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The Overnight Bus

Heading Back to Cambodia. December 1 - 2, 2015.

sunny 34 °C

Day Five in Ho Chi Minh City.

There are just a few more places to visit before heading back to the dreaded NIGHT BUS... Yup! I will be travelling back to Cambodia by overnight bus, in spite of the warnings.

Vinh Hanh Market

The markets here are just as interesting and diverse as the ones in Cambodia. This is Vinh Hanh Market in the heart of the city.
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This market takes up a city block. On every side there are entrances and venders selling or displaying their wares.
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Rose apples, pears and watermelons - all with a smile.
Mushrooms- quite a selection. 11market7.jpg

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Dried squid- You can have them roasted over coals and served with sauce.
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A great selection inside. All this is wonderfully fresh, though no refrigeration.

Oranges by the bushel.11market5.jpg

The Notre Dame Cathedral, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Continuing our walk through the streets, we camet to this 150 year old cathedral. It has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters (190 feet, which is 30 feet higher than our Basilica of St. John the Baptist in St. John's). In 1959 a statue of Our Lady of Peace was made with granite in Rome. Following the ceremony to install the statue, the cathedral was then-on called Notre-Dame Cathedral.

French missionaries began to arrive in this part of the world in numbers during the mid-1660s. Following the French conquest of Cochinchina and Saigon, the Roman Catholic Church established a community and religious services for French colonialists. The first church was built on today's Ngo Duc Ke Street. There had been a Vietnamese pagoda, which had been abandoned during the war. A French bishop, Lefevre, decided to make this pagoda the site of the new church. The first stone for construction of the church was laid on 28 March 1863. The construction was completed two years later and was called "Saigon Church".

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View of the street from the vestibule. .
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The central nave, flanked by lower side aisles.

Architecturally, this design confers the title of basilica to this building.
All building materials were imported from France. The outside wall of the cathedral was built with bricks from Marseille. Although the contractor did not use coated concrete, these bricks have retained their bright red color until today. During October 2005, the statue was reported to have shed tears, attracting thousands of people and forcing authorities to stop traffic around the Cathedral. However, the top clergy of the Catholic Church in Vietnam couldn't confirm that the Virgin Mary statue in front of a cathedral had shed tears.

Egg-shell artwork by the disabled

We continued walking through the city, and visited a government owned artesan's craft workshop.
There are a number of workshops meant to help disabled people, many through effects of the chemical defoliants used during the Vietnam War and persisting in the environment . This craft shop presents paintings done using eggshells and mother of pearl that has been cut into small shapes. The technique is slow and delicate, and produces lovely results.

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This man works outside, as the lacquer smells quite strong. He is also using inlaid wood and mother of pearl.

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Eggshells are ground and applied.

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The eggshells glimmer like water in this scene.

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The results are unique and beautiful.

The afternoon was getting on, and so my travels with Vietnam Unique Tours came to an end. The 'lunch included' part of the group was brought to a fine restaurant, where we chatted together and enjoyed eating local fare. We were then brought back to our hotels, or in my case, I was brought back to the office where I had made arrangements to travel by bus back to Cambodia.

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This hotel has a small shrine to the ancestors - A common site in Vietnamese establishments.

The Overnight Bus to Phnom Pehn and on to Siem Reap.

As the evening approached, I returned with my backpack to my travel agent, Birch. She had been concerned with me travelling alone back to Siem Reap, Cambodia. It turns out that I remind her of her mother, and she was overly cautious and oh so very wonderful and affectionate towards me. She had helped me choose my route, and since I would be crossing the border into Cambodia, she began contacting colleagues in xxxxxxx town, who would assist me in the immigration process. Birch invited me to go and have supper with her, but I hated to take more of her time, so I politely refused. She then insisted in helping me cross the busy street, so that I could enjoy an hour in the park opposite her travel agency before my bus arrived.

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This is Birch, who owns the small travel agency in the city centre.
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Signs in the travel agency boast bus travel for as little as U.S.$10 to go from Saigon to Phnom Penh. The most expensive route, from Saigon to Hanoi at the other end of the country, costs just $42.

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Birch wrote out instructions to the bus driver, so that I would be brought to her colleagues office on the Vietnam side of the border.
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She also had bought me supper to take with me on the bus.
Birch, and the way she behaved is my fondest memory of Vietnam. We sat and spoke for the next hour until the cab arrived to take me to the bus.

I stepped aboard the overnight bus,
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.....and found fairly comfortable "chair beds" which reminded me of a bobsled.
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These beds are 3 abreast, divided by aisles, plus top bunks overhead. 40 or so to a bus.

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Soon, the bus filled with local people and their belongings. There was much laughter and loud chatting on cell phones. Apparently, the driver and the passengers spoke no English. Having read many warnings about night buses, I stuffed my meagre belongings into the foot of my bed and settled in for the night. The bus left, and having no idea where or when it would next stop, I simply slept for the next 8 hours.

Some time the next morning, we pulled up to a rural bus depot close to the border. Everyone piled out and luggage was unloaded from the belly of the bus. The driver had forgotten me, and I could not get his attention. A local driver on a scooter agreed to take me to wherever it was that my note indicated. I arrived at 'my contact'. The scooter man wanted too much money, but my contact shooed him away with the appropriate $1.50 for the short trip. Birch's colleague was charming. He drove me to the border - about 20 minutes - where a Cambodian man was waiting, his vehicle parked on the other side of the border. He escorted me through immigration, and then drove with me to the bus depot on the Cambodian side. I thanked him for his help and prepared to board another bus which was heading to Phnom Penh, and then on to Siem Reap.

I didn't understand what route was taken, but I spent most of the day busing along paved and dirt roads, with short bathroom and meal stops in between. Perhaps I was tired of bus travel, but the day was spent napping and reading. We finally pulled into Siem Reap as it was getting dark. The bus depot was right on the outskirts of town, and there was no throng of tuc-tuc drivers competing for a fare. Just one lone driver, and he planned to make a good dollar at my expense! The only other passenger without wheels was a Chinese student with a back-pack. When told the price of the ride, Lee (so I will call him) threw up his hands in protest. We bargained to little avail until I said that I would phone for a ride from my hotel, and started dialing. He quickly acquiesced, and Lee and I agreed to split the fare. night.jpeg
I was smiling as I arrived at S. R Riverside Hotel. I have no phone package, and use my phone only as a camera.

When I got to my hotel room and later checked my email, there was a message from Birch.
Haotuan'iphone 12/4/15
Hello My step mom!!! Hihi. It is so cool as i help you... Im thinking of Visa for Canadian... If so long i dont meet you and i miss you deep much then i will think of plane to Canada to visit you... Sure my mother have 8 childrent but im youngest childrent and much emotion and love... Im different from other lady when i see anybody i also feel fall to love... Especial you who i always wish to take care for you whenever im in Canada. Last days im so busy with my job but i still feel worry for you... Although i arranged everything for you and i asked my Collegue... Now i really thanking for your kindness. How long i can meet you again...,,,my mom??? Take care! Im looking to hear from you! Hug and kiss you!!! Lovely
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I will visit ACODO Orphanage in my last days here in Cambodia...........Be sure to click on "next" for the next entry of this travel blog : )

>>> Entries are made to travel blogs over a number of days or weeks. Using the same link I sent you, you will find additional entries if you revisit this site in another few days or weeks....until I have finished writing about my travels in Cambodia/Vietnam. <<<<<

Posted by Sue McNicholas 12:16 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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