Friday, July 24, 2015

Vietnam Day 1

As I cleared the customs counter with my freshly stamped passport, I quickly grabbed my bags and emerged into the great metropolis which is Saigon. I felt like a fish out of water. One lone American amongst a hot humid babble in Vietnamese crowds. What do I do?!? Okay, the game plan? Bus. I take bus 152 to the bus station, then the Cat Tien bus up to the park. There! Bus 152! Okay, I hike luggage up onto the bus pay the driver and away we go. Alright, making some good time today.

It started to down-pour about ten minute after I got off the bus and into this cafe.

But as the bus troops on through the city exchanging passengers, I start to wonder, what does the central bus station look like? Does this route even go there? Of course it does, the google map told me so. Google maps have never told me wrong in the past. But it's been a while now, and my failed attempts to ask the passengers where the central station is are making me doubt. So I resolve to just ride it around to the airport again and catch a Taxi to Cat Tien. Well, to cut a long confusing language exchange short, I couldn't just take this same bus around back to the airport. . . Soooo off I go out into to urban chaos again. In the middle of Saigon. No clue where to go.
Maybe 40,000VDN for locals... But 100,000VND for the American.

That's okay, it's still only about $5.00.

Lucky, after an over priced meal (they charge foreigners 2-3 times more than locals here) I hailed a taxi, showed him my map, and got him to say "Cat Tien, okay!" (I'm drastically reducing the drama and stress of the previous three hours of searching for directions, buses, tours companies, lugging my luggage of the last 5 months through the bowels of Saigon. But if you want to hear more details, just give me a holler! ) and we were off across the countryside, which is mostly full of small connected towns and villages where the houses look like tin sheds and everyone is trying to sell someone something.
The entire 160 km trip to the national park was lined with
villages and towns much like this. The open country side was
almost nonexistent.

After an hour or so, my driver gets out to take a piss behind one of the houses, have a smoke and even buys himself and I Red Bulls. At this time I start to get a bit worried because I'm just sitting here in a taxi, whilst locals walk by a stare at me, mostly not welcoming looks. But as we head up the road, through a down pour of rain which fills the road some much our cab can barely swim through it, my cab driver has to get out 5 more times to ask for directions, and all I can do is helplessly watch the meter tick up 1,700,000 dong, 1,800,000 dong, and I try to ask how much further, or if he even knows how to get there, but all I can get from him "Cat Tien, okay"
Do these mossie nets make my bed look
like a pretty princess bed?

After we arrive at Cat Tien, I come to find that the hardest part of taxi rides in foreign countries is actually getting to the correct address. Apparently, addresses here are poorly created, and mean relatively nothing. Thanks for nothing google maps. What you need to know are what the names of the neighboring buildings are or the families that live near by, and stuff like this. But we ask another hotel owner and he points us just up the street. At The Green Bamboo lodge one friendly hostess girl greets me with a pretty good english vocabulary! Praise God!!! Someone here speaks English!!! But before the cab driver lets me go he tries to charge me 4,180,000 dong instead of 2,180,000 dong because we went through a toll road which only costs 100,000 extra. But I had heard of stories such as these and since this was a metered cab (very important) I new what my fee was. I did the math right in front of his face, and I paid my 2,180,000 no more no less.
My lodge had a sweet deck!

Yes! I like this view.

After fending off the crazy cab driver and running my budget $100 deep from a stupid cab ride. I'm here! Cat Tien National Park. Monkeys, snakes, frogs, lizards of all sorts and wonderful fig rainforests await me! But right now I'm so shaken up. I sat on my bad for about 15 minutes trying not to pass out. I never thought I'd be in such shock. I think I'll just sleep it off and let the rain on my thatch roof wash away the stresses of travels.

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