Backpacking Indochina Day 7 – Blood, Sweat, and Tears

For the endless bus rides

For the endless bus rides. (c) Stef Carandang

Day 0: Manila to Bangkok, Thailand

Day 1: Grand Palace, Chao Phraya River and MBK

Day 2: Songkran and Khao San Road

Day 3: Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia, Pub Street and Night Market

Day 4: Angkor Wat Heritage Complex and Apsara Show

Day 5: Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Preah Sisowath Quay

Day 6 Part 1: Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Central Market

Day 6 Part 2: Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

At 6:00 in the morning, we went downstairs to have breakfast. I honestly thought we will be the first ones but I didn’t know what kind of people are the others because they woke up so early. We ordered breakfast from the hotel restaurant. Kat seemed to have a rift with breakfast. Ang malas malas nya. She ordered bread with jam and butter while Shiela ordered bread with egg and butter then I had bread with egg and cheese. I had an entire entree when the waiter served my food, Shiela’s wasn’t bad at all. But when Kat got her breakfast, she had what she asked for: jam and butter. Yun naman pala by default lahat ay may jam and butter. Hahaha. Naawa nalang si Kat sa sarili niya.

At Golden Wind

At Golden Wind (c) Stef Carandang

Breakfast in Saigon!

Breakfast in Saigon!

Some of us didn’t have Vietnamese Dong so after the breakfast, they went out to change their money. Since we already have our Vietnamese Dong, we decided to buy coffee at Trung Nguyen for pasalubong.

Coffee from Trung Nguyen

Coffee from Trung Nguyen

Millionares in Saigon

Millionares in Saigon

At 7:00AM, we waited for the tour bus that will take us to Cao Dai Temple in the Tay Ninh province which is 59.65 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. We shared the bus with six Europeans; a family of four and two who are friends. I sat beside Kat, Shiela sat beside Vhik (deep inside:bakit ba ako napaupo dito? Naagawan ko ata ng upuan si Froi).

Minh (not really sure if the spelling is correct), our tour guide

Minh (not really sure if the spelling is correct), our tour guide

The bus finally went off. Along the way, the tour guide was giving us a lot of trivia but I only managed to remember one thing; there are 95,000,000 people living in Vietnam and there are 70,000,000 motorcycles. Yun lang talaga naalala ko. After 52 years (that’s how long it was), we arrived at a local gift shop.

Art works made from egg shells

Art works made from egg shells

Banh Mi for the hungry stomach

Banh Mi for the hungry stomach

I really didn’t know what was the sense of having a stop over at a gift shop. After half an hour, we began our way to Cao Dai Temple. I slept, I looked out the window, then slept again. The travel time from Ho Chi Minh to Cao Dai Temple was insane. I could’ve easily crossed it out of my itinerary. It was mid-day when we arrived at Cao Dai Temple. To be fair, the temple looks good. Cao Dai Temple is a place of worship for Vietnamese whose religion is Caodaism. I’ve never heard of it actually.

Cao Dai temple at noon.

Cao Dai temple at noon.

Cao Dai Temple side view

Cao Dai Temple side view

Security around the temple was tight. We cannot even take a picture at the front of it. Looking for a way to beat the sun, we went inside, barefooted. The inside looks good, too colorful but that’s their religion so I’ll just respect it. We were allowed to take photos BUT, no selfies. Ate Ibang was caught not once but twice. Hahaha. Sa pangalawa niyaya pa nya si Ruby. We had nothing to do inside so after a few snaps, we went out. The sun outside was just so hot, one could easily pass out with the heat. After we gathered in one place, we went to the bus. The guide said we’ll head next to a local restaurant to have lunch.

Inside the colorful temple

Inside the colorful temple

I was starving, the bus rides were just too long for me. There’s nothing to do but sleep so knowing me, I grabbed every opportunity. After an hour, we arrived at the restaurant, it was like a typical eatery you will see in Manila. What I like about that eatery was that the service was fast. The servers were literally dropping your order when they pass by your table. Diretso ang tingin pero nakakarating sa tamang table ang pagkain! Ang husay! (Slow clap!) Hahaha. We ordered fried chicken. Hahaha. Nothing new. The chicken was good actually, and the serving was more than enough for one person.

After our meal, we headed straight to Cu Chi Tunnels. This time I sat beside Vhik. Froi borrowed something from Vhik, I wasn’t sure if it was alcohol. Gustong gusto ko na sabihin kay Froi na palit nalang kami ng upuan. Hehe. Anyway, Vhik and I honestly heard the guide said that Cu Chi will just be few minutes from where we were. But I slept for almost an hour and when I woke up, Vhik told me “ayos yung few minutes no?“.

I found Paris in Saigon

I found Paris in Saigon

When we arrived at Cu Chi Tunnels, it was almost 2:00PM. The guide got us tickets and we went inside. The inside was not really appealing, we watched a movie about Vietnam war (I had no basis. Haha. Di ko kasi sinapuso yung pinanood ko, mainit kasi).

Candid daw

Candid daw (c) Stef Carandang

One by one, we went out of the movie room. When the movie was done, our guide toured us around. He showed us the traps that the Vietnamese built during the Vietnam war. It was simple yet amazing. I can only imagine how brilliant their minds were during those times. My favorite trap was the souvenir trap. Ang sakit isipin kung ako yung makakapag-uwi nun. I couldn’t think of any word but amazing. I could not stop admiring how simple the traps were. Pero kung ako nabiktima nun ngal ngal ako. At the end of the tour, we were given the chance to fire different assault rifles in their shooting range.

Isa lang masasabi ko - Aray!

Isa lang masasabi ko – Aray!

After releasing the inner action stars in them, we then went to the highlight of the trip–crawling through the tunnels. The tourists were basically allowed to explore the safe parts of the tunnel. Lights were also installed inside to guide the path. I thought we will be really going through the four levels of the tunnel. That will be agonizing if that’s true. As a claustrophobic, being enclosed in such a small place is horrifying for me.

But I braved the heat inside, with my phone as a flashlight, and with some of our TF friends. I grasped for air once in a while, I was feeling uncomfortable inside. But after a few crawl, going down and going up, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and I have done it. Tap, tap.

Ate Ibang, the superwoman

Ate Ibang, the superwoman

Remembering the Vietnam war

Remembering the Vietnam war

We were done with the tour at around 4:00. After that, we decided to freshen up. Funny thing was, there were four of us in the W.C.–me, Froi, Kensan, and Lif. I washed my hands and wiped my sweat with tissue. Kensan took out his facial wash and asked us if we want to wash our faces as well. I was actually hesitant, baka kasi lumabo mata ko. But I was really sweating like a wild boar on a diet. So I gave in, I pressed the facial wash and put a pea-sized soap on my hand. We washed our faces, Lif actually wanted to take a shower. Hahaha. Few moments later, our guide came in to the W.C. to wash his face then told us to go straight to the bus as soon as we’re done.

I didn’t know where was the bus so after I washed my face, dry up with a tissue, I went to the bus. Edge was waiting for the four of us, Froi, Kensan, and Lif were still in the bathroom. I came inside and everyone was asking me “Bakit ang tagal nyo?“. I answered “nag-facial wash kami e“. Some of them laughed but some didn’t mind. We were waiting for Froi, Kens, and Lif for quite some time. When Froi arrived, whoah define freshness. His hair was brushed up and his face was not oily. Hahaha. Shortly after, Kens and Lif arrived and off we went to the hotel.

Bored people

Bored people (c) Stef Carandang

It was 4:00PM, I was rather feeling sad than tired. Few hours and we’ll leave Ho Chi Minh; few hours and our trip is over. Months and months of being excited and right in that bus, I was facing reality that everything must come to an end. I was tired but I wanted the clock to stop ticking. The two hour travel from Cu Chi Tunnel back to the hotel was outrageously short. As soon as darkness filled the sky, my heart was beating fast. I felt something was wrong. Like I do not ever want to go back. Hahaha.

When we arrived at Pham Ngu Lao Street, it was already dark. We are leaving in few hours, Tikoy invited us for a dinner. That was going to be the last official dinner of this trip. We looked for a place to eat and we found one deep in the middle of the many walkways in Ho Chi Minh. I was not sure if Tikoy decided to eat there because of the food or the white guy that works in there. I had pho on my last dinner in Vietnam.

Pho (Pha)

Pho (Pha)

The clock was excruciatingly annoying. Bakit ba ambilis bilis kasi? The pho was great. Compared to what we can have here in the Philippines, it was few notches better. After eating, Kat and Iwent back to the hotel. We left Shiela to pay for the food.

I was talking to the guy at the front desk asking for our key and Kat went straight to the room. I asked the guy “can I have the key for room 202?“. He said “why?”, I answered “we are staying there that’s why“. He was not believing me, I was frustrated, I said “the room is under Shiela Alicante’s name, can you check?”. He was not giving any response. Gusto ko na syang sapakin. Bakit ayaw nya ibigay ang susi namin. He then said “maybe you are wrong, because we do not have room 202, maybe you are staying in room 203“. I then answered “no, of course I know our room number.“, his face was obviously scared of me. He was getting into my nerves then Kat went down. She said “uy ano na asan na susi?“. I asked what was our room number and she said “203”. Oh shoot. Parang wala na akong mukhang ihaharap pa sa front desk. I, then humbly asked for the key of room 203. When he has handing it to me, he was making an i-told-you-so face to me. Nagtimpli lang ako kasi ako ang mali. Pero sa pagnguso nya gusto ko na syang patulan. Hahahaha. That was probably the last blooper of the trip.

Last hurrah with the Tf barkada

Last hurrah with the Tf barkada

Final dinner :(

Final dinner😦

While I was taking a bath in our hotel room, Tikoy entered the room. Shoot, di dapat ako magbibihis sa banyo napabihis tuloy ako. Nahiya akong makita ni Tikoy ang aking beach body. Hahaha. After fixing everything, it was time to go. We didn’t have time to say goodbye to everyone because we were running late. I actually told the front desk to make the taxi fetch us by 9:30PM instead.

Si Tikoy, and major major photobomber. We lab u!

Si Tikoy, and major major photobomber. We lab u!

No turning back :(

No turning back😦

When we went down the lobby, there was a Filipino family also checking out the hotel and we learned that we were on the same flight to Manila. I was in awe that they only spent four days in Vietnam but it’s as if they brought their entire wardrobe. Ako nga nabuhay ng short at sando lang. Hehe. When the taxi arrived, we bid goodbye to Tikoy. It was a particularly hard feeling going to the airport. I was thinking “babalik na naman ako sa puyatan, dito okay lang kahit mapuyat ako“. When we arrived at the airport, I had my one last look of Ho Chi Minh.

 

Backpacking Indochina April 2014 (c) Stef Carandang

Backpacking Indochina April 2014 (c) Stef Carandang

One thought on “Backpacking Indochina Day 7 – Blood, Sweat, and Tears

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