Not Really a Blog

June 29, 2012

Mekong Delta

Filed under: Cambodia, Mekong Delta, Travel, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , , — jesus @ 05:11

To finish up my stay in Vietnam I decided to take a Mekong Delta tour during three days ending in Cambodia. These tours are very common in Saigon where you go for three days (two nights) and then you come back to Saigon. Anywhere you walk in Saigon you’ll find a travel agency where they advertise them. I don’t know if there are different types of tours, but I would generally avoid them if you are thinking of going yourself. Mine was not very good, and on top of that I had a bad experience with the hotel, the Nga Hoang Hostel, I was staying at in Saigon. If I were to do it again, I would probably travel by myself and choose the places I wanted to go, sleep in the area and avoid the worthless visits to different places where all they want you to do is to buy some stuff. Which is fair enough, but it gets old very quickly and you don’t get to see that many nice things.

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Mekong Delta 2

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Anyway, the idea is not so bad though. You are supposed to go around the Mekong river south of Saigon and see all this area in all of its grandiosity. The river, the rice fields, the floating markets, etc. In the end, it feels more like you are in a theme park than anything else. It’s not so bad because you get to see some nice sights, but it feels like it’s not enough though. And, that you are taken to a theme park of Vietnamese stuff.

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Mekong Delta 49

Wanna see crocodiles eating ducks? how to make rice noodles? play with a big snake? being taken through one of the canals of the Mekong river? This is your place.

Siesta

Instead of returning back to Saigon, I booked a boat trip into Cambodia through the Mekong River, to get to Pnomh Penh, the capital of Cambodia. To me the most interesting thing on this trip was a visit to the floating market in Can Tho. You know, you are on a boat in the river and you go to this market made of tens of other boats where people are buying stuff and exchanging goods. And of course this has become a tourist attraction. Very funny, but interesting anyway.

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Floating market where you can buy coffee

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Mekong Delta 35
Fresh pineapple, ummm!!!

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Rice noodles

Fried rats with onions

Something on the menu, fancy it?

We were getting closer to the border and the weather was getting muggier and hotter, as we spent the last night in Chau Doc from where we were going to go, supposedly through the Mekong river, to Cambodia. And well, it turned out to be not the Mekong river proper, but a canal that goes along the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. Where we finally arrived, waited a couple of hours to get our passports sorted out and then finally we took off again on a different boat to get to Phnom Penh. Or that’s what I thought. In the end we went up the river for like 30 minutes where a bus was going to pick us up.

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Mekong Delta 13

Cambodia in the distance
Cambodia in the background

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Isn’t he cute?

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And isn’t she cute???

Now, this was my first encounter with Cambodia. Bus is a very loose term in Cambodia, it seems. Instead of what you could think, it was not actually a bus, but a van for around 12-14 people. There, they put us all, 20 people plus bags. You can’t imagine the scene? try hard, remember Twister? that’s basically what we did for 2 hours. It gets better. Driving at 100km/h and overtaking on blind spots while speaking on the phone.

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Untitled
The Canal

From Vietnam to Cambodia 8

Boat Driver
Boat driver

Welcome to Cambodia, this was certainly going to be an interesting country…

Bus or minivan (2 of 2)

The back of the van where we were squeezed in!!

More photos of the Mekong Delta and the trip to Cambodia.

June 6, 2012

Don’t stay at Nga Hoang Backpackers in Saigon

Filed under: Saigon, Travel, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , , — jesus @ 02:38

This post is more about balancing karma on the internet than any other thing. Well, also to provide some advise to people who are thinking of going to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.

While I was staying in Saigon last January  I stayed at a hostel named Nga Hoang because a friend I was meeting up with was staying at this place. I had a bad experience with this hotel and got really really annoyed, even more when I found out what they did a few weeks later. This is my way of paying back by not recommending people to go there. As I couldn’t go back to discuss the issue, I’m hoping this will make it to google and level the karma a bit. (See http://justinvincent.com/page/1874/yelp-you-cost-me-2000-by-suppressing-genuine-reviews-heres-how-you-fix-it for something background information about reviews on the internet)

The hotel is the Nga Hoang Hotel, or backpackers, whatever you want to call it. It’s got good reviews on hostelworld.com, but if you read carefully on the reviews, you’ll see that there are some people who are not having a nice experience there. I usually think there are a lot of whiners on the internet leaving bad reviews to places based on minimal stuff. And I don’t usually complain about minor things, unless I’m paying $100 a night. And so far this has been true on many hostels where I’ve stayed at. But when someone tries to rip me off blatantly and being a bad person, I feel really annoyed and I don’t let it slip.

My idea was to spend 3/4 days in Saigon before heading south to do a Mekong Delta tour so I booked one through this hotel.  I booked the Mekong Delta tour (three days, two nights) through this hotel because it had affordable prices and it’s always more convenient this way, less hassle. I booked it with two extras, going to Phnom Penh via the Mekong River on a slow boat (instead of returning to Saigon) , and a paying for a single room, otherwise I would be sharing with someone else. For the extra single room I had to pay $4 per day. So I did pay $8 extra for that.

I did pay her the money for the tour, the money for the extra trip to Cambodia and the money for the two nights in a single room and asked to have a receipt. She said that was not necessary. I insisted and got the same answer. (You can see where this is going). But hey, what am I going to do? Punch the owner of the hotel? Speaking of who, the owner (or well, the person who sits there all the time) is a woman of an interesting character. Interesting because she’s normally not nice and borderline rude sometimes. Maybe something to do with the culture. Anyway, I did not have any massive problems except asked to pay the money upfront for my room. Which by the way, despite having a booking, was not available. So the first night I had to sleep at a different hostel nearby, and then I went back to this hostel for the remaining 3 days.

During these days, I saw some huge arguments between her and some customers regarding breakfast, which was included in the price but she was not offering at all. I did not involve in those as I didn’t care much, but I did not have breakfast there, for the record.

On my last night there she reminded me of my upcoming tour:

Remember, tomorrow be ready at 07:30, three days, two nights accommodation, single room to Phnom Penh.

And so I was picked up the following morning at that time and I went on my tour.

Now, whilst going on this tour, on a boat, the guide came to me and said there was some kind of problem with my booking and he gave me a mobile phone and talk to someone. So I grab it, and here’s the owner of Nga Hoang Hotel who says:

You have to pay the extra single room to them.

Excuse me?

You have to pay $8 dollars to them to get the extra single room

Sorry, I paid that money to you <click>

I couldn’t believe it. She hung up on me. So I went to the guide and expressed in no unclear terms that this woman was a lier and that in no way I was going to pay the extra money as I already paid to her. Their problem, they go and sort it out, as they are the ones doing business with this woman.

End of story, I got my single room and I didn’t pay anything else.

I then left a bad (which is not that bad) review on hostelworld, warning about this woman. And I got a reply to that review (owners of establishments can reply to reviews. Now look at what they wrote there (You can find the reviews here, but they might disappear as people leave more and more reviews). I got a screen shot just in case it disappears:

Reply to my review of Nga Hoang

Reply to my review on Nga Hoang

So, read the reply, in perfect English (which she didn’t speak, just broken). I had a disagreement and I booked somewhere else, comments are meant for another hostel… Well played, but no, I stayed at your bloody hostel for 4 days you moron.

I really hope this makes to google so other people get a warning about this. I know that this hostel is recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide, so I will send them a message too.

And before you tell me that this might be excessive, think about how pissed off I was about this woman to write this long post.

Anyway, I’ve not had any other thing like that except one thing that happened in Thailand, but that was a Thai woman ripping off some other Thai people, but that’s another story for the future.

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