1st Train: From Saigon to Nha Trang

From Saigon to Nha Trang, September 9th 2010

This is the beginning of our adventure. Or maybe, the adventure where I had dragged my poor friends into. LOL

After touring Saigon in the morning, have late breakfast (or early lunch, up to you) with Vietnamese broken rice, and then stopping by at Ben Thanh Market which was actually just the next block but had taken a taxi, we went back to our hotel. I couldn't find what Mom had asked me to buy for her. Hopefully, I'll get it this coming January 2011.

We took a taxi again from our hotel to Saigon Station. I thought our receptionist -- which was not as kind as the receptionist last year -- had told our taxi driver that we were going to Saigon Station. So I was surprised when our taxi driver asked in his broken English, "Where you go?"

"Saigon Station," I said.


"Saigon Station."


"Saigon Train Station. Train... train... " I moved my arm back and forth to picture a train.


"Ga Saigon."

"Aaaa... Okay, okay!"

Pfff... Luckily I used to look up in Google Maps and had taken pictures of train stations during my previous trip to Sapa. I just guessed that "ga" means "station" and luckily my guess was correct.

 Do you see that red line? That's our journey this time: From Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a. Saigon to Nha Trang. In the following days we would be traveling, up, up, up... to the North until we reach our ancestors' land, China.

Hmmm... since we still have 8 hours to go until we arrive in Nha Trang, let me tell you the story how I finally, eventually, got these train tickets. I need an ear.

It was in end of May when I started to browse for travel agencies that sells train tickets. I understand that it would be very, very much cheaper to purchase the tickets directly at Saigon Station. But I didn't want to risk not getting enough tickets for all the 8 of us. This is another thing about traveling with a big group. If you travel in a group of 8 and get 7 tickets, you stil won't be able to move on, because you won't leave someone behind, would you? And if we couldn't get on the train as planned, all the whole trip including the booked and paid hotels, will be in jeopardize. I certainly don't want that.

I found 2 travel agencies that offered the lowest price than all other agencies I found on the internet. They were "Asian Travel & Tours" and "The Sinh Tourist". I needed tickets for 3 routes which were: Saigon - Nha Trang, Nha Trang - Ha Noi, and Ha Noi - Lao Cai. "Asian Travel & Tours" offered the lowest price for Ha Noi - Lao Cai and "The Sinh Tourist" offered the lowest price for the other 2 routes.

Things went smooth with "Asian Travel & Tours". But "The Sinh Tourist" seemed to put me off all the time. I was told that tickets for September aren't sold yet. It was beginning of June when I was told so. The agent said that the tickets for September will be available by end of June or mid of July. When I contacted on mid of July, I was told that tickets for September are still not yet sold and probably by the beginning of August. This cycle when on again and again until 2 weeks before our departure date.

I started to panic. I didn't go to "Asian Travel & Tours" because their price was twice "The Sinh Tourist" had offered me. At last I got "Threeland Travel". Her price was slightly higher than "The Sinh Tourist", but what's the point if you can't get them anyway? I also started to get curious. Has Vietnam just established her Railway System that when tickets can be purchased are so unpredictable?? That's odd.

I accepted "Threeland Travel" offer. I only made sure again, and again, that we would get seats on the right row. We are traveling exactly at the brim of Vietnam, so the sea will be on our right side. That's what I'm coming for. Definitely. Pictures.

My travel agent from "Threeland Travel" said yes to my request of seats on the right side of the train. However, when I had already sent my letter of authorization to charge my card, she suddenly sent me a YM.

"Wait a minute. They said that they cannot provide you all seats on the right row. So it would be 2 seats on the right and 2 seats on the left."

What?? I felt cheated. She was so convincing before I sent the letter of authorization. And now that my money is already in her hands, she tells me a different thing. Pfff!

As if not enough, the tickets that were promised to be delivered to City Star Hotel on September 8 weren't there. I couldn't get my Vietnamese mobile phone number work to make a call. So I had to use my Indonesian phone number to require for the tickets and... it didn't take only one two calls. While my 6 friends were taking their 2nd midnite walk around Saigon, I was furious with these calls. As I'm using my Indonesian phone number to make calls and receive calls, I will be spending a lot for international calls! When I finally could get my Vietnamese mobile phone number working, I sent a text message telling not to call to my Indonesian number again because it causes me a lot of money even for receiving text messages. But still, messages were sent again and again to my Indonesian number.

To make this already long story short, I was told that the man who was supposed to deliver tickets got an accident and thus couldn't come to City Star Hotel. I wonder, what made it so complicated just to explain that thing from the start? Then, I was also asked for the hotel's address again. Damn! I stated that very clearly in my email already and had been confirmed that my explanation was understood.

When I was finally falling asleep, the phone next to my bed rang. It was one of my friends. It was like 1:00 AM.

"Shuni, where are our passports?"

"Didn't you notice that I delivered all our passports at the front desk just now because it was required?"

Instead of answering to my question, "Is it okay to leave them there?"

"Well, I use to do that when I travel," I said.

Next question. "Have you gone to bed already?

"Yes, actually."

"I'm sorry."

"That's alright."

A few days later I overheard some of my friends discussing how more expensive they are charged for the train tickets compared to the fare printed on the ticket itself. Later on I tried to explain that I had done my best to find the lowest possible cost. I explained again by email when we were back in Indonesia. I said, please trust me. However, no one ever said a thing.

Maybe... not sure, though, they thought there were other travel agencies in the internet that offered lower prices. Yes, just like "Asian Travel & Tours", their price on the internet for Saigon - Nha Trang tickets were very low. But when I wanted to book them, I was given a totally different price. Twice the one listed on the internet. I asked, why. The agent said that their website wasn't updated yet.

Did they think that I took profit from them for the tickets? On the contrary, if there weren't as many as 8 of us, maybe it would have been more simpler and I wouldn't have to spend so much on those international calls.

When you have done all your best and you get mistrust in return, that really hurts, you know.

Making matters worse, it turned out that all the windows on right side of the train had bars like this!!

I am rather used (I don't dare to say "skillful") to photographing birds inside a cage. It's a technique my co-worker taught me a few years ago. He said, stick your lens on the bars and the lines in you picture will fade away. True.

But that theory definitely won't work for capturing a scenery!

Anyway, the scenery from Saigon to Nha Trang wasn't as spectacular as the scenery from Nha Trang to Hanoi. You just wait and see. I'll make many of you jealous with my pics of the train views.

Thanks for lending me an ear. We still haven't arrive at Nha Trang yet.

We bought ourselves an extra meal when we were at Vietnamese Broken Rice Restaurant. But actually, as long as you aren't picky, you'll never starve in a Vietnamese train. Here comes steam corn or "jagung rebus".

 Well, maybe that steam corn just now was considered as appetizer. So here comes the main course. As I am a travel and photographer adventurer but not a food adventurer, just the sight of this cart made my stomach full. Hiyyy... It seems that there were all kinds of edible meats from chicken to pork on this cart.

Here we are now in Nha Trang!

Nha Trang is a city by the side of the sea. Oh, I always have love the sea! Although Indonesia, to me, has the best seashores, I adore any seashore. This is my sneak peek of Nha Trang for you.

... and the real thing.

Nha Trang is a city popular for its night life. No wonder lights flicker everywhere and light the sea surface.

Do you wonder how it would look like under daylight? Stay tuned!!

No comments:

Post a Comment