Sep 24, 2006
Sep 01, 2007
On Sat. night, made arrangements with Huong and Stephane to meet me at 1 p.m. at my AZ Guesthouse as they were going to take me to Pacific Airlines to buy a cheap air ticket to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) on Sat. April 7 as they said Pacific Airlines did not offer ticket purchase online so I had to buy in person. Although breakfast was included with my room, I wanted some museli and yogurt and the guesthouse restaurant staff told me where I could find a restaurant that had this on their menu. I went there about 9 am., walking among surprisingly little traffic compared to a weekday. Got back to guesthouse after breakfast and they said Huong called and left message they couldn't meet at 1 pm. I had to check out, and took my bags downstairs to their interent cafe and went online. Someone was still signed into Yahoo and I saw they had a message from Pacific Airlines! Thinking this was a coincidence, I must admit i looked at it to see if they had a website somewhere in the message, and although it was all in Vietnamese, I could see the website. I logged on, and found they had a ticket purchase option and an English option so I bought my ticket to Saigon right there and then. It takes 2 nights on the train apparently and for just a bit more I can fly there in 2 hours. I like taking the train but figured 2 nights back to back maybe one too much. I knew I would have to lug my stuff to Sinh Travel where I could store it until my 9:55 p.m. train to Sapa. Finished up at 2 p.m. and standing outside were Stephane and Huong! They had gone to her village for a Sunday feast with relatives but Stephane was dying for some vegetables (scarce at the feast) and offered to take my pack on his motorbike to Sinh Travel, a real blessing! ANother angel episode (I have many!). Huong and I walked to meet Stephane there and then went for coffee and vegetables for him before she had to work at 3. I then went to Intimex, a store in the Lonely Planet that sells foreign food, as I wanted to buy some museli and almonds, if they had any. Braved the traffic (no traffic lights, or even if there are they are all but ignored, so crossing the street with 7 lanes of motorcycles coming at you, both ways is a little daunting) using my tried and true method of waiting for other people to cross and then cross with them, or run to catch up to people crossing, in either case preferable locals but foreigners will do. I end up meeting lots of people that way and sharing a laugh about the traffic! Found the store and museli etc. and walked to Vincom Towers which has megaworks cinema on the 6th floor. Ended up being a bit delayed due to crossing with people from NZ, who were wanting to chat and missed the first 10 minutes of The Devil Wears Prada but it was still a good movie. It was great to get out of the heat. Got back to Sinh Travel, picked up my ticket and had dinner, then back to Sinh travel who ordered me a taxi. It took a long time coming but I had lots of time and apparently weekend evenings are when Hanoians like to 'promenade' on their bikes so there was EVEN MORE TRAFFIC then at 9 p.m. on a weekday! GOt to Train Station and this young guy opens my taxi door and asks "Sapa?" and I say "yes" and he immediately grabs my pack from the back seat. I yell at the cab driver, "what is he doing with my pack and what does he want?" the cabbie asks the guy and then says he is with VIctoria Hotel in Sapa. ANd I say I am not staying there and the guy is off with my pacg and I am running after him saying why are taking my pack? It asks for my ticket and I say I am not giving you my ticket, and he motions that he wants to take me to my train. I am a LOT BIGGEr than he is and knew I could run faster if he is carrying my heavy pack but I was scared. He finds my train car, berth and puts myluggage on the top bunk (mine was the bottom) because a Vietnamese woman is sitting on my bunk, talking to her elderly mother int he bunk opposite, Then the guy stands there and I say 'what?" and he wants $2! I had said I was not paying him for this as I can carry my own bags but of course he didn't want to here. He keeps standing there and I say I didn't need your help. He almost has tears, (a ploy, they are good actors) and i put 10,000 dong ($.75) on the bunk beside me and say "take it or leave it" Meanwhile the vietnamese lady is telling him he should ask tourists if they need help before he grabs their bags and she tells me later it has even happened to her. She speaks English and owns a hotel in Sapa, she had been at a family wedding in Saigon. Anyway he took the money and I said where I come from that is illegal. THe authorities turn a blind eye to this and it goes on and onand happened again when I arrived in Sapa. More on that later. 4 berth compartment, soft sleeper $30 US each way. Turns out the lady's husband was the 4th person in the compartment but only the old lady snored...