Nov 23-24, 2014
Exploring Ha Tien, the Eastern Tip of Mainland Vietnam
GPS waypoint: 10°22'52.0"N 104°29'15.6"E
Location: Ha Tien, Kien Giang Province, Vietnam
Meeting Up with the Crew
After leaving Sa Dec, we were received by the rest of the crew in Chau Doc. It was my first time to meet them - 4 old but very able guys on a motorbike. This would be our mode of transport as we take the open road all the way to the harbour town of Ha Tien - all 100 kms. Ha Tien is the gateway to Phu Quoc Island, our final destination.
Missing the Ferry
The road trip wasn't easy. We were on our motorbikes for 3 hours riding under the heat of the sun, trying to catch the last ferry to Phu Quoc. By the time we reached Ha Tien, we already missed the ferry - which meant we had to stay one night in Ha Tien. After canvassing a few lodging places, we settled on the cheapest we could find - 1 room big enough for all 8 of us, with mattresses side by side on the floor.
Exploring on Foot and Pedicab
With time on our hands, Tuyen (my Vietnamese traveling buddy) and I separated from the group to explore Ha Tien on foot and on a pedicab. The town has a charming riverside promenade lined up with eating tables. There are a good number of functional pagodas where people pursue their devotion (not designed for tourists). In one of them, we were enjoined by the nun to chant with her and contemplate on our intentions. I thought it was a good interactive gesture on her part, instead of just seeing us take pictures and leave. The pedicab driver was also considerate, giving us ample time to view the orphanages and pagodas he took us to. It was un-rushed allowing us to appreciate the moment.
Off to Phu Quoc
We were up early the following day to take the ferry to Phu Quoc Island!
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- Vietnamese smokers used to smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. But this habit seems to be changing now.
- Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
- internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
- Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
- only Vietnamese Dong is accepted as legal tender (change your dollars into Dong)
- best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
- remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
- ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
- best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
- leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
- when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
- carry only enough cash for your needs that day
- don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
- don't take pictures of military installations
- refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
Nov 23-24, 2014
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