While we were in Vung Tau Mai was on the phone quite a bit talking with a friend of hers who she knew online and he invited us to stay at his place in Binh Duong, which was on the way to Saigon, so we decided to go. Unfortunately when we found the bus station there was no bus directly to Binh Duong so we had to take a bus to Saigon, then go back on another bus. This was OK though because Tien and I wanted to go down to the consulate and ask them some questions about the visa stuff.
We got on a bus and headed for Saigon. Like many busses, this one had a TV playing random entertainment. This bus was playing a DVD with some apparently famous Vietnamese people singing. It was called Paris by Night 25th Anniversary. Mostly it was people singing, but there were interviews with the set crew and some other entertaining scenes. At one point a girl had a dream that she woke up and found a genie lamp, but when she rubbed the lamp Osama Bin Laden came out instead of a genie. I’m not sure about all that happened since it was in Vietnamese, but by her second wish Bin Laden laughed maniacally and shot off his AK47 in the air and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
Shortly after that scene the DVD began skipping so the driver turned it off and put on music set composed of 8 songs on repeat. One of these songs was Akon’s “I Wanna Fuck You” and I couldn’t help thinking of the European commercial about english lessons.
When we got to Saigon we caught a taxi to the consulate. I asked them some questions about visas and was dumbfounded at how ridiculous the situation was with Tien’s visa. It was such a load of bullshit I thought there had to be another way to do it. She said I had to go to American and file for Tien’s visa there. This was astonishing because I was not in America, nor did I have the time or money to fly there. This was the first bit of a mountain of bullshit concerning American visas for Vietnamese citizens. I left the consulate thoroughly pissed off at how asinine the situation was and had a new perspective on what Mexicans probably have to put up with frequently.
We went back to the bus station, got on a crowded and hot bus and headed to Binh Duong. I tried to sleep but ended up just marinating in sweat. We exited the bus and I continued marinating while standing on the sidewalk, then I was chilled for a few minutes inside a taxi, and marinated again on another sidewalk and on the back of a scooter.
When we arrived at Mai’s friends house I took a shower. The first thing I did when I got in the shower was break the handle off the water faucet in the bath. I have a real knack for breaking things, and it really shines over here in Asia. After showering we ate a small meal to hold us over until we got a better meal, then went out for a walk.
I soon was grateful that I ate that little meal, because the sight of half of a cooked dog hanging by his teeth in the market right outside our guest house destroyed my appetite. I was also glad I had eaten eggs since they are unmistakeable. Mai’s friend was a slick kind of show off guy who liked to have fun, so later on when we were eating I half expected him to say “that’s not chicken, it’s dog!” Then I thought “so what if it is? It tastes good…” As far as I know though, I never ate any dog meat.
It got dark and we went to sleep with the intention of waking up the next day, but ended up getting up after an hour or so to sing some karaoke. There are never any english songs in the karaoke books so I mainly get to watch other people sing. Tien sings Camly songs and people say she looks like her too.
After karaoke we did end up going to sleep. On the floor. It was probably the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had. It’s certainly the worst night of sleep I can remember, but who knows, maybe I blocked out the really bad nights.
In the morning Tien gave me a massage to help my aching back, then we walked to breakfast. We walked like 15 blocks. I didn’t mind though because I was hoping to get away from the market where they were selling dog meat. We had pho and of course I wondered what that meat was…
After breakfast, Tien, Mai and I caught a taxi to Đại Nam Văn Hiến, a safari style theme park inside of big castle walls, complete with its own real temple, a few artificial mountains, and all sorts of other assorted fun stuff.
The first thing we did was get on a train and go to hell. Or rather, a haunted house style thing inside of 5 big chinese dragon heads that was like a trip through hell. It was so dark inside that my eyes never fully adjusted. It had ghouls flying at you in the air, from behind cages, people grabbing at your legs in the dark, and tons of voices screaming, crying and shouting in Vietnamese. I thought about the Vietnam war and S21.
The next thing we did was rent a tandem bicycle. Two seats and two sets of pedals for three of us, complete with a triple ring in front and seven in the back. I didn’t have much trouble working the bike and it felt good to be back on a bike since I love biking and haven’t done it in over two months. We biked to the temple and went inside. It was a big compound with water fountains and a very large room for the temple itself. It was probably the largest temple I’ve been in and it was nice that it was real, not just some tourist attraction.
We biked around some more and I took a bunch of photos and then we went to an Italian restaurant and got food. I got an incorrectly made but delicious club sandwich. Tien got some of the worst spaghetti I’ve ever tasted.
We checked out the go-kart track that was near the restaurant, but Tien didn’t want to race so I didn’t bother. It was a neat track in a figure 8 with a bridge over the intersection, the first I’d seen for go-karts. The cars were minimal, and they didn’t seem to give anybody any training on how they worked before throwing them on the track. It looked fun, but instead of that we went to Snow Land.
I was pretty skeptical of snow land, it was over 90ºF outside. They gave us rain boots, jackets and gloves, but no hat. Then they let us inside to snow land, a freezing cold sledding hill with an assortment of tubes. I couldn’t believe there was actual ice created by these air conditioners when it was so hot outside. I quickly got very cold without a hat, but Tien and I had fun sledding down a few times. She had never seen real snow, and technically she still hasn’t since this was some of the worst spring snow you’ve ever seen. Still, it was entertaining and fun.
It was late in the afternoon so we headed back to guest house and hung out for the evening, figuring out our travel plans. For some reason we decided to take a 1am bus to Binh Hoa instead of a 5pm bus. I decided to get some sleep before then since I can never sleep on those busses.