Xin chao! Also known as hello here in Vietnam. I use it all the time but the locals couldn’t care less lol. On sept 23 I arrived to Ho Chi Minh City from Cambodia and have been in the country since. I think we came by bus. Everything is starting to blur into one. I’ve been travelling for almost 6 1/2 weeks in Asia, and have 19 more days on this 40 day Intrepid tour. However it feels like I’ve been travelling for ages. I have my days where I’m gung ho to try and do everything and every so often I enjoy sleeping in, lay in an air conditioned room, watch an American movie or tv show if I find one on the local tv and eat western food. I find it helps balance me to charge my batteries, travelling can get tiring at times.
Alright, let’s go to the map, so this post is about..you guessed it, southern Vietnam. We started in Ho Chi Minh City, did a home stay in the Mekong Delta, back to Ho Chi Minh City, over night trained it to Nha Trang, stayed a night, then over night trained it to Hoi An.
So Vietnam. It’s hot, it’s rainy, there’s beaches, there’s shopping, there’s city, there’s jungle. Lots to do and see. You need a visa before entering, no visa on arrival. I got mine in Bangkok for about $110 Canadian as I got the next day service. A bit cheaper if you wait the 2-4 days. I didn’t have the time. Next day was the fastest option. It’s cheaper and much faster to get the visa in Cambodia or Thailand opposed to your home country. The currency is the Dong and they also like the American dollar. I find the American dollar is making these countries more expensive. Thailand so far was the best as they only use their baht. So items can be like .25 cents, .50 cents etc. In Cambodia and Vietnam in these tourist areas, they start at the American dollar and they always round up to the next dollar, there are no cents. Even if I use the dong, they convert the American price into the dong. So be careful with that, it’s easy to get confused and ripped off. Also, the Canadian dollar is really crappy to the American dollar, so things can get a bit pricey. I’ve seen things cheaper in Canada than here. So just keep that in mind when travelling to these parts. I think it’s assumed everything is dirt cheap in parts of Asia, that’s a myth. Overall, food, hotels, transportation and some shopping and activities will be cheaper compared to western countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be pennies. You will still have to budget and spend. I notice many travellers complain and are surprised it’s not as cheap as they thought.
Ho Chi Minh City! So where is Saigon? Well it’s the same place. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the northern communist leader Ho Chi Minh. You still hear many people call it Saigon. Sometimes people will use the name to take a stance to what political side they are on, Saigon can refer to the urban heart of the city/district 1, while the surrounding city would be called Ho Chi Minh. Older generations may call it Saigon out of habit as the younger generations call it Ho Chi Minh city. Either way, you hear it used interchangeably all the time. What I liked about it was it was much more developed than I thought. Everyone is on motorbikes, it’s a skill to cross the streets, and no one cares about tourists. I actually felt somewhat invisible here, it was refreshing. I could use more of that. It’s also the pick pocketing capital, wear your bag/purse over your chest as motorbikes will drive by, snatch it off your shoulder and keep going. There’s signs everywhere about that, also muggings are an issue. Tourists are strongly advised not to accept rides on motor bikes as its not safe, use the metered taxis. No Tuk Tuk’s here.I felt safe here, regardless of where you are, be mindful of your things, use a money belt for items that are important but you don’t need to access like your passport, money, and credit cards, and use your purse across your chest, but pulled in front of you with minimal money and things you need to access like wallet and camera.
I did a city tour, hit up the war museum, Independence Palace, Post office, Saigon Notre Dame, Chinese Pagoda, and Chinatown.
If you are interested in the Vietnam war, then this place is for you. I find it interesting being Canadian, we get so much American media, culture, politics etc. But this is one war they don’t talk much about. But in Vietnam they sure do. There’s a whole museum in Ho Chi Minh City dedicated to what the Americans did. Biased yes, but very well done. The hardest part was seeing the pics of children, pregnant women, elders, farmers slaughtered and those affected by agent orange. The Americans would fly over the dense rural jungles to spray agent orange, a toxic chemical containing dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to man. Not only did it kill all the plants, trees etc so they could see people hiding, traps, it got into the water, food, into people’s DNA. Agent orange has caused very horrific birth defects. But since it changes your DNA, these defects keep happening to following generations. Thanks Monsanto. Dioxin is still used in products in North America, just in smaller levels, so keep that in mind…..read labels!
I didn’t make it out to the Co Chi tunnels, where the Vietnamese soldiers hid, made traps etc, but they sound interesting, so put it on your list if you come here.
We came here for our home stay in a rural village. We did a day boat tour, watched locals make coconut candy, had lunch, slept under a mosquito net again, got chased by local dogs. The bonus was this time we got a bed and wifi.
Now you may be thinking, wow, beautiful. It was, but I suggest bringing nose plugs. Along the Mekong Delta is a bunch of seafood and fish sauce factories, I’m just gonna say it, it smelled like a wet dogs ass. But the people were very nice and friendly people in this area.
Here in the Mekong Delta I didn’t eat anything weird, So I held it instead. I held a beehive and a python. Not really sure why they had this here for us to do, but it’s Asia, just roll with it. The bees were chill, but the python started squeezing me, so that’s when I had enough lol.
The overnight trains!
The first one we took was very nice actually. Four to a cabin, clean, comfortable. The second one we took was way worse than the night trains I took last November in India. There was 6 to a cabin, our beds were full of dirty sheets and garbage, the middle bench didn’t lift up, so no one was able to sit up straight. Our guide Hoc refers to the second train as the nightmare train lol. But we all survived, at least both trains had a sliding door that locked. In India we didn’t even get a curtain, there was no division. But The Indian trains were clean at least.
In Nha Trang I went for a mud bath. Never did one before, it was nice. They fill up a tub of mud and water, you have to hold yourself down or you float up. You sit for about 20 mins, then rinse off, then sit in a warm hot spring for about 20 mins, now that your skin is clean and detoxed, you then can spend the rest of your time in the chlorine pools lol, or you can be me and fall asleep in a lawn chair under an umbrella.
Hoi An! This little city is a must see. One of my favourite stops. The whole place is a UNESCO heritage site. Very chilled out, people are friendly, lots to do.
Hoi An is a shopping mecca. The big thing to do here is get clothes tailor made. There are shop after shop of tailors. It’s overwhelming what to pick. Not all are good. Trip advisor has reviews. Intrepid travel recommend a few to us, so I went with one of those. They can make anything and everything. It’s not necessarily cheap, but depending what you are wanting, it may be cheaper than your home country. I suggest going in with a clear vision, bring examples or pictures, really know what material you want as it can be hard to visualize and get your vision across. I got pants, a shirt and winter jacket made. I went to Blue Eye, I’m happy with the result, I felt they did a beautiful job, were professional, were not pushy, and were very fast. I went in that morning, most of my stuff was done that night or next day. Make sure you clarify the price, that the price includes the fittings and alterations and that they back stitch. The bottom pic is my winter jacket, I had to try it on for alterations when it as +39 Celsius and humid out, let’s just say I was slightly sweating lol.
Night Markets! I encourage you to check out night markets when travelling in South East Asia. I went to them in Thailand, Cambodia and now Vietnam. They are always busy, lots of different items and food, they can be fun. Just be prepared to haggle as prices will be quite marked up as these markets are very touristy. Even if you don’t buy, you can still enjoy the scene. I haven’t felt unsafe at them yet.
We got up early to see the fish market at sunrise. Very busy as everyone who buys seafood wholesale is out. Interesting to watch this bustling market. Hard to walk through it as it’s very busy and these people are all business, so I stood aside and watched.
Mailing was an interesting experience. Racine and I decided to seamail items home to lighten our load. It takes 3 months but very reasonably priced. So I asked the front desk directions to the post office, she said oh they will come here. She weighed my stuff, showed me the cost. I agreed to the price, she then called the post office, a guy showed up with boxes, tape, a scale and forms. He packed it all. In Vietnam don’t prepack as they have to see the items going in. So in the hotel lobby he packed, cut the box down and taped the shit outta it for no extra cost. I tried to help but he kept politely telling me to go sit down lol. Very different than Canada for sure!
Of course I did a cooking class! Cuz that’s what people on holidays love to do–cook for themselves. I really liked our chef. We went through a local market in a non tourist area, he really spent time going through all these different fruits and vegetables that are new to us. We walked back to his restaurant which is also his home and cooked. It was a lot of fun. We made 4 dishes.
When we went through this market, this old little Vietnamese lady in the triangle hat gave my ass a quick rub down. I thought she was just trying to pass by, but she sure took the opportunity to get handsy. I could write a whole blog of Asian people crossing boundaries with me. I get it, to put it nicely for my ego, my appearance is very different for some of them. Often they are curious, it’s harmless, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s confusing, sometimes it’s rude and sometimes it’s very mean spirited. Sometimes I’m in the right mood and sometimes I’m not. The gropping grandma, she was harmless and curious, I was confused then I realized who did it, I laughed. If you are a sensitive person that easily gets offended, stay out of Asia.
And of course I can’t not mention one of my favourite daily pleasures, Vietnamese coffee! Best coffee on earth and I’m loving it iced. It’s a very strong coffee, my favourite is with a bit of condensed milk, but you can get it how you like it. If you are a coffee fan, don’t overlook this treasure if you ever come across it, so good!
We left Hoi An and drove to the north to Hue. I did enjoy the south and highly recommend visiting. It’s pretty chill and they seem use to tourists. Our guide said in the north people have a harder life and are less friendly, he got that right. But I’ll do my next blog on the north, I’m still in Vietnam for another week, then onto Laos.
Hope everyone is doing well, If there’s anything you would like me to blog about, please don’t hesitate to tell me! And make sure you vote in the upcoming federal election in Canada!!