The Travels Begin

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ben Tre, Vietnam

We set off to Eastwood station yesterday morning (as track work from Epping), allowing plenty of time and putting our pack carrying skills to the test. We all managed it easily, with Jonno streaking ahead, thus ensuring we could carry our packs anywhere if required.

We thought that arriving two and a half hours ahead of our flight departure time would leave us plenty of time to check in as Vietnam airlines doesn't allow online check in. However, the queue was massive and we were at the very end of it. By the time we got to the check in counter, there were no groups of four seats together which meant that whilst Jonno and Georgia could sit together, Simon and I were further down the plane and in aisle seats in different rows. We left around 45 minutes late, and the flight was fine. We all enjoyed our two meals and the kids had extra instant noodles. Having them sitting separately was a good reason to walk down the plane and see how they were getting on. Georgia made friends with the little boy sitting next to her as he kept asking her questions. The range of movies was not the latest, and no current blockbusters on offer, but enough to keep us all entertained.

As we were sitting separately, we waited for each other at the bottom of the stairs once the flight landed, and as a result were on the last bus to the terminal. By the time we got to the landing visa counter, we were yet again at the back of a long and very slow moving queue. We had emailed the hotel to let them know that the flight was delayed, but then hoped that the driver would wait for us as we moved our way very slowly to the counter to lodge our paperwork for the visas. The immigration counters were empty as we waited, but then they announced the arrival of five planes which would all be releasing hundreds of passengers to pass through immigration, and still we waited....

The kids were amazed at the volume of motor bikes and their assorted cargo as we slowly made our way through Saigon. There appeared to be no road rules as motorbikes sailed through intersections sounding their horns to let others know they were coming.

We arrived at the Oasis Hotel in Ben Tre around 9.00pm local time, not needing to stop for dinner as we had eaten so well on the plane. We showered and then slept well.

Breakfast was omelettes all round, which were delicious, and then we hired bikes from the hotel and set off to explore.

The roads were fairly quiet, mainly motor bikes, and lots of children called hello to us as we cycled past. We caught our first glimpse of the Mekong River.

We then headed on to a small village and wandered through the local market. We decided to give the frogs a miss, and settled for mandarins instead.

We then cycled back to Ben Tre and had a look at their markets as well, then found the most amazing pho cafe for lunch.

We had beef pho (Vietnamese noodle soup, which appeared to be all that was on offer), cooked on a wood fired stove. The cafe was busy with local people so we knew it would be a good choice!

We returned to the hotel for a swim and then headed off to visit a recommended ice cream cafe about 10 minutes walk, passed a temple where a group white robed people were playing music and praying. Unfortunately, the ice cream shop was closed - and doesn't open again until the day we leave. However, we did pass a lovely looking garden restaurant where we will be returning for dinner shortly

Tomorrow we have booked a morning river tour - looking forward to it