16 August 2009
The whole journey from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh was uneventful. As we left Phnom Penh at 6:00 in the morning, I practically continued my sleep inside the bus. I just woke up on a mid-morning break near the border where we had breakfast and a toilet break.
A few minutes after resuming the journey, we were already at the Cambodian side of the border. It was quick and easy as the bus company took our passports beforehand and they took care of the necessary stuffs to clear past immigration.
It was a different story though when we reached the Vietnamese side as they were stricter. It probably took us more than 30 minutes to clear past immigration. They have conducted a thermometer check on my girlfriend and me as they have observed that we were “glowing” in the thermal camera. Of course, we didn’t have any fever but that alone probably took more than 15 minutes. All went well afterwards though as they do not have a reason not to let us in as we have previously been inside their country. As soon as we were resumed our bus ride inside Vietnamese territory, I continued sleeping.
It was only upon entering Ho Chi Minh City that I woke up, it was around 11:30 then. I can see from my seat the familiar chaos buzzing around the nation’s capital, most notable the motorcycles scrambling all over the place.
We got off in Pham Ngu Lao Street (the backpacker area in the city) at around 11:45. As we still have sufficient time, we decided to have a decent lunch at this wonderful restaurant called Quan An Ngon. I had our last dollars changed to Vietnamese Dong (VND) and immediately boarded a taxi that took us to the Reunification Palace, the tourist spot nearest the aforementioned restaurant.
I have already eaten in this restaurant before with my brother. It is a very famous establishment amongst locals and tourists in the city ; as expected, we had to wait for around 10 minutes before we were able to get a seat. We ordered grilled beef, Pho and cold sweetened coffee. Our lunch was very delicious, it was definitely worth queuing.
After settling our bills, we took a taxi going to Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Traffic was not bad at all as it was a Sunday and it was just immediately after lunchtime; I have read somewhere that Vietnamese also have their own version of the siesta, this probably explained the relatively easy traffic condition. The ride from the city center took around 15 minutes and it cost just under 100,000 VND.
There was a slight queue in the check-in counter but it didn’t take such a long time before we got hold of our boarding pass. At this point, we knew we are already nearing Singapore as we heard a couple of people in a queue beside us speaking in Singlish.
We cleared past Vietnamese immigration with no problem except for that grumpy old immigration officer who told me to place my tripod inside the bag. I told him that I have been hand carrying this same tripod in all my flights and so far I haven’t encountered any problem from any airline. He didn’t bother me after I made that comment.
The waiting time for boarding to commence didn’t take so long and before we knew it, we were already inside flight 3K 554 bound for Singapore. You might be expecting me to sleep for the whole duration of the flight but no I did not. The reason I was not able to get some shut-eye was because of this guy sitting in front of my seat who was snoozing very loud (as in VERY LOUD). I will remember next time to bring my iPod to filter out unwanted noise.
What I did instead was open my trusty Lonely Planet Guidebook and started reading about my destination next week. I just realized then that it will be less than five days to go and I still have not arranged our itinerary and our accommodations.
It didn’t take long before we were back in Singapore and was back to reality. Tomorrow, it will be back to work – on the brighter side though, it will just be for four days before a new adventure begins.