Into Vietnam

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Entering Vietnam overland from Cambodia is fairly easy with the new visa-waiver program for Scandinavians, which automatically grants you a 2 weeks stay. But Vietnam is a far stretched country from south to north, and I regret only having 2 weeks to spend in Vietnam.

Usually I choose the cheapest bus there is, but from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), I opted for the 14 dollar bus instead of the 11 dollar bus. Simply because there would be no transfer to another bus at the border, and also because the bus-staff would do much of the hands-on immigration work (yes, I really hate border-crossings).

The visa-free travel to Vietnam is a nice benefit, but at the time of writing (2009), it only applies for Scandinavians. Without visa, however, you can only stay for 2 weeks, and not the usual 1 month. The rules also require you to have a return/onward ticket out of Vietnam (flight), but that was not enforced when I crossed the border.

It took about 6 hours to reach Saigon. I was shocked to see all the closed shops in the city center, and first then I realized what a big event the Tet-festival (Chinese Lunar New Year) is in Vietnam. Luckily I did not have any problems finding a hotel room, because accomodation seems to be so plentiful anyway in this city.

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A visit to Saigon during Tet is a very colorful experience, because of all the flowers and decorations in the streets. I visited the main sights, before I had to leave this city so abruptly after only 2 nights. But I was in a hurry to get north-bound. I also had to skip the beach in Nha Trang because of the tight schedule, thus the next interesting place was Hoi An, as far as 18 hours on a night-train from Saigon.

All the hype of Hoi An is well deserved. It's such a nice and laidback town. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Hoi An was the international trading centre in Southern Vietnam. Foreign merchant ships came to Hoi An in great numbers for annual fairs. Right in this town, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch and Indian traders set up their emporiums or established their own quarters for permanent habitation. That's why this town is such a architectural pearl. I also met a nice Norwegian couple from Asker/Oslo here, and thus I could practise my norwegian language for the first time in ages.

I will only stay 2 nights in Hoi An, because already tomorrow I'm moving further north; 4-5 hours on a bus to Hue and another historical site in Vietnam.

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Posted by gfg on Friday, January 30, 2009. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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