From cambodia into vietnam. The bus journey was short and comfortable, which is more than i can say for the whole 'getting into vietnam' shpiel. After repeatedly haviing to get on and off the bus giving in various bits of paperwork and our passports, we were eventually siphened into a small barely air conditioned customs hall with 2 desks at the front. After about half an hour waiting a small dumpy man came out and started calling out peoples names to go through. After misprouncing ALL our names incorrectly, we were EVENTUALLY in vietnam, and a short ride later we were dumped in ho chi minh (saigon). A cab ride to our hotel and we settled in. Saigon was by far the nicest place we have stayed in yet, if not manically busy. Unlike phnom penh, there was a strange sense of order in this city. Most buildings were no more than 4 metres wide, though varied dramatically in depth and height. On a road of 2 story buildings you could have one building that was 7 floors high - tall and thin it looked like the street was giving you the finger. Stretching over the streets were miles and miles of electrical wires - so many in sopme cases it completely blocked out shop sign names. In some of the dirtier areas, the wires had collapsed and hung feet from the horrifically high pavements.
The roads also left a lot to be desired. To cross busy roads we normally hid behind locals and followed closely behind them. We eventually got our confidence though. The trick was to simply walk into the road and all the bikes would pass around you - this method worked for us anyway. During our time in saigon, we went to the war remnants museum and the water park (obviously) where i ended up grazing my elbow (obviously). We were going to go to cu chi tunnels also (dug by the vietnamese as shelter during the war), but a 2 hour bus ride and time in general running thin, we decided to give it a miss.
One of the australians we met on the way back from ratanakiri suggested we go to the mekon delta, to a place called vinh long. We obeyed his demands and arrived in an almost deserted bus station. We got a cab to the arge and a barge across the mekong river to a small island called binh long. Built into a forest, there were no roads or pavements, just a simple 1 metre wide conrete path that strethed and connected round the island. The only mode of transport was motorbikes or walking. We stayed in a homestay, which at 12 dollars a night was on the pricier side, but all food was inlcluded. We and a few others were the only people in the place that night. After an hour or so on the hammocks, we were served dinner - a vast feast in comparison to what we were used to used to. Soups, noodles, spring rolls and a mahoosive fish which we filleted (completely mauled) and the owner taught us hw to make our own spring rolls with the vegetables, fish and leaves - fruit for desert consisted of dragon fruit and those that looked like lychees but tasted like melon and was covered in soft, red and yellow barbs.
The next day we got bikes and cycled round the small island, through the forests nearly getting run off the round on numerous occasions, and over narrow and railingless bridges over the various waterways through the island. Immensely hot and sticky, but fun none the less - and we got in our daily excercise. We were looking for a place to get water from and ended up stumbling across a zoo of all places. Hidden behind a small guest house, there was a large lakes with swan pedaloes, and a series of caged animals. We got our drinks and played some cards out the front - watched closely by all the people who passed us. Me thinks they thought we were simply anther zoo attraction, in whcih case e should have started charging. 2 young boys seemed absolutely fascinated by our playing of 'president'. Anyhoo, that night 20 french people were comingt o stay so we were ushered into a small more private side room in the hostel. Dinner was simliar to the night before, just slightly more noodles and fish :D.
We left the island early the next morning after a breakfast of omelette, jam and baguettes. Our overall plan was to get to hanoi, then bus it through laos to northern thailand. However, the mekong delta is right don south and hanoi is the very north - solution?! ANOTHER BUS JOURNEY!!! To get to hanoi straight from saigon would take 48 hours (yes thats right 48 hours!). We wanted to visit Hoi An though so that broke up the journey somewhat. We got on a bus that hads beds instead of seats - would have been comfortable if they wernt designed for a vietnamese body. A few inches too narrow and a few inches too short (especially for over 6 foot alec) we stopped numerous times on the 24 hour bus journey to eat noodles, soups and random other bits of meaty giblets covered in leaves. We were slightly unnerved by the fact that no one had actually heard of 'hoi an' and the bus dropped us off at a petrol station, the driver pointed down a turning and said 'hoi an, that way...4 km' and buggered off. Great. So we walked, and walked....and walked until we came to a petrol station. We asked for a cab/taxi/car, any variation but they still didnt understand. We eventually flagged down a bus full of vietnamese shool children. Already cramped, we squeezed in with our bags, me sitting in the aisle on a small plastic kiddy chair. Some girl next to emily practiser her english, and we discovered the bus was ACTUALLY going to hoi an and that it did indeed exist. A short time later they all started singing and clapping... as you do. We were on the school bus for about 10 mins, before one of the girls said that the driver wanted money. A short exhcnage and we gave him 50,000 dong (about $2.50). And with that, they waved us goodbye and dumped us by the side of the road and said 'hoi an that way' pointing down a turning. Great.
After 26 horus of travelling (luckily the weather is slightly cooler here - only about 20 degrees witha nice breeze) we still wernt here we wanted to be. A small group of people crowded round shouting 'moto' and 'HOI AN' at us, before we flagged down a passing taxi. He drove us into hoi an (FINALLY) and charged us the reasonable rate of 38,000 dong - just under $2. The guide book says hoi an is meant to be a quaint retreat, full of narrow streets and historical buildings. Though it also said hoi an is easy to get too, so we shall see how the next three days pan out.... :D