We were told to be ready at the guesthouse lounge as early as 7.15 am. Knowing that on the previous day for the Cu Chi tour, the guy from the tour agency came to pick us up at 8.00 am despite us being told to be ready by 8.20 am, we figured we should be ready by 7 am. Subuh was as early as 5.10 am anyway, so there wasn’t really a problem getting up early. And knowing pretty well we probably wouldn’t be able to get halal food for lunch during the 1 day tour, we had samosas for breakfast. We had bought them the night before at Taj Mahal Restaurant.
The samosas tasted good, despite it being left overnight in the fridge. It would have tasted better had it been eaten fresh, but we simply couldn’t wait for the restaurant to open at 10.30 am.
We were down before 7 am… Mrs Anh was just about to open the front gate. As expected, the guy from the tour agency came early. We followed him to the meeting place, ie in front of their office nearby. We were to go to Mekong city by bus before we’d be taken to the various islands for our visits.
Joining us for the tour were mainly mat sallehs… from UK, Australia, Germany and Colombia, and a few Japanese. The bus took about 1 1/2 hours to reach the pier at Mekong city, located about 75 km away.
The first boat ride took us to a village where they reared bees. We were shown the bees at close range and we were even served honey tea for free.
At the very same place we were also showed the cobra wine… where real cobras were preserved. Eeeks!
From there, the guy lead us to another part of the village. This time we were taken to a place where we were to get onto a rowing boat, with 4 passengers in a boat. Joining my sister, my niece and myself was a Japanese woman married to a Turkish guy.
The guy rowing our boat asked, “Malai?” "Yes,” I said. And immediately he wished me, “Selamat Hari!” (I guess that about covered everything… no matter what time of the day it was!)
We were taken to a bigger motor boat at Mekong River, and after a while we were transferred to a smaller motorboat (10 in a boat) right in the middle of the river, to get to the next destination.
This time we were brought to the place where they make coconut candies.
At the very same place, they even had a python…
Then off we went on the same boat to the next destination, this time for lunch.
As we had expected, they didn’t have halal food at the restaurant, so the 3 of us just bought canned drinks and ate some biscuits which I had brought along in my backpack. The guide told us there was a place to rest at the back, so we took the opportunity to take turns to do our prayers there while the rest of the gang were having lunch.
After lunch, our group separated. Those taking the bus back to Saigon went on a different boat, those doing the overnight Mekong tours took a different boat, while those like us who opted to go back to Saigon by boat, went on the speedboat.
We were then brought to a fruit garden where we were given some tropical fruits like bananas, dragon fruit, jackfruit and ciku. At least something to cover for lunch. We were entertained by the locals with Vietnamese songs which we didn’t understand sepatah haram…
After that, we went back to the speedboat which was to take us back to Saigon in about 2 1/2 hours while enjoying the sceneries by the riverside.
I must admit I dozed off during part of the journey (as did the other tourists in the boat) as all of us were rather tired by then. We reached the pier at Saigon at 6 pm, enjoying the sunset on the way. From the pier we were taken back to the tour agency office by bus. Saw a group of “Rombongan Cik Kiah” from Malaysia on the way, in a big group, taking pics. :)
Since we didn’t have proper lunch, the first thing we did when we got back was to have dinner. Again, we opted for Taj Mahal, where this time we tried out the fish briani and prawn fried rice. Nice, but I think the chicken briani was still the best. This time all 3 of us ordered mango shake, but were given mango lassi instead. It looked the same, but tasted different. I still like the mango shake best.
After dinner, we didn’t go back to our room straight. Our room was after all, on the 4th floor. So what was next on our agenda? Shopping la, after having surveyed the place on our first night there. After going back to our room, we started packing our stuff, particularly our clothes, into our trolley bags. My niece by then had bought 2 big haversacks, so we didn’t have to worry about where to chuck all the stuff that we intended to buy the next day.
It was our last day in HCMC, but our flight was at 4.10 pm and checkout time was before 12 noon, so there was still time for some last minute shopping. We decided to go out early morning to have our breakfast at VN Halal. We brought down our trolley bags with us and left them downstairs so that when we check out later we wouldn’t have to make 2 trips up and down from the 4th floor.
We were the first customers at VN Halal that morning. While we were having breakfast, a Malay guy came to us and asked where we were from. He was from Penang and he comes to HCMC every month. Yep, he was there to get supplies to sell back home. He even recommended to us to buy some cheap ready made telekungs, baju kurungs and jubahs at a particular shop. Errr… no thanks, silap orang lah…
Anyway, after breakfast, we headed straight to Ben Thanh market to buy whatever we had decided to buy. Earlier, on day 2, when we went round to survey, we had sort of decided what to buy so we just went straight to whichever stalls we had set our eyes on earlier.
By 10 am, we went back to our room to pack our things. No doubt we had already carried our trolley bags down, but with 3 new haversacks bought by my niece (she bought another one in the morning in addition to the 2 bought earlier), we didn’t even have to arrange the things properly inside the bags. By 11 am, we checked out, but we still left our things at the guesthouse. Mr and Mrs Anh had no problem looking after our things. We had earlier on asked if we could check out at 12.30 pm (so we could perform our jamak zohor/asar before checking out), but the place was fully booked and our room had already been booked by Turkish tourists who were supposed to check in at 12.
So we opted for plan B. We checked out, walked over to Dong Du, had lunch at Nyonya Restaurant, then we went over to the Jamia Mosque for our prayers. From the mosque, we decided to take a taxi back to Pham Ngu Lao so as not to waste time. It was almost 1 pm by the time we got back to the guesthouse. Mr Anh had earlier told us to leave for the airport at 1pm if our flight was at 4 pm… in view of Saigon’s unpredictable traffic. He even took the trouble to call a taxi for us. And when the taxi driver came in about 5 minutes, he even sent us off to the taxi, and told us to pay not more than 110,000 VND for the fares.
We got to the airport in just half an hour or so, meaning we got to the airport early. Check-in was supposed to start at 2.10 pm. So we just lepak-ed while waiting for the check-in counter to open…
Anyway, our flight was on time. We touched down at LCCT at 7 pm, just as scheduled.
Okay then, holiday over… back to work, woman! A few calls/SMS from clients I need to attend to.