Jan 16th – Day Thirteen
A day of travel lies ahead. Through the ‘Malaria Zone’ no less. We have been taking anti malaria tablets for a few days to build up resistance so we don’t get sick on this leg of the journey which is a bus trip from Phom Penh, Cambodia back to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Our manager has done this trip before and said it was pretty gruelling so with a few sore heads and the prospect of mossies we’re not looking forward to it. Even more worrying is we now have a new leader. Our manager, Mark and his beautiful assistant, Rob have to head back to the UK to take care of other business so from here on in we’re on our own. So Jon (Lamont) has been handed to responsibility of looking after our itinerary, our tickets and our money. Lucky boy.
Mark is prone to being overly emotional in almost any given situation, one of the reasons we love him, and true to form we see a moist eye as we pull out of the bus station.
The bus plays Camdodian karaoke songs for the entire journey at an uncomfortable volume and with a fuzzy picture on the screen. The road is exactly as i had been told, busy, bumpy and with suicidal scooter riders all over the place. I settle down to an audio book, this time “Animal Farm” by George Orwell and the time passes quickly. It is a book i always intended to read as 1984 is a big favourite, but somehow i never got round to it. Well it is excellent. Like 1984 it is political in nature and has issues more relevant today than ever, but it is also a damn good story. That is the genius of George Orwell, he keeps you reading (listening) and it doesn’t feel like a chore which some worthy political books can.
Suddenly the bus brakes hard and everyone is thrown forward. I look up to see a pig running across the road and spmehow we miss it by inches (similar to centimetres kids).
Eventually we hit the Vietnamese border unscathed and after miles of emptiness its odd to suddenly see a few big hotels and casions. there's literally nothing else here so i guess some western people come here and just stay in their hotels gambling. 'Fun' At the border we have to get off the bus, lug our gear and cases into the border control, then back on the bus, then off again to get our visas stamped. The whole thing takes about 2 hours and seems chaotic, but eventually as the sun goes down we start getting back into Ho Chi Ming City and amazingly the last sentence of my book is read 2 mins before we pull up in the red light district.
We have a local promoter here who is putting on a couple of shows and is arranging our accommodation and we look forward to seeing what is on offer this time. So far it has been luxury like none of us have seen before at every stop, but this time shit gets real and we are on the 5th floor (no lift) of a back packer hotel right in the heart of the seediest area in town. We spend as little time in the rooms as possible and head out to get some food before bumping into some models we met the first time we were here who’re working in and around Vietnam. Beers are sunk (Saigon beer is the cheapest and best here), pool is played (its free but watch out for Germans hogging the table like its a sun lounger on the Spanish coast) and hookers are dodged (don’t ask). A classic Ho Chi Minh City night.