The Efforts of Making an End

Dalat & Saigon, December 31st 2009
Who says that it takes no effort make an end?
When we wanted to make an end on our trip in Dalat, there were several things we had to deal with. When we finally arrived in Saigon, we saw that the people of Saigon were taking great effort to mark the end of year 2009. Follow on my story and I’ll tell you also how much effort we had taken to get to Saigon River, because we thought that there would be fireworks there.
I made the end of our vacation in Dalat at this reception desk. After several encounters with several Vietnamese, I always warned myself to carry my brain in my head. I must question everything I hear and everything I see. I told the receptionist that we were going to check out from Hagl Resort and she asked who would pay.

“What?? Pay??” I exclaimed.

Mistakenly I thought that my card was already charged the time we checked in. "Now, they want to make me pay double.”

The ladies at the front desk were actually sweet and patient. They patiently told me again and again that I had to pay, and I repeated
again and again that the rooms have been paid.

Meanwhile a driver from The Sinh Tourist entered the lobby. He was ready to bring us to The Sinh Tourist Office for a bus ride to Ho Chi Minh City. Making matters worse, while I was arguing with these sweet and patient ladies at the front desk, Wiwik came to me.

“Shun, you booked the bus tickets for 4, didn’t you?” she asked.

“Of course!” I exclaimed (again).

“He said,” she pointed at the driver, “there are only 2 seats reserved.”

“What?? I already had my tickets checked and confirmed yesterday at The Sinh Tourist Office. How come now you say there are only 2 seats for us??” I rumbled into my camera backpack to look for our tickets. When I got them and delivered them to the driver, he was on his mobile phone. He finished his talk without taking even a glance on my ticket and said, “You just take a taxi. I can’t wait.”

What?? Just now he “accused” me for booking tickets only for 2. But when I wanted to show him the proof, he refused to and told us to take a taxi instead.

“No, no! We are going with you!” I exclaimed and turned back to the sweet and patient ladies. I signed on the credit card receipt, dragged my suitcase to the car, and forgot to get an official hotel receipt from those sweet and patient ladies.

Actually that was the first time I booked a hotel through Asia Rooms. I didn’t know that my card won’t be charged until I check out from the hotel.

More than I hate waiting, I hate to keep people waiting for me. When the 4 of us stepped into the car, all the other tourists in the car sighed at us in perfect harmony. Hahhh…
The Sinh Tourist Office in Dalat.
Inside this bus we spent the whole day from morning till the end of day in 2009; from 8:00 to 17:30, from Dalat to HCMC.
Beyond my expectation, the road heading to Ho Chi Minh City was in perfect bad traffic. Based on schedule we ought to arrive in HCMC by 14:30, but at 16:15 we were still stuck here. Thus, my next itinerary which was Saigon Zoo became definitely impossible. I felt bad about that. I deliberately had put Saigon Zoo into the itinerary for Gabe’s sake as I myself have been there already and it seemed also that Michelle is not much into zoos.
This tourist… aha, I bet it’s his first time in Vietnam and hasn’t gotten out yet of the stage of shock culture. He protested our bus attendant for not being on schedule. As a matter of fact, we left Dalat at 8:30 whereas the timetable said “7:35”. Our bus attendant, a young man, just smiled at his complaint.
A funny thing it was when we stopped by at a restaurant to have lunch. This tourist asked  our young man whether he would stay in the bus to keep an eye over the belongings inside the bus. Clearly he was worried about his bag which seemed to contain a laptop and some important documents. Our young man again smiled and smiled while nodding frequently. “Yes, yes!” he said. Not long after this tourist got off the bus, the young man got off, too, leaving the bus empty.
During the way this tourist read and read. No wonder he has a Japanese wife. However, due to Vietnam Government’s regulation that on certain roads speed is limited, our bus drove like a snail. All his readings, including an article about the 40 top richest men in Indonesia, seemed to have come to an end. He turned to me. “Can I borrow your map?”
That’s my map, in case you care :P
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at 17:30. To my astonishment, HCMC was very crowded. The impression wasn’t at all like the first time I came. We took a taxi from The Sinh Tourist Office to our hotel, Palace Hotel Saigon, a 4 star hotel. I booked 2 rooms in October for 575.000 IDR/room/night. At that time the rate was already 1.700.000 IDR.

The hotel had been renovated. The room was not as big as the one I and Tia stayed in during my first trip to Vietnam, but the furniture were modern and brand new. I could still smell the paint.
We were amazed by the thousands of lights hanging all over Ho Chi Minh City. Not just on the streets, but also the shops were illuminated.

However, in this case, what attracted my attention most was the word “fahasa” on this bookstore which sounds like “bahasa”. What does “fahasa” mean?
I brought my little troop to Diamond Plaza for dinner at the food court. In Diamond Plaza it’s called “food land”. My purpose was so that Michelle could adventure in pizza and spring roll which she had learnt to be Vietnam’s 2 specialties. In Diamond Plaza’s food land she can go for “Fresco Italian Food” and or “Wrap and Roll” and or Japanese food. I myself headed straight for yoghurt and strawberry.
Notre Dame Cathedral at night.

The biggest reason for my coming back to Ho Chi Minh City was to make night shots of some buildings including this. Truly speaking I was disappointed because there were tooo.. many people and motorcycles that I barely could make a clean picture as I had already pictured in mind.
Although Vietnam is a communist country, Christmas decorations are everywhere all over the cities and streets. In this one you can see how they cover the entire side of the building with Chirstmas decoration.
Mung Giang Sinh = Merry Christmas?
Arcs of lights like this decorated some main streets.

Chuc Mung Nam Noi = Happy New Year?

There's little Gabe standing waiting by the corner. I did not realize that.
The central attraction of the whole celebration turned out to be right in front of our hotel, Palace Hotel Saigon. The whole Nguyen Hue Avenue was very, very, crowded.
Nguyen Hue Avenue and several streets surrounding it were closed for vehicles.
At first sight of the lights hanging over Ho Chi Minh City, I was speechless. If it were a cartoon, you could draw me with big eyes and half open mouth. Wow...

Wiwik and I joked. If Jakarta were illuminated like this during New Year's Eve, the whole rest of the city's electricity, including Tanggerang's and Bekasi's, would have to be shut down! :P
We scarcely spotted out people blowing paper trumpets. When we did, we said those people must be Indonesians :))

Vietnamese kids seemed to be more interested in plastic balloons like these instead of paper trumpets. I think that's a good thing considering on how loud the city is already.
Wiwik asked the front office staff at our hotel whether there would be fireworks and where it would take place. At Saigon River, we heard. So here we are heading to Saigon River.
At last... we got to Saigon River. It's actually not too far from Palace Hotel Saigon. But pushing ourselves through the crowd of people and the motorcycles was exhausting. Michelle had finished her one bottle of mineral water and bought another one. I forgot to bring my water bottle, but I thought that was okay for if I had to pee, I might not find a place in such a crowd.

Sadly, Saigon River was filled with scattered junks. It was not at all like the first time I came.
It was a shot like this which I had wanted to take but couldn't during my first trip due to the rain. It was end of September. It rained every night.
We did not see any sign of firework preparations. Being exhausted, we just sat by the street by Saigon River. Wiwik suddenly popped up with an idea of shooting the romantic couples around. So... this is a collection invented by Wiwik and shot by me.
After shooting romance here and there, we decided to start back to Palace Hotel Saigon. Once again, we made efforts pushing ourselves through motorcycles. I'm not exaggerating. There was almost no space for us to walk through. At a time we were flat on the side of the shop walls like cicaks (small lizards).
Happy New Year 2010!

I regret I did not shoot the big huge giant screen erected in front of our hotel. I was busy regretting I could not shoot the buildings I had intended to, due to the crowd. That was my biggest reason for returning to HCMC.

Hah... a lesson I learnt. Regret for what you don't have and forfeit what you have. That giant screen was right in front of my hotel and yet, I missed it.

Not long before we reached our hotel, I spotted this. How it looks out of place in such a modern illuminated hustling and bustling city.

I called it a day. Back to the hotel and into the brand new shower of Palace Hotel Saigon. End of 2009 it was.
The next morning I woke, amazingly, that giant screen was all cleared up. Some people were busy carrying the stuff equipments. I laughed at the sight of 2 hammocks tied in an open truck. In Indonesia, exhausted workers would just lie down on the truck. Apparently that was the end of 2009 for these workers. The end was inside a hammock. Oh, Vietnamese, you people... are so unique!!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Shuni
    I am finally back to blogging, though not back to deviantart yet. I hope I can find the time to do so.
    I just wanted to tell you that I absolutely love the night shots you took in Vietnam, the decoration looks beautiful.