Monday, January 23, 2012

Stranded in Saigon

Went out for a 'shit walk' in Saigon this morning, for about two hours. There's nothing wrong with my bowels, it's just the environs of Saigon are less that appealing at the moment. Dirt, stench, broken pavements, constant traffic noise. Beep beep and more beep.  I've learned to cross the roads like a native. Basically, don't look, just walk steadily across. If you look, you might panic and try to dodge. Not a good idea. Motorcycles, cars, buses tend to avoid the pedestrian. I say that yet sister, Reggie, got a nasty bump from a motorcycle when she was walking along the pavement a couple of years back.

Saigon is actually a fascinating place, as is the rest of Vietnam. That's why we're back for a fourth visit.  I'd highly recommend it, and could just about suggest a great travel itinerary for anyone who's interested.  The food is brilliant, and cheap.

This trip, however, has wiped any smug travel smart-arsed-ness right off my dial.  Have already said how bleak you feel when you've done something really dumb that was avoidable.  Well, it's gotten worse. 

I'm focusing,  in my mind's eye now, on a man on a skateboard this morning.  He was resting his pelvis, where his legs used to be, on the board.  He was propelling himself with a short piece of dowel with a handle on it.

Who am I to complain?  Always someone worse off.  And we're not in a tsunami or anything.

But we're dealing with our own little bit of shit due firstly, to 'our' carelessness - not mine; Al's. (Just sayin'.)  Secondly due to Tet.

After we'd reported the loss of our passports to the police in Hoi An, and obtained the required 'letter' we rang the Australian Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.  An English speaking woman there told me to get to HCMC ASAP because it takes 48 hours to get an emergency passport and exit visas.  We are due to fly out of Saigon on January 27.

We visited Sinh Tourist - best travel agents BTW, with offices in the major tourist places - and were told that we couldn't fly south, nor could we catch the train, due to having no passports.  We had to brave another 'sleeping bus'. (Only try that if you're young, flexy, thin and have a bladder that can endure. It's lots cheaper than flying though.)  We also found that the buses were pretty fully booked, due to Tet travel, so we had to wait for three days for seats.

Another 20 hours on buses. Awful.

We arrived in Saigon on Friday at six. Of course the Australian Embassy would be closed for the weekend. Stymied again, we tried to make the best of it; find our 'happy place' which usually involves a walk, a look-see round a local market with squirming live things in shallow bowls and copious amounts of alcohol. (It has a calming effect.)

What we weren't expecting was that the Australian Embassy would close for the entire duration of Tet.  It's possible that it may open tomorrow, but chances are it won't open until January 27, our departure date.

And what I personally wasn't expecting, was that the retina in my left eye, like its counterpart on the other side, 12 months ago, would partially detach from my eyeball this morning.  Didn't see that one coming.  At least I know what's happened and that I'm not having a stroke or a diabetic retinopathy bleed.  Didn't know that when it happened last time. Quite hair-raising in the list of scary stuff that can happen to you if you're getting on in years and you happen to be short-sighted.

Have to say that my resilience is amazing me. And there is a certain symmetry in matching scrawls on my eyeballs.

Fingers crossed that our luck will change and the Australian Embassy will be open tomorrow.  


  1. OMgosh!!! this sounds like the trip from hell, but you seem to be holding up nicely! thank goodness. here's hoping that the Embassy opens, and things work out for you. probably a good thing this isn't your first visit, or you may never return!

  2. Oh Lord! It's getting worse. No! I guess you just have to remember the guy on the skateboard, still it is all a bit much. HOpe the Embassy opens soon. Cannot believe you had to do another bus trip.
    Stella xx