Duden Waterfall, Antalya, Turkiye.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Antalya, Turkiye.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Paris, France on May 1st.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Good morning, Vietnam! Country number 69 for us!

But before we talk about our entry into Vietnam, we have to back up a day or two. 

On Thursday, we were waiting for our Vietnam eVisas to be processed. I checked around 11:00am, and mine was still listed as "in processing". I had sent the applications in on February 3rd, but that was a Saturday and it said that processing time was three business days. So that meant that they should have been processed by the end of the day Wednesday February 7th. 

And the immigration offices were closed between February 8-14, which is why we went to Kampot in the first place. 

So when I checked on the 15th to find it was still listed as "in processing" I was a bit frustrated. I sent an email to their customer service to ask what the problem was, not figuring that would do any good.

I had sent the applications in one immediately after the other, and had used Ruth's email address for hers. But I had not yet checked to see whether or not hers had been approved. I just assumed that since mine was "in processing", hers would be too.

But just for fun... I checked hers. And to my surprise, it said "visa approved" with a date of February 7th!

Then a few minutes later I went back to check my application, and was totally shocked to find that it had been changed to "visa approved" as well, also with a date of February 7th!

So whether or not my email to them made any difference, we'll never know because they never got back to me. Or, it was just a coincidence. But either way, strange that the dates read February 7th, when I know for sure that mine was still listed as "in processing" when I checked it a few times well after that date. 

We went for a walk around the area in the countryside near where we were staying.

Local football pitch for the kids.

This is the first time we've seen corn growing here.
Surprised we haven't seen more since this patch seems to be doing really well.

Scenery along the way.

Yes, you can live in rural Cambodia quite cheaply.

Back in the pool again.
We both went for a swim all five days in a row!

So, with visas approved, we were now able to plan our way to Vietnam. Because our visas only allowed entry at a specified port, we had no choice but to make our way back to Phnom Penh and transfer to a different bus there. Hoping to do the long journey all in one day to avoid having to stay in Phnom Penh overnight, I booked us on the 7:30am minibus for the first leg Friday morning.

That part happened without issue, and we arrived in Phnom Penh at about 10:30am. Buses depart regularly from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), so I hadn't booked anything in advance. But prices vary from $22 to $35 USD, and we wanted the cheapest option, which showed a departure at 11:30am.

We hopped in a tuk tuk, and arrived at the departure point with lots of time to spare.

And surprisingly, the price was lower than I had researched, at $20 USD ($27 CAD) each for the 6 to 7 hour trip.

Yesterday's bus route, 382 kms (237 miles) total.

Our bus. Danh Danh Express Bus.
Cheapest bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.

Ours was a sleeper bus.

Which sounds great, right? And it is fairly comfortable for most people.... but not for someone six feet tall with long legs! I had a tough time getting comfortable.

Ruth, having a snack.
She was a couple of seats behind me in the middle row.

She took a shot of me as well.

The only photo I took from the bus was as we approached the Vietnam border.

It's always a circus crossing a border. You never know what to expect.

The guy on the bus collected everyone's passports and disappeared. Came back half an hour later and handed them back to everyone. Then we were told to get off the bus, where an official looking guy in uniform collected all the passports again as we got off the bus!

We walked into no man's land where the bus came back to us, but only so we could get our luggage off.

Then we walked into the Vietnam side where we waited for another half hour or so while the immigration guy stamped all of our passports. Then they were handed back to us then we could exit, taking our luggage through the scanner. The guy sitting at the monitor never even looked at the screen. He was too busy looking at his phone!

Back on the bus, I checked the stamp in our passport. The exit date says March 7th!

When you get the eVisa, it says on it (in our case) "Approved for entry between February 7th and March 7th". But the actual approval is for thirty days after the date you enter. Whoever stamped our passport, took that to mean that the thirty days started the day the eVisa was approved, which is not the case.

We thought about going back in to try to fix it, but it would have been a headache and we didn't want to delay everyone else on the bus. As it is, that gives us almost three weeks in Vietnam, so we'll get into Laos a little earlier than expected. And that's fine because it then gives us more time in Laos. 

Arrived in the big city (metro population 10 million) of Ho Chi Minh City. Previously known as Saigon, and many people still call it that. First impressions, we can tell that it's a lot better than Phnom Penh!

Vietnam is supposed to be the cheapest of the four SE Asia countries, and there are lots of accommodation options well under the $20 USD a night mark. But I found that in order to find something half way decent, you have to spend slightly more than that. We found a nice place for 540,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) ($22 USD, $30 CAD) a night.

Not bad!

The facilities.

As always, the first thing we need to do in a new country is to get some local cash. And the second thing is to get a local SIM card. But it was already almost 8pm and we hadn't had much to eat all day. We were starving.

I found us a TP Bank (doesn't charge any ATM fees) and took out 5 million dong. Then I noticed that we were only a half a km from the cell provider I wanted to use, so we went over there but they had closed at 8:00pm.

We went and found some Vietnamese Pho...

68,000 dong ($2.80 USD, $3.75 CAD) for a medium size bowl.

So, while we think Ho Chi Minh City looks like it might be worth a longer visit, we are only planning the two nights here. It's simply too hot for me. Calling for 36C (97F) today! So we are going to see the highlights today, then take another bus tomorrow to Da Lat where it is quite a bit more comfortable.

So... country number 69! I've updated our countries visited list accordingly!

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Get ready for next month's Solar Eclipse Glasses.

And in Canada...

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