mercoledì 11 giugno 2014

Vietnam Part II: The Mekong Delta and La CONCHINCHINE

Louise and I spent 1.5 days in Saigon. The first thing I had to do, was to learn how to cross the street. To say that crossing the streets is an adventure where you fear for your life - is an understatement. Louise, bless her, was a pro. She would hold my hand, tell me to keep a slow and balanced pace (no sudden changes in speed) and take me to the other side safely. Flocks of mopeds and bicycles attack you from every side. Even if the pedestrian light is green, it is not safe. To Louise's dismay, after a few hours, call me impatient, I developed a new approach called the "shield approach". I would wait for a local to cross the street, stand behind him and shadow his movement. They clearly knew what they were doing and they were faster than Louise who insisted on the "let's taking it slow Kamilah" approach. As I said, impatient.
While in Saigon we took the Tunnels' tour, which was a very interesting experience. The Vietnamese people are small and defenseless- looking. However, when it comes to designing deadly weapons, they are not so defenseless any more. Jeez!

Throughout the tour we were  entertained by a bunch of Ukrainians who believed it was a photo shoot set. They took pictures literally everywhere and in every pose. I had to retract from the tunnel walk because they established a set under ground and I could not breath! Louise was brave and finished the walk (or crawl) not without having to shout MOVE! a few times. The annoying Ukrainians were balanced out by the encounter with Matteo, a very cool 24 year old Italian travelling solo across South East Asia. He joined us for dinner with our local friends and we danced (or drank) the night away ....

On DAY 2, our bus picked us from Matteo's house (the other Matteo) to take us to the Mekong Delta. 2.5 hours and a food pit stop later (which included the  most amazing "Banh mi" ever, filled with the meat of an unidentified animal hanging from a food cart. Man, if I did not get sick there, I will not get sick "anywhere!!") we arrived at Can Tho. We board a tiny boat and we have an amazing tour of the CaiRang Floating Market. One of the most bustling floating markets in Mekong. Our guide asks us whether we would like a twin or double cabin and we opt of the former. To which he replies: "Well, we thought you were a couple so we have only a double cabin" [WTF, was it a lesbian test?!]
The boat then proceeds to transfer us to la Cochinchine, an amazing wooden boat with a surprise. It is all ours!! As it is low season, we were the only passengers, pampered and taken care of by an all male 6 member cabin crew. We were spoiled, very spoiled.

We spent the two days on the cruise, eating, laying on a sun bed, cycling across rice fields (followed by a foot massage), eating again, drinking , sleeping .... surrounded by a magnificent nature that was simply breathtaking. The difference between the Mekong and Saigon is striking. One is a bustling city, with so many people that look like non-stop working ants. The other is a green paradise, filled with exotic fruit trees and people on hammocks...
After two days and two nights on the boat with the boys immersed in nature and treated like queens, we were a bit sad to leave....we said goodbye, jumped on our bus and were ready to continue our adventure... (to be continued)

Snake WIne

giovedì 5 giugno 2014

Vietnam P I: Abu Dhabi - Saigon

What a MAGNIFICENT holiday my Vietnam trip was. I could not have wished for a better way to spend 9 days with Louise, some old friends and new ones.

My Etihad chauffeur arrived on time (yes, one of the many perks of travelling business) at 6.15. At the airport I was greeted by Etihad Staff who made my check-in as quick and smooth as possible. 10 minutes later I was having a sumptuous breakfast in the Etihad Lounge. I was so excited to meet Louise that I was smiling to the walls…

In no time it was time to board. I was escorted to my seat and greeted by many smiley Etihad attendants who rushed to take my food order for the flight, not before offering me a glass of Champagne. My business class inexperience transpired as soon as I asked when food would be served. The very professional attendant smiled and replied: “Whenever you like”. I knew I was bound to have the most relaxing and enjoyable flight ever. I could not stop giggling throughout the flight: I was going on holiday with Louise – in Vietnam (let alone the silly pampering on flight): How bloody lucky I am!!

Several glasses of Champagne later, a state-of-the-art dining experience (for god’s sake I had a steak!), a movie and a nap later I arrived at my destination: Saigon (today’s Ho Chi Minh).
My partner in crime was delayed, so I find my way to Matteo’s house (a friend from Genoa/Arenzano who migrated to Vietnam a little over 3 years ago). My timing was off, as he happened to be in Bangkok with his better half for the week-end (bad timing though given the curfew).Matteo and his lovely friends deserve the medal of best hosts of the year. ZE BEST!

Matteo took care of everything: booked our tours, sent me details of how to get to his house, including expected cost of cab. Left me cash, adapters, mosquito repellents, guides, directions for where to eat, drink and party, a basket of fruit, milk in the fridge and his entire house! If it was not for the better sense of Hoang (his adorable neighbour) I would have found flowers too. Thankfully, H. thought that was a bit too much and decided to skip that gallantry (that would have been so much pressure). He was also kind enough to come and check on me soon after I arrived and I felt at home in no time!

A quick shower and I was off to meet Diego, another of Matte’s friends who is from Genoa (yes, we are indeed gente di mare- sea travelers!). Had my first Vietnamese beer, soup, and a nice chat before I go home to meet and greet my bella.

After catching up with Louise on the last 1.5 month in which we hadn't seen each other (although thanks to Whatsapp it was more about the last two week's events) we fell asleep excited for the days ahead!
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