. There were some people gathered round, I think they were selling lottery tickets and they asked us where we were heading. We told them the bus station and they motioned back in the direction we had come from, and we nodded in agreement as we'd by now figured out where we had gone wrong. However there was no way we were leaving at the moment, so we all stood and watched the rain fall and the now poncho clad people that had decided to continue their journeys. I was surprised how many there were.
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There was no let up, the supply of water appeared to be endless and the mighty force at which it fell remained the same. The narrow slip road we were on began to flood as the drains could not cope. This flushed out the cockroaches and we saw one rat in the grass getting an unwanted bath, and I now have a very good image to go along with the saying 'I look like a drowned rat.' I had visions of us being marooned here, which was really no where, we were out of the city beside some main road and so we made the decision to try and make our way back. It was stupid though because visibility was zero, the rain lashed into our faces and the roads were turning into rivers. We were forced to pull over once more and we ended up at a little garage. By now we were drenched, my skirt was clinging to my bare legs and I had to ring it out before I sat down on the little plastic chair I was offered.

As we sat there with the garage owner and another man who appeared to be waiting it out, we listened as thunder boomed out all around us and then the sky briefly lightened. After a little while things seemed to ease slightly and we thought it was a good time to move on again, as long as we took things slowly. The bike stuttered when Adam tried to start it but with a little bit of perseverance and help from the on hand mechanic we got it started again. Now that we had come this fair we headed for the bus station, it was closer than going back to the room at any rate. As we turned on to the right road we realised the full extent of situation, it was completely flooded. There was about a foot and a half of water to drive through and it was still falling from above. It was slow going as everyone did there best to keep moving, I suppose this has happened before and no one seemed too perturbed.

Thankfully it wasn't too far to the bus station and although we were dripping wet we had made it. Prices for bus tickets weren't cheap either, but it was less than the train and took the same amount of time so that was something to be pleased about. There was the option to get a sleeper bus but sticking to our tight budget meant going with the less comfortable option and we opted for a chair. Even if the thought of 20 hours in a seat wasn't very appealing. The ticket bought we were told to return at 1:30pm the next day and that the bus would leave at 2pm. Now all we had to do was get back to the safety of our room.

It was still raining when we made it outside and we gingerly made our way back to the spot where we'd left the bike. I looked at the map which was now soaked like us and tried to memorise the route back so I wouldn't have get it out again. Once I was pretty sure I knew which way we had to go Adam tried to start the bike. Nothing. Again and again we tried but still nothing. There were a few guys around us, some of who worked for the bus companies, but one boy in particular who just seemed to be keeping dry offered his services. He tried pumping the kick start, giving it some gas, tweaking nobs and wires but nothing seemed to work. A few of the workers tried as well but in the end they all looked at us apologetic and defeated. We were stuck.

I called up the bike rental place and the lady who spoke a bit of English understood when I explained it wouldn't start. I had to pass her over to a Vietnamese man to tell her where we were as my pronunciation wasn't up to scratch. When he returned the phone to me she didn't offer to come and save us like I was beginning to hope she would. Instead she asked us to get it fixed as we were too far away. Not what I wanted to hear but there wasn't a lot we could do so Adam began to push the bike.

There was no avoiding it now we had to wade out into the flooded roads. I was in flip flops and tried very hard not to think about what was in the water I was walking in. Adam on the other hand was in shoes and despite his best efforts not to get them wet, for fear they would never dry, he took the plunge and off we went. It wasn't too far to the nearest place but there was a bit of queue forming as people rolled in their flooded, lifeless bikes. We got seen to quite quickly by a man who turned up just after we arrived, clearly called in to help with the demand, our knight in plastic poncho! He wasn't quite has chivalrous though, as he gruffly directed Adam to steady the bike while he lifted the front to get any water out of the exhaust. This unfortunately didn't do the trick. He ended up removing a part from his own bike and trying it on ours, it spluttered to life and we were saved! He sent some other boy off to buy the part, fitted it and gave us the old one. When he spoke to me in very speedy, aggressive Vietnamese, I suppose telling me the price, I looked at him blankly and he seemed to think I was incredibly stupid. In the end though the money changed hands and we were once more free to sail the seven seas!

It took a while to get back, but slowly the roads began to improve and in the more modern end of town there was no flooding at all. I was immensely grateful for how well Adam handled it all in what were really difficult conditions at times. He followed suit as people drove up on to pavements to try and escape the worst of it and negotiated a lot of the roads which have been turned into narrow gulleys as maintenance work is carried out in the centre of them. Needless to say I was very pleased when we reached our destination and I slid off the bike. The women did look at us quite sympathetically as we tried to explain all that we had seen and experienced. I think we wanted to convey just how bad it was, especially considering it only looked like a bit of rain in this part of town. She knocked some money off for the part we'd bought when we showed her the old one, which was nice of her considering it wasn't really her fault.

The gallery people looked a little surprised when we returned and we tried to tell the tale again, they just laughed a bit. We were now in the dry though and happy to be so. Later that evening when the rain had stopped, we went out for dinner and managed to laugh about it. As Adam said, 'it was an experience!'

Then it was early to bed as tomorrow we had the 20 hour bus trip experience to look forward to...

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 04:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world

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