Katja and Arne's travel stories

03.06.15 Goodbye Phu Quoc- Hello Ho Chi Minh city

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We start the morning by running intervals. Last training session here on the island. Shorter but faster speed on each intervals. Our friend Rune Asp said it would be easy to drop out of training mode on such a trip. I think we now have proved ourselves, Rune. We’re looking forward to coming back to your classes at SATS Bislet upon return. 

This is maybe the longest breakfast we’ve taken here, and that says a lot. We enjoy the food and when the supervisor of the restaurant appears and ask if everything is ok Katja tells him every thing is excellent only thing she could put a small finger on is that there are no passion fruits today. Few miners later she have a passion fruit on a plate in front of her.

Since we sent back the snorkeling gear we have plenty of room in the backpacks. Packing has never been this easy. Last night we got a gift from the hotel in form of a flask of Phu Quoc pepper. So now we’ve got even more that we would like to send home. We pack strategically so we can go to the post office in Ho Chi Minh and see if we can send the pepper from there before we go to the hotel.

Checkout is a study in make-people-feel-good-despite-a-large-bill. But I do see the fear in the receptionists eye when he came back and told me, in a whispering voice, my credit card was declined. It was the same I used to take out cash yesterday and it reported to be on the limit. Another card was handed over and this time we settled it.

We booked our flight with Vietjet and to get it with checked baggage we had to upgrade and are now SkyBoss passengers. That means priority boarding, access to the lounge and better seats. At check in we’re placed in the first row which also is emergency exit row. Sweet! The lounge it’s not all that much to write about, but it’s much more quiet than out by the gate. When we board we are taken out on the tarmac to the plane in a separate car together with another family. SkyBoss, baby.

The flight is a mere thirty five minutes and then we’re in Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC). Our bags arrive first on the carousel with their priority tags. While waiting for them we have organized transport and are soon in a car taking us towards the center of town.

First stop is the Indonesian consulate where we’ll apply for visa for our last stay on Bali. We need the sixty days and can’t use the VOA for thirty days. The consular services have been outstanding on mail in answering our questions and we hope everything is in order after yesterday’s adventure.

The first thing they tell us is that we need a ticket in to Indonesia. We have only outbound ticket so we get online and start looking. We get a ticket from Singapore to Bali on the fifth of July. The guys at the counter help with printing the tickets and now it seems everything is in order. We’re asked to sit down and wait and do as told. A little while later one if them address us and ask if Katja have another picture. We’re a bit startled as they require the red background, but that turns out to be unimportant. The fact that she’s wearing a tank top us a bit too much for the system. They would like something more covered up.

A little note on the side here. If Bali is your only relation to Indonesia it’s easy to see the country with Balinese glasses. Indonesia is a Muslim country in ruling and government. It’s only Bali that’s Hindu and that’s not representative for Indonesia. Quite the contrary really.

Luckily we have other pictures and all three of us breath a little bit easier when they are accepted. We’ve done it. We’re in the system and can pick up the passports tomorrow already. Whee!

Outside we hail a cab and go to the post office, or Central Poffiss if you will. We’ll try to send the pepper again.

The post office is right next to the Notre Dame church. These two buildings are on every city tour we see advertised later during the day. Pretty monumental buildings, especially the Poffiss.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

We go inside and are quickly guided to the packing counter. After inspecting the goods it’s wrapped in what I can only describe as a tape cocoon. Whoever delivers tape to the postal system in all these countries we’ve visited are set for life. It does not seem to bother him at all that it’s pepper he’s packing. So far so good.

Wouldn’t you know it, a short twenty minutes after entering the Poffiss we’re out and the pepper is on its way to Norway. Daddy, the one yesterday and this one are addressed to you.

Pepper in the post, not in the bag

Pepper in the mail, not in the bag

We get out of the taxi at Hotel Dragon Palace located in a busy street. We’re smack in the middle of HCMC with all that includes. We basically just turn around in the room and move out into the streets. We haven’t had lunch yet and it’s now four o’clock. Just outside our hotel is a 24 hour restaurant. We just get a beer and a couple if dishes there. Seems like a ragged place when we look closer with several half drink expat’s sitting there. Who cares? The beer was cold, even better when we asked for ice, and the food decent.

We walked further and got a cup of coffee at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaves. Our favorite coffee shop in Asia. We get a table on the third floor and look out over an intersection with the traffic from hell. It’s insane how they drive here. I thought Hanoi was bad, but this eats Hanoi traffic for breakfast. There’s a couple of traffic police directing traffic our at least try to. After a while they just move out of the intersection without me being able to see any reduction in traffic or near death experiences. Fascinating.

We walk up towards Than Binh market. On our way there we pass through the park that runs outside our hotel. It’s a lot of activity there. Aerobic, badminton, tai chi and a feather ball kicking thing. Katja joins the aerobic for a while, and I just sit and watch. Then the yoga studio across the road catches our eye and we go over there. We’ve, that means Katja, sent them a mail about temporary membership. We haven’t gotten any reply so we just walk in. No problem there. We’re now members for a week with all access. Danny, a rather funny character, took us on a tour of the center. It’s aired over nine floors and the most used equipment in the building is the elevator. Strange how people pay fortunes to train at a center like this but shun the stairs.

We go outside again and around the corner to the Than Binh market. It’s The central market here in HCMC. It’s closed, but the outside night market is being set up. A lot of different things can be bought here, but there is little to differentiate this one from the others we’ve seen on the trip. A lot more NorthFace products as they’re made here in Vietnam, but that’s about it.

A walk around the market is enough. There’s really nothing to buy and we take the smaller streets home. At the hotel we notice the noise from outside, but it’s less noticeable than expected. Air condition and fan’s see to that.

HCMC by night

HCMC by night

The air condition is not strong and it really doesn’t take the temperature down much. It’s gonna be a hot night in the city.

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Author: arnber

Humongen! The big guy! The man, the myth, the legend! And then theres' me. The nice guy in the house. The man without cooking skills, but with five stars on the Playstation. Boss at work, relaxed at home. What you see is what you get. Life is good. I choose it to be.

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