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Holiday Inn Cambodia/Good Morning Vietnam!

Posted March 27, 2003 @ 6:06am | by Hurl

Lunatic Fringe (I know you're out there...)

Greetings from Ho Chi Minh City!

After 4 days we've made it from Phenom Penh (and completed our trek across Cambodia) to Saigon. This morning we crossed the Cambo-Viet Nam border at Bavat/Moc Bai with no problems, exchanged our Cambodian Riel (4000=$1us) for Vietnamese DONG! (15,000=$1us), and we are enjoying the soothing, slow burn of "Courson-Finest Old Whisky" as we were unsuccessful in locating our much-loved Jim Beam...

Cambodia: what an incredible adventure. Naturally, we've been firing off the photos like mad, but if I try to wrap my head around all of the images we've seen, I'm fairly certain the top of my skull would explode in a crimson splendor of cerebral fluid. Just too bizarre, and yet extremely beautiful, and poignant in its own way. Very desolate, very poor, yet the people so proud, so genuine and friendly. They comport themselves with such grace. Truly humbling, and somehow, sandwiched between the gritty fast-paced world of Thailand, and then the barren landscape gives way to the lush, green irrigation of Viet Nam.

Immediately at the border this morning, we were thankful for the paved, mostly smooth roads. Aside from that, the mad 71k dash into Saigon was nothing short of a "mindblower" as Lonely Planet would say; traffic coming at you from all directions, in every conceivable and unbelievable vessel. The usual Camry brigade firing past at Mach 666 speeds, (yesterday, we regaled in joy at a broken down Camry on the side of the road; I swerved into the other lane to take a photo, which Mac thought a bit "in-your-face" as the poor chap had his hood up and was cranking an obvious beat-down starter. Fuck 'em; as just one of the legions of Camrys who terrorized us for the past 17 days, I have no sympathy.) Air-Con touron buses roll by, honking there Freightliner air-horns, big-rig construction trucks, mad moto drivers (90% on Hondas; either vintage Cubs, or newer model scooter-looking things. At the border this morning, I witnessed a female side-saddle passenger get launched at least a foot off the saddle, as the driver hit a deviation in the pavement. She saw me laughing and gave a huge smile, and of course, never lost her composure on the bike-pure comedy.) The heat continues to beat down upon us; we're riding most mornings by 6:30 a.m. though this morning had to wait for the border to open at 7. My face is a beautiful shade of crimson, even with the spf 50 I've been lathering on. The exhaust fumes are black clouds of distortion that you could chew on. We feebly defend our lungs with bandanas pulled over our faces like some modern-day Jesse James. As we neared Saigon, the traffic just increased and it was a full-on assault to stay focussed and upright, fighting through the maddening throngs of silk-suited school girls, tuk-tuk taxis, moto drivers, and cyclos hauling sheets of stainless steel, or maybe a woman would roll past with a 12 foot piece of pvc tubing casually draped over her shoulder, held at a deathly-close-to-our-heads angle. Pick a lane, any lane, just don't make any sudden moves and you're golden. In Saigon, we found the district with the cheap hotel/guest houses, paid $8 for a room with a fan and western toilet (harumph!) and set off for some delicious vegetarian food at the Bodhi Tree Restaurant. Spent much of the afternoon strolling around the area, with moto drivers offering us "mari-joona; the best shit in Vietnam! I've got 50 grams in my pocket; I give you 20 grams, Ten Dolla!" Uh, no thanks, pal. I'll drink 75 cent beers instead for now, thank you, much.

Soon, we'll head north on the Vietnamese coast towards Hue, and if time permits, get up to Halong Bay, near Hanoi. Then it's back to Saigon and across the lower half of Cambodia, back to Thailand.

Shout at the Devil!

-Hurl & Mac

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