After 55+ hours of traveling, we’ve arrived in Vietnam! We had a 14 hour layover in LAX, and let me tell you, 14 hours is a LONG TIME, especially when there aren’t computers or anything to keep you occupied. Eventually we starting talking to a couple from Ohio who was on their way home from visiting their son in Australia and had been condemned to the same layover as us. The hands of Euchre that we played may very well have saved everyone’s sanity.
From LAX we had a 13 hour flight to Incheon, South Korea, where we had another 14 hour layover. Fortunately, we got out of the airport and explored Seoul for a while. We took a bus downtown to City Hall Station and then wandered around Namdaemun Market marvelling at all the brand-name knockoffs littering the stalls. After grabbing a $1 sushi roll for brunch, we headed back to City Hall Station to check out the neighboring Deoksu-gong Palace. The palace was amazing; after exploring everything, we just relaxed there for another hour or so before re-embarking on our little walking tour.
Next we wandered around the Namsan area, eventually ending up at the Cheonggyechong River, a river that until recently had be covered up but has been restored as part of a beautification/restoration project. We sat by the river for awhile sipping smoothies (mine was kiwi, mm) and dangling our feet in the water. Side note: the smoothie place had a pitcher of water out for customers, which I helped myself to. I figured that anywhere that was concerned enough about hygeine to give out antibacterial wipes with their smoothies probably purified their water. I was right. Didn’t get sick at all.
From here we headed back to the bus stop, grabbing fish rolls as a last snack. Word to the wise: ordering a shrimp roll, with cooked shrimp baked into the rest of the roll, not necessarily mean that the shrimp will be peeled. Still delicious, but even messier that my usual attempts at eating.
Another 5 hour flight and a ride into the city from Mai Linh taxi service (highly recommended — we narrowly avoided getting totally scammed by other guys), we arrived at Me Them Bed and Breakfast in Ho Chi Minh city! To our dismay, the beds were less than desireable: essentially pieces of ply wood with a 1/8″ strip of foam around them. After all the traveling and total lack of sleep, I was still able to pass out and sleep a bit, but it involved rolling over every 30 minutes because something was in pain.
First order of business this morning was locating a guest house with a bed. Success was found just around the corner at Vinh Guest House, so tonight we’re sleeping on an almost-normal matress for $1 less per night! We also are only on the fourth floor now instead of the fifth; all the establishments here are tall and narrow, so there’s 1-2 rooms per floor and often ~6 floors. Then, going off of tips from Ian, a guy here from Seattle getting an ESL Teaching Certificate so he can run a school in China, we grabbed lunch at Lam Cafe. The sauteed chicken with mushrooms, carrots, and other assorted veggies was fantastic, as was the noodle chicken soup. From there we went across the District to Sieu Thi Tax where we picked up some more shampoo and other items we couldn’t carry with us. As a reference for how ridiculously cheap everything here is, a 5L bottle of water cost us a whopping $0.60.
Our last leg of today’s exploration took us to Chua Xa Loi Pagoda. as we were wandering around, we wandered past a prayer/worship/ceremony with incense and chanting, so we kicked off our shoes and checked that out for a bit. Very cool.
Finally, back to Vinh Guest House to make arrangements for tomorrow; we’ll be doing a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and then catching a bus north to Dalat.
I was hoping to upload a few pics with this post, but I don’t have time just now. Hopefully I can get some up soon!
Also, shout out to Aunt Claire: after 3 days of traveling, the “smart socks” are still not horrendously disgusting…