Holy day of learning lessons. We started our morning with finding a legitimate taxi driver in Ho Chi Minh City after a blank silver car rolled up and the man inside started to cart away our luggage. Luckily, the real taxi driver took us directly to the domestic terminal without delay. Once we arrived we searched around for a luggage storage area to keep our big bags for the next week while we went around. The airport personnel informed us we could store our bags at International (which would be better in the end anyway) so we lugged everything over to International and were greeted by a glorified storage closet with a few shelves and three or four people sitting around a desk. There were maybe two bags sitting on the shelves. Completely sketchy in my mind. But we forked over forty American dollars and they took down our flight information and names and we watched as they locked our bags and put them together by flight arrival time. So here's to hoping my bag is still in Ho Chi Minh on Saturday evening.
Once we got into the airport, we waited in the small gate area. When the time finally game to board, we walked down a set of stairs and out into the open air. A bus was sitting outside and carted us to a plane with wind-up propellers. The runway for take-off seemed entirely too short but the plane really had some power to it! Our flight was gorgeous-- white fluffy clouds painted the skyline and just underneath us, thousands of houses were crammed together along windy roads. Once we hit the skyline everything turned grey. But before we knew it, we were once again descending into Phu Quoc, a mere 127 miles away.
The airport was pitifully small, but quaint. We stepped off the plane into the overcast daylight, and stepped directly into the greeting area/baggage claim. A man met us with a Saigon Resort sign and motioned us to a mini-van that drove us all the way to the Resort. Once there, we had to wait in another room for three-person room to be ready, which was well worth it because they gave us vouchers for the day-spa. But after we settled in a bit, we rented a bike from the hotel (for free!) and the six of us headed out on an excursion ride. We headed to the right at first but couldn't find much outside of coffee shops and other resorts. Then we headed back past our Resort and found the highly-acclaimed night-market. We stopped for a bite to eat at a random place that had a sign advertising various types of sandwiches.
Phu Quoc Lesson #1: Never eat at a place that advertises their best dishes on a sign. You will end up with pieces of raw meat in your sandwich, but not realize that fact until your last bite. No, I'm not sick yet.
After we had our mediocre meal, we headed back to shower and meet up with Amy and Erika who had just arrived to the island. Around 5 we headed to the Resort restaurant for dinner, which was over-priced but American. I had two Blue Lagoon drinks; (Yes Diane, that does mean Happy Times Lemonade) vodka, blue curacao, lemon juice, 7-Up. I also got a cheeseburger with fries. Nomnoms.
After I paid my $25 bill (by far the most expensive meal since I've been here, but still better than Miami), we grabbed some more cash and went to the night-market in search of cheap, but very real pearls.
The vendors had ridiculously jacked up prices in comparison to what our director said from last year, but we managed to find a few good deals. It was great to bargain some more, even though we probably only bargained down to what their actual prices would be. You win some, you lose some. Gonna go back tomorrow for a couple more gifts and a book about the war. Wednesday night I promised the girls I would eat seafood if we ate at the market...there was an elephant snail there. It literally had a trunk coming out from under the shell. Everything looked so fresh that I can't help but trust it.
On our trek back home we stopped in a wine shop to browse around for tomorrow night and a woman recognized our group and asked if we were the bike group from earlier. We said yes, and she immediately told us her bike tour was better than the "crappy Saigon ones" we were riding. So then we got to talking about where she could take us and how, and she said that last minute we could get a mountain bike tour to a waterfall for only $5!! Amazing. So when in doubt, talk to the Vietnamese. They always "give discount" and will always give more discount when you stay longer and/or buy more from them.
That's my only news so far. The weather is kind of a bummer, but we're making it work anyway! Too bad I'm burning a hole right through my pocket with all these excursions.
Hope the final days of summer are treating you wonderfully. Can't wait to see some American faces soon.
Peace, love, and shrimp on a stick!!