Friday, 1 March 2013 · flight, mekong, saigon, vietnam

Let the journey begin!

By Aleksandra Czernecka

A few days we had in Poland were spent on getting last things sorted. Among others it was international driving licence, last shot of rabies vaccine and anti-malarian tabs. Unfortunately, ~34h before our flight we cought some kind of stomach flu and any last minute preparations had to be reprioritized. Luckily, the symptoms were gone soon enough to enjoy our flight to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and we have finally started our journey.

The flight with Vietnam Airlines was my first long haul flight, so it wasn't very boring. It's kind of cool you get a little pillow, a blanket and a screen with some games and movies. You also get to sit next to other people and they also can provide "entertainment". Like a French girl next to me throwing her stuff and food around and pushing the seat limits with her elbows and feet. Fortunately, she managed to break the screen in front of her after ~2h and moved to the seat in front of her, where after the lights went off instead of using reading light provided, she dived into her bag for a headtorch. It would be fine, if she wasn't very curious girl and didn't look/walk around almost all the time (having it turned on on her forehead).

Other than that girl the flight was fine. We watched two movies - Liberal Arts (with unexpected ending) and Tonight 8pm (Vietnamese film about girls who try to get a better life).

After 12 hours on the plane we had finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) and started exploration. Taughed the lesson in Morrocan and Egyptian cities, where they ask for money every time they point you at something regardless of whether you asked for it or not, we overestimated Vietnamese people, walking away from everyone who tried to help us find our hostel in narrow streets near Pham Ngu Lao. They turned out to be genuine Samaritans and didn't want money in exchange of pointing a finger into some direction.

An afternoon walk around Pham Ngu Lao included finding public gym in the park, 2$ pho and 1$ (20000 VND) beer.

Zibby exercising in Saigon
Zibby exercising in Saigon

The next day we went for a trip to see Mekong Delta. Mekong is one of two most important rivers in Vietnam (second one is Red River in the north) and many people live off it - they use it to cook, to wash themselves and their clothes and some poor people that don't have enough money or skill to build a water tank for rain water use the river for drinking water.

On the waters of the delta there is a floating market, where local people sell and buy products (usually fruit and veg) from the boat. To make recognition of what is sold on a particular boat easier they put a sample of a product on a bamboo stick, so you can see from far away what is on sale there.

Floating Market in Mekong Delta
Floating Market in Mekong Delta

Popular dishes in this area include snakes, frogs, rats, bats, crickets and turtles. Famous alcoholic drink is snake (and scorpion) wine.

Snake Wine from Mekong Delta
Snake Wine from Mekong Delta