2019, Personal, Travel

Riley Goes to Vietnam Day 8: Riley Goes Back to Vietnam from Cambodia Saturday September 28, 2019

I might have slept even worse this night as I woke up at 2 or 3, I think, and never went back to sleep. Fortunately once again I was able to eat congee for breakfast, which seems like basically the best thing to eat when you don’t sleep and you have a cold.

Our flight was mid-afternoon, so we left our luggage and the hotel and walked all the way across Siem Reap to the Angkor Wat museum.

The museum obviously has nothing on the temples but it contains both stone work from them and religious figurines and other relics both from these temples and other parts of the Khmer empire as well as the civilizations that predated it. There is a lot of information about Buddhism and Hinduism and their effects and lots of artifacts. I was shocked at the price until Jenn pointed out that it was foreigner pricing, which is a good way of doing it – make the tourists pay for the infrastructure. (I don’t think I mentioned in the last post that the locals who went to Angkor Wat for the festival did not have to pay entry like we did.)

After the museum we walked back into town, to the eternal shock of the cab and tuk tuk drivers who seem to believe nobody walks anywhere, and Jenn went magnet shopping in the market. Once she had her magnets we went to a coffee shop clearly designed for tourists and had hilariously over-priced drinks that I assume very few Cambodians could afford (though there might have been a few in there). They weren’t expensive for Canada, but they weren’t super cheap for Canada, either.

A tuk tuk drove us to the airport and we just got in the terminal ahead of a girls’ school which we worried would make immigration and security take forever. But we got in ahead of them and were through so quickly we were left with too much time. Fortunately the Siem Reap airport is very nice for its size and there was pretty decent dim sum, among other food options.

As we waited for our flight we slowly got surrounded by people I mistook for Vietnamese getting on our flight. There were tons of them which didn’t fit with the size of the plane that brought us here from Saigon so I just figured Da Nang was a more popular source of tourists. I should have realized they were not Vietnamese from their behaviour.

We were not facing our gate. I saw a few people get up but most people were still sitting. There was an announcement but we couldn’t here it because of the sheer volume of everyone around us – they were all talking to each other at such a loud volume we couldn’t hear the PA. That’s because they weren’t Vietnamese, they were Chinese. At one point I turned around to see people disappearing through our gate. Our flight was boarding. In line on the tarmac we met some other Canadians. One of them said to us that it was pretty bad they hadn’t announced the flight. I said they did announce it I just couldn’t understand a single word because of the noise. So a bunch of us almost missed our flight because Chinese tourists are noisy. This seemed to at least partially confirm what our guides were complaining to us about.

The plane was the same as the one on the way out. It was even less full than the plane from Saigon but even less comfortable because the door was open on the tarmac for a while before we took off. I was extremely happy I decided to wear shorts for this flight (as I had worn pants for the last flight because of the temperature on our flight from Canada).

It was a quick flight to Da Nang and we were met at the airport by someone who drove us to Hoi An. Everybody in Vietnam honks. It’s not actually an act of aggression but rather an act of consideration – it’s basically used to say “I’m behind you, just so you know”. But this guy – well, he honked and honked but, moreover, he flashed his lights at basically everyone. (It was after sunset for most of the trip.) I had numerous experiences throughout our trip, particularly in Saigon and Hanoi, when I decided I was extremely happy we decided not to drive in Vietnam. But this guy really impressed upon me how happy I was of that decision. I can’t imagine driving at night in a foreign country for the first time and having to deal with drivers flashing their lights at you constantly. I would be so confused and so annoyed.

At our hotel we had a super helpful receptionist who was also just a tiny bit pushy with their services. One of the things we found is that, in Vietnam, the hotels are often the source for guests’ tours. (he hotel is usually either owned by a company that also provides tours or the hotel gets a commission. For example, in Saigon we got a deal on one of our tours because we didn’t book it through the hotel. Presumably the percentage off was the commission the hotel would have earned. It’s quite easy to book through the hotel but if you want to save money you should book things on your own. But when the hotel discovers you don’t have any fixed plans, they will often suggest you use them to book. And some hotels are pushier than others. This lady was nice and very helpful about local information but was just a touch pushier than the others when it came to tours.

We stayed a little outside of the Old Town so we wandered around the immediate area of our hotel to look for food. Eventually we found a pretty rundown Banh Mi place that had both some pretty drunk 20-something Vietnamese – the drunkest we would see the entire trip, despite the huge amount of beer available everywhere – and some foreigners. It was a bizarre experience and Jenn’s shoe got chewed on by a dog, but the sandwiches were good, albeit considerably different from Saigon. (One of the defining features of Vietnam is how food changes from city to city.)

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