Monday, June 04, 2007

On to Chu Lai...

by Saigon Charlie

Bought a ticket from Vietnam Airlines for $52 this morning to head back up the coast to a place called 'Chu Lai', made famous during the Vietnam/American War as a massive Naval and Army base. Chu Lai is a a bit south of Da Nang (another exploding place) and about half way between Saigon and Hanoi. Not sure what to expect but whispers around me from the boys in the know, tell me to 'go north young man'. So north I go.

It seems PetroVietnam has huge plans there and my insiders here tell me 14,000 new locals will be employed there along with 2,000 or so ex-pats. Even heard they are building a 'new city' and everything is pretty much virgin ground in more ways than one. Investments numbers total in excess of $1 Billion USD. That's a lot of money for this part of the world.

Seems however that to reach this place by plane, you only got 2 options per week. One an early morning flight and one on Thursday morning, both leave at 09:20 from Saigon. An alternative is the train of course which I love , but I just did the 20 hour ride down from Da Nang and this time I think I'll fly.

Before I head out however I plan on taking the Russian built hydrofoil over to a place called 'Vung Tau' or more commonly referred to in English as 'Oil City. Rumors have it there is even a casino there with real cards and chips but my primary reason to head there is see what there is to see and see what they mean by 'oil city' although I think I know.

Visas here appear to be reasonably easy to obtain and I have been told from those in the know that a 6 month business visa can be obtained though a travel agency. Seems it is not a problem to renew but they would like you to leave the country every year or so as you are supposedly here on 'business". Fair enough...

Keep discovering more and more cafes with WiFi connections. Seems they are just about everywhere and seem to be free if you have a cup of java or a beer. Signals are very strong and I even read yesterday that Vietnam is getting ready to double the capacity of their primary north to south fibre optic link from 20Gbps to 20Gbps and prepare for countrywide Voice over IP services. Once again, they are blowing the doors off Thailand.

Made an effort to send money out of the country this morning as well as there seems to be a Western Union on every street corner but the 'gotcha' is you can only receive it, not send it. So much for my plan to send my daughter money for her birthday in the states on the 22nd.....

...more to come.

Good night Vietnam!