Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vietnam (7) Day 3 continued (31.1.2012)

Thankfully Seat66 is a great website that had heaps of information on it about where to get a train ticket and how much they cost, what they look like and even photoes of the building where I could buy a ticket and a photo of the train station in Saigon. I had experienced trains in Kolkata. I was terrified to do this with a child, but also believed that if I could get my head around it, and get some experience, it would give us an amazing freedom and ability to travel cheaply throughout vietnam.
It was extremely fortunate for me to find that the official office to buy a ticket was very near my guesthouse. And...guess what? I could get there without having to cross a road! Now looking for a street number and a place to go whilst also walking with a toddler can be very stressful. Especially when sometimes the numbers dont make any sense. What I did do, was save the picture taken of the outside of the building that Seat66 had posted on its site, and I walked down the street looking for the familiar site of the building. We found it! yipeeeee. If I knew what I knew now about the Vietnamese service industry, I could have just asked my hotel reception, or any other reception that I passed daily to go get the tickets for me for only about $1 extra! But I thought I was doing well by the fact that I had worked out that I didnt have to take a taxi all the way to the actual train station that I was terrified of. I really though it was going to be a version of Howrah Station in Kolkata. I believed it to be full of people, beggars, pickpockets and touts. i thought it was going to be  full on and I would be fending people off, trying to keep my child safe AND buy a damn train ticket. I found out later when we went to board, that it was quiet, civilized, I wasnt bothered by a single soul and it was clean and spacious.
Anyhow, we walked into the official train ticket buying office. Lucky again for seat66 website because I new which ticket on which train I wanted. That was the easy part. The hard part was waiting patiently for the woman on the desk to work out how to reload the ticket paper into the ticket printing machine. As we waited patiently without so much as any sort of acknowledgment, little messyfish decided that he didnt want to watch his ipod. Instead, he decided to stack all the chairs in the place. then he decided that anyone who entered the place could not sit on any of the seats, then when I insisted that he let them, and thats what the seats where for, he then decided to hold the glass door shut and prevent anyone else form entering. Everytime I gave little messyfish any attention or spoke to him to explain what was going on, I lost the service person. She would then serve someone else. We would have to wait till they were done before we could proceed with our booking. Whilst waiting, little messyfish now found that tearing up and down the length of the office was a fun game. Then he decided that he would sing in a very loud high pitched voice. Inbetween his "notes" I managed to buy the ticket. It was easy in hinsight...considering. In kolkata if you bought a ticket from an official place often you would pay top price for the best seat, but be handed a ticket for the low class carriage. I had all bases covered. Seat66 also posted a picture of the ticket with english translations on their site which I had saved to my phone. So when my ticket was printed out, I was able to check the details and verify that it was all correct! It was. I had a ticket and it was legit! I was killing it. I was officially a travellor. It felt like such an achievement! I put the ticket into my secret money belt under my shrt, tucked my shirt in, scooped up my son and proudly pounded the pavements back to our guesthouse.
On the way, seeing as I was on a great big travel high, I decided to jump on a cyclo! Why not? there were loads of them around. people must catch them all the time. These guys are experienced, know what they are doing, it would be fun. Little messyfish was eager. We jumped on and off we went. I gave instructions to take us along the waters edge, show us some old parts of Saigon. Of course, he just took the route he always takes and we go the usual tour, past all the things that the Lonley Planet guide also had noticed. I cried with joy as we cycled round the city seeing Saigon from an open air chair. I had moments of shear terror, where i closed my eyes, moments of rage, where I was ready to bang on the car that was 1mm from my elbow as it passed us. Little messyfish fell asleep as he often does when he rides in a bike. I tried to turn him round to face me. I suddlenly felt overwhelmingly protective of him and i wanted off! I started to get nuerotic. I stopped enjoying the ride and started hating the driver for not taking us on the route I had said, and taking me through all that fucken traffic. We were going through the biggest craziest roundabout I've ever seen in my life, alongside busses, trucks, 4 wheel drives and motor bikes. Then we got to a quiet part of town and I saw some beautiful and interesting buildings. Then finally I regonized where we were, and I knew that the journey would end soon. I relaxed agin, and enjoyed the ride. I had taken a barefoot man pulled rickshaw in Kolkata (dont worry, I paid him shit loads way above the usual amount out of guilt for his pulling me as if he was an animal), and now a cyclo in saigon. I was just loving this trip. Its great big ups and downs were intense. I still have a camel to conquer in Cairo and a boat ride  down the Amazon amongst other things to do, but this was up there!

On the way back down our alley back to our guesthouse, I was hungry, and I new that if we went up to our room, it would be near impossible to get little messyfish down again. Just outside the entrance of the guesthouse was a stall that changed food, owners, furniture depending on the time of day. The morning a pho with pigsblod jelly and lots of fish sauce was the speciality of breakfast. Now as I passed I saw vietnamese spring rolls. Both the deep freid variey  and the fresh ricepaper rolls. It was easy to order. I said I wanted 4 of each using hand signals. I was hungry! I think thats an unusual amout for the vietnamese. She asked if I wanted chilli in the sauce. Yes please! It was heaven. The joy of eating a real vietnamese fresh spring roll in Vietnam was unbelievable. If I had to go home right then, I would have been satisfied. I felt like I had done it all in just 3 days. (I still of cource had to see a rice paddy and a water buffalo... but right then eating that delicious and authentic food had me in bliss). I just new I wanted to eat more. I wanted to get to that stall again the next day. The nicest part of the whole experience was that the woman cooking and serving suggested I take it up to the room with me. She knew who I was already, and could see that little messyfish was tired. Up up I went with a tired kid and a plate full of deliciousness. I also grabed a cold drink from the fridge on the way up. I was definatly getting the hang of this travel thing and loving it. Little messyfish also had his snacks from the bakery visit earlier in the day. I also had the "lets go get chocolate icecream" draw card to get him out of the hotel room!

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