Jenny\'s Southeast Asia/China Adventure

Travel time: February - June 2004  |  by Jenny Chu

Vietnam: Saigon

Thursday, 4/1/04
Day 57, Doing Saigon

It felt so great to sleep in and wake up knowing I had the whole day to myself. Having missed breakfast, my first to-do was to grab lunch at the Bodhi veggie restaurant. Even tho I was staying at the Sheraton, I stuck to my budget and hopped on a motorbike to get myself to the backpacker haven of Saigon. Riding on a moped in Saigon takes on a whole new meaning. This place has way more mopeds on the road than any other SE Asian city. And no one seems to know how to drive them or at least adhere to any sort of road rules. But, I actually didn't think too much about my choice of transport, since traffic didn't move all that fast.

Once at the restaurant, I ate a Vietnamese crepe, yum, had a shake, and then still feeling hungry ordered a bowl of pumpkin soup. Daym, I love this full of cheap grub country. I then headed down the busy avenue, stopping by at the different budget agencies and doing a bit of comparison-shopping for my multi-stop jump-off, jump-on bus ticket. I heard this was the cheapest, most easy option for traveling the length of Vietnam. But there were so many companies offering this open tour ticket, it was all a bit little overwhelming. I finally settled on Delta tours, which I heard was one of the more reputable ones. For $16, I got myself a ticket all the way up to Hue, in central Vietnam.

Feeling hot, hot, hot, I got lost wandering around the city and only found my way back to the Sheraton by following the big S sticking out in the skyline. Upon first impressions, Saigon, was not the "teeming metropolis filled with timeless traditions and beauty of an ancient culture" as described by Lonely planet. To me it lacked atmosphere and charm. Oh how I long for Bangkok! But hey, it's only my first day exploring this city, and I'm still happy to be here.

Back at my posh digs, I took a splash in the pool, took a nice long bath, and then met my cousin to tag along for a business dinner at a nice Vietnamese restaurant. Carolyn's coworkers were really friendly and the despite having to dine with two high-level ministry officials, it was actually pretty laid back. Also, Nike, generously paid for my meal andddddddd better yet, I was asked if I wanted to go with them to Mui Ne tomorrow and stay overnight at the Victoria Beach Resort.

Seems that with a bit of good timing and the generosity of the Asia Nike external affairs team, I have stepped out of my role as a shoestring budget backpacker and into the laps of luxury!!!!

Friday, Saturday, 4/2/04-4/3/04
Day 58 and 59, Nike factory touring and resort lounging

It is noon right now on a glorious Saturday morning and I'm laying on a wooden reclining chair facing the waves at Vietnam's Phien Tet beach located not far from Mui Ne. Earlier, I ordered an Indonesian salad and sipped on a smoothie before taking a dive in the pool. Last night after eating dinner at a nearby beach resort (complete with a Filipino band singing the most horrible sounding love songs karoke style), I got a full body oil massage in a wooden bungalow while listening to the crashing waves. Thank you Nike for being my corporate sponsor these past two days!

I arrived at the Victoria Resort yesterday afternoon, to find myself smack in a place that looked like it was lifted out of the pages of a Conde Nest feature article. It had a pool overlooking the ocean, plush lounge chairs to lay on while sipping a cocktail, and cute little cottages with views of the shoreline. The only thing that was a bit odd was the brown cow tied up near the cottage we were staying in. For you luxury vacationers, Vietnam is a real bargain. I hear you can get a room here for $100 night and I don't think the resort ever gets too crowded.

Earlier, that day I joined Carolyn and her workmates to tour a Nike Factory located outside of Saigon. Since my New Balances were a no-no, I was given a pair of Nikes complete with a Vietnam and American flag sewn on top. The factory was owned by Koreans, so we had a big Korean spread for lunch. Kimchee, rice, seaweed, mmmmmmm. Who would have guessed I would be munching on Korean food in Vietnam, but even more so, about to see hundreds of Vietnamese workers, mostly women make Nike footwear. And you know what? Despite the bad publicity Nike has gotten about its factories in Asia, the one that I saw was operating without all the sweatshop horrors I have read about. It even had very nice and modern healthcare facilities.

Anyway, with an hour left, I'm going to hit the pool one more time before we pack our bags and head back to Saigon. Too bad, we were here for such a short time. I never did get to see the sand dunes Mui Ne is famous for. But, hey I am not complaining!

Sunday, 4/4/04
Day 60, One last night in the Sheraton

I have been travelling for two months now! Two more to go. And I feel that I can keep going.

Well, it's my last day in Saigon and I spent it shopping. I never made it to the War Museum or the Cu Chi tunnels. Part of me felt guilty, but sometimes I just have to indulge in my consumerism tendencies.

We ate lunch at a coffee chain in the mall and bought embroidered linens galore. Then headed to the Ben Thanh Market an indoor shopping mecca filled with rows and rows of goods ranging from chopsticks to traditional Vietnamese dresses. Carolyn scored a tuxedo for her nephew for ten dollars. I bought some more linen things. Don't ask me why.

Dinner was eaten at a local restaurant where $4 bought us two bowls of pho, two iced coffees, two soybean drinks, and some spring rolls. It was my treat =).

After being treated by Nike for three days, my time with Carolyn has come to an end. Tomorrow, I return to my backpacker status, and will board a bus for a long bus ride to Dalat.

© Jenny Chu, 2004
You are here : Overview Asia Vietnam Saigon
The trip
Follow my travels through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and China..........
Start of journey: Feb 02, 2004
Duration: 4 months
End of journey: Jun 02, 2004
Travelled countries: Asia
The Author
Jenny Chu is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 20 years.
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