Overland Borders

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With the Khmer New Year upon us, we planned to take a bus to Ho Chi Minh City, and asked our guesthouse to schedule our trip. They promised to do so without hesitation, but when we returned to the desk the next day, we were informed that he had to call five bus companies and that we got the last two tickets on the last company he tried.

Our bus left at 6:30 AM, requiring our departure from the guesthouse well before the sun came up, so as we waited for our tuk tuk to pick us up, we sat on the side of the road and watched Phnom Penh come to life in the inky black morning. A trickle of rain teased us, but gratefully, we didn’t end up soaked.

Ultimately, the packed bus left more than an hour late, and once again we were tucked into seats to tiny that our knees couldn’t actually fit behind the appropriate seat backs. We plugged in our audiobook and settled in for a long morning of literature and watching the world go by on the bus.

The ride was more or less unremarkable, with a few obligatory rest stops (some which took place in the middle of nowhere, requiring the women to go on a hike to find a suitable “ladies bush”), another skipped lunch break, and the border fiasco.

We boarded and unboarded the bus no less than three times, once even being forced to claim all our luggage and walk it across the border before we were on our way again. By the time we reached Ho Chi Minh, every last local had gotten off the bus, and only a handful of five remaining westerners remained. Once again we had no idea where our bus was going to drop us off but we ended up a number of miles from our reserved hotel. Gratefully, they shuttled us all into a smaller van which seemed to be taking us to yet another unknown location.

You start getting used to never having any idea what is going on after a while, so we sat back and watched our GPS as we cruised around town. The others aboard our van were taking to the element of surprise a little less quietly, and were engaged in a rapid conversation about where they were going and where they  needed to go. Eventually the van stopped, and without any more questions we just got off and walked the remaining kilometer to the hotel.

We were almost surprised at how thrilled we were to be back in Vietnam, albeit a much shinier, wealthier version than we had witnessed in the north. With backpacks in tow, we took the long way to the hotel, checking out the vendors and enjoying the afternoon.

When we finally reached our hotel, we had to laugh. I’d used up some of my last remaining hotel points from my former life as a traveling business person to book us a room at the Marriott hotel on the river of Ho Chi Minh. Suddenly we found ourselves, clad in questionably clean clothes and hauling grungy backpacks checking into a very shiny American owned hotel.

Gratefully, no one paid any mind to our appearance and they checked us right in. Then, we headed out in search of food and thinking we might wish to shop. The shopping was a failure (as usual),  but our bowls of noodles, spring rolls, and meat were tasty.


Mostly though, we were getting anxious to head back to the hotel. The place had a beautiful rooftop swimming pool on the 21st floor,  yielding incredible views. We headed to the roof to photograph the city below and enjoy the tranquil pool water, far from the noise of the city.


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