Saigon (for one night)

Trip Start Aug 08, 2004
Trip End Aug 2005

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, February 2, 2005

We left a chilly, drizzly Hanoi on the 2nd and flew down to Ho Chi Minh City via Pacific Airlines. As some sort of Happy New Year promotion, the airline was giving out prizes to randomly picked passengers. Halfway through the flight I heard an announcement that "the passenger in seat E19 is the lucky winner of a free ticket. Please come claim your prize." I realized that I was the passenger in E19. So, it goes...I never win anything, except I happened to win a free roundtrip ticket good for the next year between Saigon and Danang that I will probably never get to use. If anyone wants this ticket, let me know.

Within a matter of hours we have been relocated to the steamy Mekong Delta. Saigon hit me like a brick wall with 90 degree temperatures and absolute pandemonium. There was so much to look at during the taxi ride from the airport I didn't know which direction to turn my head. It's a Wednesday night, nothing special, but the streets are teeming with motorbikes and the cafes are overflowing with people.

We have a room in the Ha Vy Guesthouse, in the heart of the Saigon backpacker's ghetto. About 2 hours ago Mellisa realized she lost her credit card, somewhere between Hanoi and HCMC. So in other words, it's long gone. We emptied the contents of both our backpacks and daypacks, we scoured every pocket, every crevice in every bag. Receipts and ticket stubs covered the floor like a layer of snow.....nothing. I feel a little like strangling her. So, I think, does the lady who works downstairs at the front desk. She's placed so many calls to America on our behalf she probably thinks we're part of an international drug cartel.

We spent an hour agonizing over our next move. Our tight time frame (we need to be back in Vietnam by Tet, when all of the businesses shut down, and back in China by the 20th) means that we have to leave the next day for Cambodia. Unfortunately, it is a well-documented fact that Cambodia is one of the last bastions of ATM-free tourist sites left in the world. So we have to take all the money we need with us and exchange it at the border. Which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the annoying rule that you can only withdraw a maximum of $130 USD per day from a Vietnamese bank. And we only have my bank account to work with now.

I figured, what the hell. We've come this far, there's no turning back now. We bought the tickets. I'm about to go into Cambodia with a dire shortage of cash, no Lonely Planet, and my fingers crossed that I will make it out in one piece. A quick dash to the ATM down the street for my daily allowance. I will hit it up again in the morning for a last dose of currency, then off to the Mekong. I've never really understood the phrase "on a wing and a prayer" but I think I do now.
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