A Travellerspoint blog

Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang by train

Stay calm!

overcast 25 °C

So from memory on my last blog I told you we were going to Nha Trang on the 625am train and we had already booked the tickets with soft sleeper (which means we have a four bed compartment to ourselves for the journey that will arrive in Nha Trang at about 1330hrs. This method, in respect of the level of comfort is the best so I didn't mind so much having to get up at 5am for the journey as we had a bed each on the train to snooze and take in the views.

A regular saying with me is that you can't control what goes on around you and ....yet again.... no matter how well I have planned something - there is always the chance of it going wrong. I honestly think someone up there has a right old laugh with me because some of the things that happen - you wouldn't believe because it's nearly alll the time crazy stuff happens.

We went to bed at a reasonable time as we didn't really do very much in Ho Chi Minh aside from dodge traffic, get ripped off and eat. At about 2am we heard "clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop" on and on someone with high heeled shoes walking around above us then they came downstairs and that was the que for the major row to start. Im guessing it was husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend shouting at the top of their voices about god knows what it was just a muffled "rahh rahh rahh." The staff in the hotel did nothing and I later found the "one" member of staff who was sound asleep on the sofa in the lobby with the TV on.

This row was a row of all rows, even when the couple had finished the man took to phoning someone and was rowing with them about how HE hadn't had much sleep - crickey....it's because of him we didn't have much sleep!

I went downstairs at about 540am to check out and woke the member of staff up who spoke very little English. I wrote a list of the problems in the room.....toilet and sink leaks onto the bathroom floor, big hole in the bath, cobwebs on ceiling, kettle and cups but no where to plug kettle in, bed broken, shouting all night staff did nothing.....I gave him the list and realised he couldn't read it so asked him to pass it onto the manager.

NOW - I don't usually do that - write notes complaining but this place wasn't cheap in comparison to hotels in the city and it was a nightmare - no hotwater, noisy, breakfast was served but they only had 2 tables in the hotel so if wanted to eat you had to wait for someone else to finish. Whats that all about? Especially there are 30 rooms there - thats at most 60 people to feed between 7 and 9 - 2 hrs =120 minutes so my maths tell me that you have 2 minutes to sit down order, wait for the food, eat it and get the table cleared. What a joke! So I felt that they should realise this and wrote my note. Maybe it's a bit sad but I look at it as maybe helping them to improve.....famous last words!

The guy says to me "five nigh - you pay 100 dollar now" so we begin....we actually stayed two nights and from my book we owed about 50 and I told him this and he checked his books and I paid $50. By this time the taxi is outside and its nearly 6am and we are on track for the train. That was until we walked out the door and he came running after us "$50 more dollar!! $50 more dollar!" I asked him what for and he didn't understand me. I showed him by book and he couldn't read it. I went back into the hotel and he couldn't show me any papers but only repeat "pay more." By this time I was getting stressed if we miss the train - we've lost our money you see - you can't get on another one without a new ticket. He pointed me to go on the computer and I was guessing he wanted me to show him by booking confirmation. I tried but the computer was off and was taking ages to fire up. I told him "We are going to miss out train!!" "Yes" he said still looking half asleep. I though what the hell is going on here....I have paid....I don't owe any more...I don't need to stay here so I left and got in the cab on route to the station....we were too late - we missed the train because of the idiot at the hotel - 60 quid down. Next train in 4 hours taking an extra 2 hours to get there (10am to 1830) and worst to come HARD SEATS. Hard seats are like a slatted hard bench with a straight flat slatted back - really uncomfortable, not suitable for this journey. We sucked it in and pushed on waiting for the next train - yes we squabbled abit about why I tried to sort it out, why didn't I just get in the cab, why didn't the girls come down abit earlier etc ...bottom line is it happened.

We got on the train and it was FULL with no aircon only a few fans, we found out seat and I was sat next to Maggie with two local people opposite. One lady was crying as she waved her family off - lets call her Ann for this bit. Ann was sat with a huge mouth mask on. So many women wear them here covering their noses and mouths to combat inhaling pollution but they don't take them off. Ann is sat infront of me speaking to me in Vietnamese slowly like I would understand it slower - but all I see is the tears in her eyes and her family outside crying. I felt sorry for her and being tired didn't know how much crying I could watch without starting me off especially after that mornings escapades!

I thought the journey would be ok until Ann took a big sheet of plastic - smacked my ankles away to put the sheet under my feet. Like when you feed a baby - you put a mat down - this is the same thing. I wondered if it was so our feet stayed clean - how ignorant of me - it was so Ann could lay on the floor under my seat across to the other seat - she smacked my ankles again and i had to sit with my legs either over to one side of wide apart so she could have the room under my feet. Bloody typical! The longest journey and I can't even put my feet on the floor. Ann stayed like this the entire time even chatting on her phone - it was so odd but looking around the train - they were all doing it. It's a case of the floor is the best seat and sod you if you didn't get on it first.

When we arrived in Nha Trang it was already dark and we were bombarded by taxi drivers as we left the station. We arrived at our hotel and it was brilliant! Green Peace Hotel - really nice place a complete contrast to Sunny Hotel Ho Chi Ming City.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 04:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged journey mother_daughter blog ho_chi_minh_city world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing nha_trang_train Comments (0)

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Ming aka Saigon via overnight bus

Also getting Visa for Vietname from Phnom Penh

overcast 25 °C

You know what no matter how many times I can plan something that can make that 'thing' to be such a simple task something usually happens to put a spanner in the works. We found out we could get a night bus to Ho Chi Minh leaving at 1230am arriving at 6am so all we had to do now was get out Visa. I checked out the prices online and within the local hotels that arrange it so we had enought money. We got up early to do the visa one, now the Vietname Visa is an easy one to get and should be in and out with half an hour. We arrived at 845am dropped off by the tuk tuk about four minutes away the other end of the street. Got into the building and there was hardly anyone there - brilliant - shouldn't take too long I thought. I spoke to the official behind the desk who asked me when I wanted the visa and when I said today he grinned and said $15 dollar extra. Now my research was 45$ for express.....he pointed out a sign on the wall.....60$ he wanted and you do not argue with any government official so 120$ for me and Chloe which meant I was 10$ short. Thats ok, I thought - ATM should b here so off on my ATM mission.

After walking about a mile we had already tried two which did not have a connection - all told it took an hour and another tuk tuk ride to find an ATM. There are so many ATMs in Phnom Penh but none by the Embassy - typical.

The good news was that we got our visas and back in time for breakfast. We then spent the day wandering around the markets until 1230 am when it was time for the bus. By this time we were very tired indeed so we sat patiently on the squished bus where there is more leg room on a Ryanair flight. All our seats were taken by strangers so they weren't impressed when they were asked to move.

By 1am two drunken loud Lithuanian lads got on, we still hadnt left, and sat infront of me. Sometimes I feel like I have a radar on me when using any public transport. On flights - all screaming children sit infront of me and all the loud seat grabbers sit behind me. The guy infront then leant his chair right back banging my knees. Great! I thought - we hadn't even left and I was guessing that I wouldn't be getting any sleep. We actually left at 2am (1.5hr late) and they turned out the lights and the lads infront piped down.

The next thing that happened was the bus drivers associate turned on his walkman phone which not only played obscure music but also every ring tone and message notification tone. I couldn't take it any more and went down to speak with him. "Please can you turn your music off - people are trying to sleep" "No - music help people sleep". Bloody idiot - well he did turn it off - for five minutes then it was back on again with avengence.

The bus had a cracked front windscreen and side windows. Not the best of journeys especially when we arrived at 10am and our hotel wouldn't let us check in.

Today we took a cyclo which is a bike with a buggy on the front. We negotiated a price of 100 for 1 hour then half way round my driver slapped me across my shoulders and shouted "200 1 hour" we had another discussion about the first negotiation. After half hour we got off and gave him 100 which he put in his pocket and pulled out 10 and accussed us of not giving him enough. Getting a bit fed up of all the bartering and the scams people try to pull off here. You really have to be on your toes and be switched on all the time.

A positive note is the food is amazing, there are places to eat everywhere and it is cheap - really cheap and good. The people work really hard trying to get customers and they run across the street to get you to eat in their restaurat. When youre sat down you get approached from book sellers to jewellery sellers trying to earn a living.

One thing I have found most puzzling across Cambodia and Vietname is the amount of women that walk around in the day in their Pyjamas - they do- and it makes me chuckle.

Tomorrow we take the train to Nha Trang so an early morning 6am.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 03:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Phnom Penh from Siem Reap

By boat!

We decided to go to Phnom Penh by Speed boat, which infact was more like a fast long boat but what a journey it was fantastic! It wasn't cheap in relation to other modes of transport but if you've got a 6hr journey ahead would you do boat or bus?

We got picked up from our hotel at 6am by a mini bus for 9 people and there were two seats left in the front and two in the back, perfect for the four of us, I joked to the guy next to me that we could fit two more in....famous last words!! We trugged along the dusty pothole road for five minutes and stopped where we saw two huge stocky guys with bags to match waiting......for our bus. We wondered who was going to sit on the roof or if we had to sit on each others laps. I think the guys were Polish and they were not impressed at squeezing into the bus with no seat to sit on only the metal floor.....seriously - this happened. After a few more minutes and some moaning from everyone inside we stopped 'ok you get food now' we were told and a girl came to the bus asking what we would like to buy. The Polish guy started to shout at the driver "WHY ARE WE HERE?" With no response he shouted again. Nothing happened we were left at the cafe for 15 minutes.....until a Chinese guy arrived who had also booked a ticket. He had to get in as well, talk about sardines in a can- it was really cramped and the driver knew it - he kept getting out and checking his tyres! We arrived for the boat at 830 when we should have caught the 7am!

We arrived safely though and the journey was soon forgotten when the boat started. We sat on the roof and the boat picked up speed - I have to say it was brilliant - the wind in your hair and the hot sun dampened down by the breeze - I thought this will give me a good tan!

We passed lots of water houses and locals fishing in their boats with their children who waved with enthusiasm as we passed. I can't say enough that this was the best way to get to Phnom Penh despite one muppet who blogged it was too expensive and boring! Rubbish!

When we arrived we all looked like we had just been frazzelled .....major sun burn! Maggie had a burnt face and knees, Chloe had a burnt face and Ellen was like a lobstar! I moaned at Maggie 'you should have worn suncream' I told her but I hadn't put any on myself. I put on a brave face but to be honest my knees were burning and so was my face! By the evening we all, except Ellen, had swollen faces from the burn. So it was an early night with lots of after sun and Maggie had a wet towel on her head like a turban.

In the morning I went to reception to make a phone call, I managed to get through to the guy to organise a trip with Blazing Trails a Quad Bike firm but couldn't focus as a fat old London English guy was shouting to the receptionist "THE GIRL I HAD IN MY ROOM LAST NIGHT THAT I SLEPT WITH - ROOM 202 - HAS TAKEN MY PHONE!' Due to the language barrier he had to repeat this again and again with hand signals.....hands together by the ears for sleep -- not hands by hips girating-- and finger and thumb for phone. Girl was a gesture of long hair....but I had the man on the phone trying to talk to me so he had to keep repeating what he said. Anyway it turns out the London guy had booked a prostitue for 7pm to 8pm - one hour - no love you long time - and she nicked his phone while he was alseep. Hilarious! Now I saw the girl the night before and she was young! I can't say how young because the girls look young here anyway, but there is a lot of child exploitation. So I figured - in Cambodia - not with an English Law head on - maybe this guy deserved what happened. There was no shame of shouting about the prostitute he had, more upset that his phone contacts were gone. How is this - so its common knowledge about the sex trade in Cambodia, there are signs in the hotels not to exploit but this guy is upset he can't call .....god knows! Another thing is the staff knew who she was but kept their mouths shut. It was quite funny really and went on for a long time.

We made our way to Tuol Sleng Museum where 17000 people were tortured between 1975 and 1979 and an estimated 3 billion murdered at the Killing Fields. I couldn't take any photos there it was so sobering and didn't seem right. There were photos of each person taken to there and pictures of them after they were tortured. I won't go into detail but it was really shocking and sad that this happened not so long ago.

Tomorrow we are going to the Killing Fields.

Sunburn has gone down now and so has the swelling. However, I have to mention that Chloe and Maggie have the best goggle marks I have seen for a long time! Mind you if Chloe reads this, which she will, she will put on here that I have a Homer Simpson vest now so I have put it on for honesty. If you don't know what that is - im not explaining it!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 09:15 Tagged sea boat sunburn tuol_sleng_museum Comments (0)

Bangkok to Poipet to Siem Reap

You may find this boring but it is a detailed account of crossing the boarder.

We had to get to Cambodia and from reading other peoples blogs with plentiful advice I was armed with all the possible scams and to be honest was quite anxious about crossing the boarder without being fleeced of money and time.

We decided to go by train which is free for all Thai people and only 58bht for visitors (just over a pound) and is 3rd class which means 'comfy seats'. From research and advice from the train station the departure time was 0555am arriving at 1130am. Brilliant - we get a good part of the day for travelling to Siem Reap. Wrong!

We got up at 5am and checked out of our hotel - luckily we found a driver to take us to the station who couldn't be bothered to argue with the price. To give you an idea we were told this should be 50 bht but we were constantly asked for 250-300 bht so there was always lots of bartering and at half five in the morning its not what you want to be doing.

On arriving we easily got our tickets and got a good seat on the train - thanks to one blogger who recommended getting there early - you need a good seat. The seats were bolt upright and immediately uncomfortable, I wasn't looking forward to the journey as I knew I wouldn't sleep on those chairs. However, once the train left - on time I have to add - the views put a big smile on my face and the realisation that we were on our way to Cambodia! We were travelling - all this time waiting to visit these places and it was happening! How lucky are we and how cool is this I thought to myself! There was a young English couple that entered the carriage and it was clear they had been arguing - they didn't sit together - not even with their luggage which they dumped next to me - the biggest bag I have ever seen with the smallest wheels to drag along. The conductor came and a Thai lady adjacent to me pointed at me and the bag - "It's not mine" I said - and they believed me! The conductor dragged it off and took it to the girl of the couple who didn't seem happy that her fella had dumped it off somewhere else. When the boyfriend came back he sat next to her and tried talking to people around the carriage. "How long is the train ride?'' he asked me. What? No research? I told him we were due to arrive at 1130.

At 1130 he looked at me and we spoke again ''What happens when we get there? We have to get our visas' I explained the proceedure....arrive get a tuk tuk ......get ripped off by scams at the boarder....then go the boarder....fill out visa...pay ...pay off the police....then enter Cambodia....then get a taxi/bus to Siem Reap. "How long is that journey?" he asked me as he thought the train took us to Siem Reap. Now any traveller will know, and im not saying im an expert here, but if you go somewhere you should at least know what you need to do to get to your destination, this couple had an extra 2 hours car journey ahead of them which they hadn't accounted for. "Im not telling her that.....she will go crazy" he told me. Crazy indeed as our train ride ended at 1530hrs which meant we had been on the train for 9.5 hrs instead of 5.5hrs. God knows why but the driver decided to go snail pace and we also went back and forth - had a random stop in the middle of nowhere for a good hour. It was a shame because the clankety clank of the train and the views were amazing but to sit on the train on a hard seat for sooooo long was incredibly painful.

We arrived.....found a tuk tuk driver who was reaching into the train window to get a customer. Again the arguing about how much to pay luckily he settled for 2 dollars. I told him - straight to the boarder - no shops - no agents - boarder! Did he listen - no. We arrived at a building which had a metal barrier across with about ten men stood outside 'Come into the building for your visa' they told the girls. "Dont go in!" I shouted remembering this was one of the scams, I saw a couple inside and thought they were getting fleeced - a payout of about 30 dollars and they think they have their visa only to go further down the road and it is fake so they have to pay again. We started to walk down the road and could see a large arch across the road which is the actual boarder. Avoided Scam 1.

As we walked down we were shouted at "visa here lady!' Avoided Scam 2

We went into the building and filled in our forms, handed them to the police with the 20 dollar fee.....police wanted 1000bht - not arguing with the police - victim of Scam 3

Got out of the building and crossed boarder and got our passport stamped and finger prints taken.

Avoided Scam 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16 where we were bombarded with men saying they would take us to Siem Reap, food etc you name it anything for money.

We took a free bus to the bus station and were quoted 45 dollar for a private taxi to Siem Reap. Luckily because we wanted to go to the shop they thought we were leaving so brought the price to 30 dollar - for a 2 hr trip! Poor bloke driving had to go back so 4 hrs for him.

Poipet is a very poor area in need of a financial injection - such a difference to Siem Reap. The shops were basic lacking in stock and so many men trying to get your attention to earn some money.

So if you are doing this trip - do your research. The train is a good way and cheap but very unreliable. There are regular buses from BK for 350 bht taking 6 hrs.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 08:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel bus train siem_reap bangkok journey mother_daughter blog coach poipet world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

Never been thrown out of a tuk tuk.

The other day Nana and Ellen arrived in Bangkok to travel with us for the next 3 weeks. We were so excited to see them and had lots of things planned to do.

We headed off to the airport to pick them up but because we missed the train we had to wait for the next one (we were so sure we would be late and just find them sat on a bench somewhere looking slightly disappointed we weren't there to greet them!) Luckily we got there just as people were coming out "this must be their plane" mum says.... 10 minutes later "they will be out a minute now".... 15 minutes later "Shit, we're stood at the wrong arrival gate." We ran though the airport with our sign that said 'Nana Bailey +Ellen (boozer) Blackwood and found the right place, we looked around but couldn't see them anywhere! Just as we were about to ask someone if their flight had come through they walked on out with big smiles on their face (but looked very tired!).

We got them back to the hotel, cracked open a bottle of champagne and dragged them down to Khao San Road for a 'few' drinks. It reached about 4am and I admit I had a few too many buckets and nana was tired so we headed back.

The next day mum woke me up at 8am as we had to go and apply for our Chinese visa (not good after the night we had). After the worst half hour taxi ride I have ever had we got to the embassy only to find out it was closed. Grrrr 'closed on the 5th and the 12th' just our bloody luck!

We got back to hotel and I clambered back into bed. Mum went to the doctors to get her mosquito bite seen to and the rest of us woke up about 2pm so we didn't do much that day and after a wonder round that evening we headed back for an early night.

Yesterday we had another late night but vowed to be up in the morning to do a day trip.

Today we planned to get a train to the monkey temple but didn't get to the train station until 12.30pm which meant we would of had only a few hours to spend their- plus we were sick of being ripped off so decided not go. We barted outside with the tuk tuk drivers until one gave in and said he'd take us to our hotel for the price we offered. He was an old bloke who always had a fag in his mouth and drove REALLY slowly, instead of over taking the traffic like all the other tuk tuks did he decided to sit in and wait patiently- we have no time for patience today! Nana and I started to huff and puff 'are you going to go or just sit here?!' this went on for about 15 minutes before he suddenly pulled out of the line of traffic (wahoo were off!) or maybe not... He pulled into the curb and pointed his fingered to the pavement and shouted 'OUT'. We climbed out giggling and he zoomed off after checking my empty bottle on water onto the pavement. I can honestly say I never expected to come to Thailand and get chucked out of a tuk tuk.

After this crazy experience we decided to hire free bicycles to get round the major temples in the city- it was so much fun! Weaving in and out of the traffic with near misses- it has been a highlight so far and we will be hiring them again in other places! So thank you mr tuk tuk driver for without your strop we would never of found these bikes! Kob kun kaa!

Posted by Chloe Bailey 07:58 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel bangkok tuk_tuk journey mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (0)

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