John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Tuesday 21 February 2017

[Monday 20 February 2017]

Mekong Cruise, Vietnam–Saigon, Vietnam
RV La Marguerite, Vietnam
Golden Central Hotel, 140 Ly Tu Trong, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, Saigon
[i] Contact number: 0084 838 270 666

The Daily Cruiser

Janet wrote: “I had very little sleep as I was so worried about whether or not [John] would be fit to travel. Again, I prayed fervently. We were both up and down in the night. It was never-ending. I wondered if the dawn would ever come. I tried hard, but couldn’t sleep for long. I felt so ill when the alarm went off at 5.30am. Still dark. I washed and dressed.” At last! With care I was passing wind, not liquid, as I lay in bed. I shaved and showered. Janet finished the packing, and I helped to strap up the case, before we put both of them outside the cabin door. Transferred 15 photos from the evening of 19 February 2017 from the camera to the WD Elements HDD (06:26–06:27); looked through them using Windows Photo Viewer but none needed to be rotated. We went for breakfast just after 7am. Dary asked me how I was. After that, it was Janet’s turn to have a bout of diarrhoea! She took two Loperamide Hydrochloride capsules, and because there was no further word about it, I assume that they were effective. (They had made no difference at all to me yesterday.) At 7.45am we handed our cabin keys in at reception, then went to wait in the Saigon Lounge, where we joined P and Y. We went ashore just after 8am, and boarded one of the coaches for the 45–50 mile journey to the Grand Hotel Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City. “It was seriously hot out there,” Janet wrote. “We’d been told we’d have a stop, but we bloody well didn’t and I was right pissed because I was also suffering from travel sickness[ii] despite taking two ‘Sturgeon’[iii] This is never-ending! However, I managed and we made good time and were at the Grand Hotel just before 10am.” The four of us were met by Tien, our Mercury guide; we claimed our luggage, which had been brought from the coach, along with others’; and went out, to board a minibus. We were taken to the Golden Central Hotel, a journey of some ten minutes. There, bowing, uniformed employees hurried to take our cases, open the doors, etc. We checked in at the desk at the far end of the lobby… Both parties also booked late check-out on the final day; for check-out was normally 12 noon at the latest, but we wouldn’t be picked up to go to the airport till 5pm. We wouldn’t be able to keep the same room, we’d be assigned other rooms; but we thought, “That’s OK: at least we’ll have somewhere to leave our luggage and valuables,[iv] and have our own bathroom.” We discussed dinner with Tien, both P and Y and ourselves preferring to eat early, and agreed a pickup time of 6pm.

[ii] Also suffering from travel sickness — i.e. as well as diarhhoea
[iii] Sturgeon: Janet’s fanciful name for “Stugeron”-brand travel-sickness tablets
[iv] Somewhere to leave our… valuables — so we thought! There was no safe in the tiny, windowless cell we paid $40 for.

We went up in the lift to the ninth floor; it was the “ninth floor” as in British parlance, and French too for that matter, as opposed to North American. In colonial times French would have been the official language in Vietnam, as in Cambodia; but today English has supplanted it, e.g. in bilingual signs in Cambodia. So our room was on the American tenth floor, the first floor being the “ground floor” (or “rez-de-chaussée”, it would have been in colonial times), the second floor being the “first floor”, etc. Janet and I were in Room 908, and Y and P’s was not far away on the same floor.

In the room, I set up the computer and logged on to the Wi-Fi; checked e-mail accounts (10:56), and more or less randomly looked at posts in my “John Edward Cooper’s Notes” blog (10:59–11:26). Janet unpacked, my rôle being restricted to unlocking the rainbow-coloured straps around the cases; we use these more for identification at airport baggage-claim carousels than for security. We headed out, ca.12.15pm. It was very hot outside the air-conditioned hotel. We turned left at the foot of the hotel steps (Lý Tự Trọng Street), and right at the first junction (Thủ Khoa Huân Street). There were traffic lights and pedestrian crossings there, so we didn’t so much have to brave moving cars and multitudes of mopeds while crossing over. Just along Thủ Khoa Huân was the “Street Food Market”. It reminded me a bit of Freeman Street Market in Grimsby, except that each stall sold food or drink. We were opposite there, when we were approached by a young man cleaning shoes, so I agreed to have mine shined for $2. I couldn’t get the flip-flops that he provided on, so stood in my stockinged feet as he worked. He noticed that one of the heels was worn through and demonstrated the patch he could apply, but I declined. We did brave the traffic to cross to the market then. We bought a soda water with lime slices for Janet and a bottle of Bia Saigon for me for a dollar each from one of the first stalls we came to, and took them to one of the wooden tables with long benches between the market building and the street. Then I went in search of something to eat. I ordered chicken with noodles for $4 at one of the stalls, and the woman gave me an identifying flag or marker to take back to the table, where she would bring the food. It was after Janet had drunk her drink, that the thought came to me: perhaps the ice with which the glass was filled might not have been made with water that we would consider potable. Anyway, she didn’t suffer any ill effects; she decided not to have ice there in future, though.

Tuesday 21 February 2017 — 12:31:24
Street Food Market, 26–30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam

Tuesday 21 February 2017 — 12:50:30
View across the road from the Street Food Market

Tuesday 21 February 2017 — 12:52:34
Street Food Market, 26–30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam

Janet didn’t have anything to eat there; she’d decided to get some bread and bananas. We were back on Lý Tự Trọng, on the way to the hotel to ask the location of the nearest supermarket, when we came across a small convenience store-cum-café a few doors away from it. So Janet chose a soft baguette for ₫5,000 and a large Dole-brand banana for ₫8,000 (about $0.57 or £0.45 in all). But they wouldn’t accept US dollars, and I only had ₫11,000; so I left Janet there while I went back to the hotel reception to get change for a $20 note.

Back up in the hotel room, I lay on the bed and fell asleep. Later, I started up the computer… Janet by this time had lain on the bed, but got up ca.5pm and showered and changed clothes.… Ca.6pm we went down to the lobby and met P and Y, and Tien, then boarded the minibus. “It was dark,”[v] Janet recalls, adding that there was “lots and lots of traffic, especially ‘motorbikes’. Absolutely buzzing! We were taken to a ‘proper’ Vietnamese restaurant down an alley. As it was early, we were the first, but when we left at ca.7pm[vi] it was pretty full. [John] and I used chopsticks.[vii] I was hungry; [John’s] appetite was still a bit ‘off’, but he did pretty well. It was good food. Plenty of it. I love ‘eating like the locals’. It’s such good fun, and I always like trying new foods (well, nearly always!). We were back in our hotel around 7.30pm and in bed just after 8pm.… It had been a long day.”

[v] This may be an overall impression, of while we were at the restaurant and of the journey back, for sunset was at 6.02pm.
[vi] Perhaps a conservative estimate, because there were several courses, and we hadn’t set out to go there till ca.6pm.
[vii] We used chopsticks on every such occasion.

[Wednesday 22 February 2017]

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