Saturday, 13 December 2014

Back to Ho Chi Minh and on to Hanoi (at last!)

The river front at Chau Doc

Planned on writing this on our first relaxing day from the apartment in Hanoi where we’re going to look after White Cat while owners Jen and Jody go off on holiday to England and Ireland for Christmas and New Year, but instead we’re writing it in the departure lounge of Ho Chi Minh airport while we wait for our delayed flight. 14:25 it was booked for, then an email announced it would be 15:20 and, at the moment it’s looking like about 18:00, but who knows. We could possibly blame it on the typhoon that hit the Philippines earlier in the week and has now made landfall in Vietnam, no longer a typhoon, just a deep tropical depression, but enough to bring lashing wind and rain, but none here yet. It looks like the worst will be in the south and the Mekong Delta (good job we’ve left), but it may be enough to disrupt flights. Hanoi isn’t affected it’s very settled, quite warm and sunny up there (18-22⁰C and zero humidity – fabulous!), but we just have to get there!

Floating houses in Chau Doc.
Chau Doc market from our hotel room
We had two more days in the Mekong Delta at Chau Doc after our last blog entry and a final night in Ho Chi Minh last night, but they were nothing very exciting. Chau Doc seemed a relatively nice riverside town with the usual hustle and bustle and there were river rides to see interesting places and Sam Mountain nearby with pagodas and temples to see, but we weren’t up to it as we both had mild cases of Delhi Belly (well, it had to happen sometime I guess!).

our hotel room at the Duc Vuong in HCMC
Think it may have been our last meal in Can Tho on Monday night, the bowl of steamed clams may have been to blame, but the other choice was something we have never tried before, ‘nesting roasted pigeon’. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, ‘we deserve everything we got’ and maybe that’s true, but these things need to be tried! It was nice enough in itself, a quite rich tasting version of chicken, but not that much meat on it as you can imagine. It was a whole pigeon, complete with head including eyes and beak, that they cut up into manageable chunks. We fed the head to a passing cat who seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, leaving nothing, not even the beak!

The final rays of the sun over HCMC from the roof top terrace of the Duc Vuong
Anyway, 2am was my time to wake up thinking ‘oh dear’, particularly as we had a 3 hour bus trip and two nights in a hotel in Chau Doc booked and paid for commencing in the morning, but we both decided we could manage the journey without anything untoward, which indeed we did, but on arrival at the hotel we just flaked out on the bed, managing a delicate walk round the town later. We ate nothing in the evening, not even going out, just watched a couple of films on TV. A round of toast from breakfast all we ate all day!

On the roof top terrace
The next day we had thought about a trip to Sam Mountain, but it would be on the back of a motorbike, so we thought ‘no’. Another walk round town, an offer of a boat trip which came down from 200,000vnd to 100,000vnd or ‘name our price’ which actually we didn’t want at any price, he just wouldn’t leave us alone. But we did have a pleasant enough day, looked at a temple and pagoda, had a smoothie in a western style café (strange how you go for places, food and drink you recognise when feeling ‘off’), did go out for fried rice and fried noodle dishes and then went back, watched another film and got ready for the 6 hour bus journey back to HCMC, which turned out not to be too bad.

In time for the sunset
The bus was one of those ‘sleeper buses’ with the two levels of reclined chairs and, for the daytime they’re actually quite comfortable. You can tilt the back up a bit and it feels a bit like sitting in a garden recliner with your feet up, quite relaxing and pleasant, so we arrived back in HCMC quite relaxed. Jackie had found a cheapish hotel in HCMC ($30/£18) in the ‘backpacker district’ which turned out to be one of the best we had stayed in. The rooms were clean, reasonably large with all conveniences provided, the breakfast this morning was fabulous and to top it all, they had a roof top terrace with fabulous views out over the city, where we went to watch the sun set while sipping cocktails. It had a very western feel which was just what we wanted and, on looking at the menu, they had just what we wanted in our semi delicate conditions: Pizza! First time we have strayed from local foods, but we decided it was OK!

Which got better as it went on
Took a walk down the street after dinner and found it all a bit overwhelming, it’s a bit like Bangkok! Everything is happening, bars and restaurants everywhere, full of people, loud music, old western blokes with young local girls, a really lively place and just what we didn’t want at that time, so we retreated back to our room! Probably at other times it would have been an interesting experience, but we weren’t up for it at that time.

Cocktails on the roof top terrace
So here we are at the airport, it’s 17:00 and I’m hoping we’ll be on our way soon. Will write more from the cooler north!

We finally arrived, with our luggage (that was my next stress), at the house about 21.30 to meet the lovely Jen and Jody and slightly nervous White Cat, sit down, have a beer and it’s been fab ever since! The apartment is great, they’ve given us their room, though to be honest they are both a good size and yes, we have an en-suite, with bath, but with only the two of us here it really doesn’t matter, especially as the shower in the other bathroom is much better. Kitchen, oven, spacious lounge, bookshelf, washing machine downstairs, TV with satellite, DVD’s, dedicated laptop with BBC iplayer….. What more could we want?

The street below, where it was all happening!
Whatever it is we can probably get it outside, the area is a huge ex-pat enclave so there are wine shops and a butchers as we'd recognise it, a supermarket selling proper cheese and everything we can possibly need nearby. So we’ve got Australian steak for supper (with a bottle of red wine obviously) and some pate for lunch. Cheddar and macaroni for macaroni cheese tomorrow with smoked ham from the butchers!

HCMC by night
First picture of White Cat in our new home for Christmas
It's even cold - t-shirt and shirt over the top, long trousers and socks and I could have done with something else on! Fabulous. There are restaurants that will deliver (though we will need to buy a sim card to make that call), shops that deliver big water bottles and beer and carry them up to the 4th floor for no extra cost and a pub nearby with bangers and mash and crumble (but no custard) on the menu! Bangers and mash for 260 000vnd admittedly which would normally be the cost of dinner for both of us, but hey, we’re not paying for accommodation!

I’ve finished off this entry while Brian is mixing up a Victoria Sponge. We are going to be very happy here!

1 comment:

  1. Hi both. We feel your pain! No custard? How did you survive! Hee hee. White cat looks bossy if you ask me. Mind he doesn't start ordering his own pigeon menu!
    Glad to hear you are away from the horrible weather too. Have a lovely stay. Xxx