Today we leave Saigon to continue on south to the Mekong Delta, which is famous for it’s floating markets.
We’re trying to be as thrifty as possible, and to avoid paying for one nights accommodation in Can Tho (main city in Mekong Delta area) we have made pretty elaborate plans.
Can Tho is only a four hour’s drive from Ho Chi Minh City, so not long enough to justify a sleeper bus, but there is a regular local bus that leaves every hour. We figure if we can get on the last bus at midnight, it will get us to Can Tho around 4am, which will allow us to catch an early boat to start adventuring around the market that opens at 5am. The timing should work out well, if everything goes according to plan…which I know it won’t. Even if the bus is late and we arrive at 6am, we should be early enough to catch a boat.
We’d spent a bit of time asking around at different travel agencies about bus tickets and prices. Many of them tried to sell us on an all inclusive tour, and others quoted a single one-way ticket between $12 and $15, depending on who we asked. That’s far too expensive and we know it. We lucked out and found one travel agent who was kind enough to just provide us with the bus station address, and suggested we go there ourselves to buy a ticket. She estimated it would cost us $5, which is significantly lower than $15, and far more logical for a four hour drive. That’s our plan of action. The only trouble is that we can’t guarantee a seat on the bus until we actually go to the bus station to buy the ticket ourselves. We won’t do that until a couple hours before leaving, because it’s not exactly in a convenient location. We figure it’s a pretty low chance that the midnight bus will be full.
We spend our morning killing time. It’s really just a waiting game until 9 or 10pm when we can head to the bus station. We get our free breakfast, shower, and stay in the hostel room until 11:30 when we have to check out.
They let us leave our bags at the front desk for the day.
I find a cool review about restaurant online, that shows free movies all day. Sounds like a good way to kill a couple hours! The free movies come on the condition that you buy something. The menu isn’t exactly cheap so we scout out the most inexpensive options, an iced latte and a fruit juice, which each cost 45,000 dong ($2.25), then we head upstairs to the little theatre. Just in time for the start of the next film! It’s unlike any theatre I’ve ever seen, and only composed of about 10 couches for seating. We are lead right to the front of the theatre, and seated at a small comfy couch with a coffee table. Prime viewing location, and by far the comfiest theatre seat I’ve ever been in. It’s so cozy here! Monuments Men is playing, which I’m looking forward to. I remember having seen the trailer a few months ago and it looked cool. The film starts out with a scene in German, which is only problematic when the given subtitles are in Vietnamese. I don’t think I miss anything überly important.
I do however miss a 10 or 15 minute chunk of the movie when some guy a couple seats behind us decides that playing some techno music from his laptop would be appropriate. My ADD mind can’t handle both sounds, so I struggle to tune it out. I’m not the only one, and everyone in the theatre turns around to look at this total loser playing music and surfing the internet in a freaking movie theatre. I’ll never understand humans. 10 minutes of madness later a staff member comes over and tells him that his music is too loud, by which he seems shocked, but does agree to turn it down. He answers a couple phone calls later, but this bothers me less.
Monuments Men has scenes in English, French, and German. The French is easy enough to understand without sub titles, but I am so jealous that Tamara can understand all the German scenes too! It’s pretty cool that she can be in Vietnam, watching an American film set in France and Germany, and still comprehend everything that’s going on with ease.
We watch a second film that starts immediately after Monuments Men. It’s called Anna, and has an actress from my favourite TV show, American Horror Story, as the lead character. I’ve never heard anything about this movie and I assume it must be relatively new, or is too “artsy” to have ever made it big in Hollywood. It’s definitely a little strange, but a pretty good psychological thriller. I thoroughly enjoy it, but still don’t fully understand
After four hours in the dark, staring at a screen like zombies, we decide to back out into the world. Still playing the waiting game, though. We sit down for dinner at a restaurant on the backpacker street, and people-watch while we share a plate of sautéed veggies and steamed rice for the low price of 35,000 dong. I also try to order a carrot juice, but it arrives as a mystery white yoghurt beverage. Definitely no carrots…but maybe a bit of lemon flavour? Some sort of smoothie.
At 8:30 we decide it’s time to go. We collect our backpacks from the hostel and get a taxi to the bus station. The original plan was to drop our backpacks there and wander around district 5, but there’s nothing in district 5. More bus stations, some closed down cafés, a couple street vendors selling baguettes, but that’s it.
We also can’t leave our bags at the bus station. Hassle. We tote all of our stuff down the street until we find anything that’s open. We happen upon a three table café with a Vietnamese menu for what looks like different iced coffees. No one speaks any English so we just point at the cheapest listed item, 10,000 dong, and hope for the best. I’ll drink anything.
It’s awkward when they bring over two small bottles of Aquafina water, because we already have two big bottles sitting at the table. We laugh, our server too, and point at another item on the menu. He carries the bottles away and comes back with two cups of hot black tea.
It finally becomes time to board our bus. Hallelujah. Hopefully I can get some sleep for the next 4 hours. Maybe even longer if the bus is late getting to Can Tho.
We transfer from a small bus with a couple other people to a large one packed full. We even have assigned seats for the ride, which we only find out when strangers sit down beside us and give us funny looks. My neighbour points at his ticket and the numbers overhead, then directs me to my proper seat. I never expected such organization!
I have a love/hate relationship with the language barrier. Of course, it causes us to make some silly and embarrassing mistakes, but it also means we’re really in Vietnam on a local bus and not on some touristy tour. This is now officially an adventure. This is how I feel backpacking is meant to be done. We live and learn.
Hopefully, I’ll learn to stop making assumptions about when the busses will arrive. Instead of arriving late, at 5 or 6am like I predicted, we arrive at 3.