Google says I have traveled 7100 miles from Beijing to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. By my count, I have traveled this distance using 9 different types of transit (airplane, train, metro, foot, car, boat, bus, tuk tuk, moto).
In each country I enjoyed learning the transit system. In Vietnam, transit within a city was mostly via foot, cab, cyclo, or on one occasion with a xe om, the local term for a motorcycle taxi. There are no metro systems in Vietnam, although one is coming to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in the distant future. City busses were available in Hanoi and HCMC but they were less tourist friendly for a variety of reasons.
To travel between Vietnamese cities, I relied mostly on buses. I booked buses through travel agencies, hostels, and directly with bus companies instead of at a central station. Unlike in China, in Vietnam passports are not needed to book transit.
Perhaps my favorite transit story so far took place in Vietnam. In the southern capital city Ho Chi Minh I went to a bus company to book a ticket to Can Tho, a Mekong Delta city 4 hours away. The following day I returned with my luggage to catch the bus. I boarded a 12 passenger van and was driven to the company’s bus garage. At the bus garage, I boarded a new bus for about 20 passengers. This second bus drove to the main terminal where I boarded a large coach bus for the journey to Can Tho. Just outside the city of Can Tho, I switched from the coach bus to a small bus for transfer from the company’s terminal to my hostel. An $8 ticket bought a journey with 4 busses, and because of the language barrier, none of this was information I knew in advance.
One uniqueness of bus travel in Vietnam: all passengers must take off their shoes to enter the bus. We were provided with plastic bags to hold the shoes. At each stop, a box of flip-flops comes out from the belly of the bus for passengers to wear at the rest stop. Good thing I have an extra pair of socks!
Every country has it’s schticks. The fabulous and super hipster store Ginkgo produced a great local map of Saigon with these funny truisms on the back.
I have been less diligent about photographing street life since leaving China. There are just as many fascinating sites however it feels more intrusive (Chinese people are generally always taking pictures, this is not true other places) and slightly less safe to be taking pictures on the streets. These scenes are from the smaller, quiet town of Chau Doc in the far south of Vietnam.
Common throughout Asia are outdoor eating establishments with furniture that, in the U.S., would be found either on a patio or in a kindergarten classroom – and sometimes both!
Signs of the communist government were evident in each city. Young school kids often wore a red sash as a part of their uniform.