After travelling 13 days, here we are Vietnam! Our first stop-over in this Country is Ho Chi Minh, once Saigon.
After leaving the beautiful island of Koh Rong on a very typical boat mostly used by locals, we are back in Sihanoukville, waiting for a sleeping bus to Ho Chi Minh. At least that’s what we thought.
We make ourselves comfortable in the berth, watch a movie, and fall asleep cradled by the sudden swerves and horn used as to say hi to every bike along the road. And then: surprise! Some shakes, a “where are you going?” screamed in our ears, just the time to collect our stuff, and at 1am we are sitting on red stools on the sidewalk along a big street, together with other 20 passengers that, like us, look around disoriented and half asleep. At the time of the booking they accidentally forgot to inform us that the sleeping bus would have taken us only to Phnom Penh and from there we needed to take another bus. Small detail.
Naively convinced that the wait would have been short, after only 2 hours we managed to get on the bus to Ho Chi Minh, obviously with no berths.
Brief stop at the border for some very superficial baggage checks, and we finally enter to Vietnam!
Ho Chi Minh welcomes us with several large boulevards, very airy but traffic congested. The city is quite modern and westernized, which may be a negative thing, but at the same time makes us feel a little bit more home. Our accomodation is in Pham Ngu Lao area, known as the backpackers zone, where every place is tourist-oriented.
We walk approaching to the centre, Dong Khoi zone, and as long as we go on we are amazed by this city.
We cross the “23/9” park covered by flowers for Tet, the lunar new year: everywhere sellers place yellow flowered little trees on bikes, challenging physical laws; food trucks and small objects stands attract smiling people, while we get overwhelmed by colours and smells. We pass the Ben Thanh market with the clock tower, one of the symbols of the city. Over our heads the huge skyscraper Bitexco Financial Tower, with modern shape inspired to a lotus bud. But the true surprise is Nguyen Hue: an elegant boulevard, once a canal, that for Tet is completely decorated with million of flowers and crowded of Vietnamese people dressed with traditional clothes and absorbed in taking family pictures.
Dazed by lights and colours, we go on in more relaxed streets: European style buildings (like the theatre and the cathedral of Notre Dame) surprise and remind us of the elegant Paris. We warm up with a good pho and go back to our room.
Tomorrow at 6,30 the journey towards North awaits us.