Vietnam - Overview
Trip Start Jan 16, 2008
117Trip End Jul 28, 2008
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The bus arrived in Saigon and we were instructed to run towards it. Our bags were thrown into the belly of this moving tin can, as we chased behind it, elegantly jumping on before driving round the block for an hour and heading Cambodia-ward.
When travelling it is ingrained into your mind that your passport is the most important thing you possess and you should surrender your head before surrendering you passport. So no one was that happy when the bus conductor announced; "Tourists, you give me $25, and your passports, and you get them in Cambodia, yes?"
Got to the border, pulled off our bags and headed towards immigration. Everyone looked a touch nauseous when the bus conductor flopped our heap of passports on a random desk and walked off, cattle herding us into a little waiting area. Fifteen nervous minutes later names began to be shouted out. These were any combination of the names in your passports, with an added Vietnamese accent, helpful as there were a good few people who had the name Sarah/Sara somewhere in their name. We were herded back onto the bus to drive across the no-mans-land between Vietnam and Cambodia, still passport-less. We were missing a French guy whose name had not been called at the first check point. Lots of shouting and poking the bus driver seemed to have no effect. Probably not the greatest place to be stranded.
We sat on the pavement at Cambodian immigration, hopelessly looking out for the French boy, while being surrounded by lax-looking, cigarette-smoking border officials, faffing about with our passports. A while later, were rounded back onto the bus, still passport-less.
We entered Cambodia and stopped off at an ATM for those who needed some extra Riels. A few seconds later we were moving again, leaving those who had decided to get off, passport less, and having to make their own way to Phnom Penh. This time the persuading worked and the bus slowed down a little allowing everyone to jump back on. One Canadian girl, however, was short of her travelling companion and set about trying to communicate with the driver, who, again, did not stop.
Two people down, and verging on terrified now, we stopped at a severely questionable restaurant. A nervous looking bunch and getting more and more desperate for our passports we gingerly got off the bus. An English guy turned to us, "Is it really wise to get off the bus? Do you think they do order in?"
Over the course of a testing lunch the French boy and the Canadian girl turned up, having had a very nerve wrecking tuk-tuk ride to be reunited with the potential of getting their passports back.
Finally, with everyone on the bus, we were given our visa-ed passport back. We had an Oreo to celebrate!
VIETNAM - OUR THOUGHTS
In recent decades the story of remarkable survival and recovery. The Western world is now welcomed with open arms as the lure of tourist opportunities has become irresistable. With the Soviet-inspired experiment in collective living a distant memory, the strive for personal gain is unashamedly overt.
However, escape the trap of the "Open Tour" bus and there is a much recommended gem of a country to explore. The people and the food alone justify a visit, without mentioning the ultra cheap Bia Hoi beer!
The War is an unforgettable truth, but one the Vietnamese are not keen to dwell on forever. The manner in which the people address this paradox in the 21st century now makes Vietnam such a fascinating experience.