Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver
Where To? Vietnam
How long? 3 Weeks
Status: Sorry to say good-bye to my tour group!
13WoW – Destination: Vietnam
Crossing from Cambodia into Vietnam at the Phnom Den – Tinh Bien border was very easy. That may be due to the bribe of $1 that is customary to put into your passport when you pass it to customs.
Without even looking at our faces, we were granted access to Vietnam after a 15 minute wait and we walked across the border. I had arranged my visa in the UK prior to my trip for £84 (ouch) which is the easy online fast-track option. But the majority of my tour group got a free 25 day visa on arrival which I now realise I could have done and saved a fortune… live and learn right?!
First stop in Vietnam was our homestay in a rural village in Can Tho where we were welcomed by a family, taken on a tour of the village (a population of around 500 people) and cooked a traditional home meal.
The village is rich in crops and vegetation with fruit trees of all kinds growing. The river (I assume a branch off the Mekong Delta) runs through it and the villagers use this as a place to bath, do laundry, dishes and more.
After a night’s sleep (I won’t say a good night’s sleep as I was very aware of the creatures waiting for me on the other side of the thin net), we were up early and ready to check out the floating market!
The floating market takes place on the Mekong Delta and hundreds of farmers stack their boats high with fruit, vegetables and other food to sell. Aside from fruit and veg, you will be surprised what else you can buy when you hop on a boat and make your way through the market.
Ho Chi Minh
The only way to describe Ho Chi Minh is… busy! Highly overpopulated, don’t expect to get anywhere if you go by car. The locals, like in most cities in Vietnam, use motorbikes to get around. Forget the rules of the road, there is a famous T-shirt sold all over Vietnam that explains the rules of traffic lights – Green = I can go, Yellow = I can go, Red = I can still go.
To get around, you will have to walk, grab a motor-taxi or if you’re feeling like a very traditional experience you can grab a cyclo for a city tour.
Personally, I felt that two nights in Ho Chi Minh was plenty of time to see all of the important sites. This was not one of my favourite cities but it was definitely worth a visit for the War Memorial museum, the Củ Chi Tunnels, the Thích Quảng Đức monument and the markets.
The museum and the tunnels are key to understanding the Vietnamese history and what they have suffered due to war. As you travel Vietnam, you see many people still suffering the effects of the chemical weapons used in the US – Vietnam war generations later.
This city was also the final destination for my G-adventures tour and I had to say “good-bye” to the amazing group that had become my “dolphin family”. 😦
Arriving in Nha Trang brought a feeling of “this is what I came to Vietnam for!”
By this time, I was ready to relax, the tour had been fun but fast-paced with a lot crammed in.
Nha Trang is a beautiful city with stunning beaches lining the east and multiple islands off the shore. A big tourist destination, the prices are ramped up a little and you will find art galleries, shopping centres and markets to splurge in.
You still see the Vietnamese culture shining through as you pass fruit stalls smelling so sweet that you want to buy everything instantly, and street food vendors barbecuing pork kebabs sending the smoky aroma into the air. You realise that prices aren’t set as you ask how much that piece of clothing is and hear them shouting after you halving the price as you walk away.
A must do when you visit Nha Trang is a visit to the islands just off the shores. I did a four-islands tour which ended up as three islands, scuba diving and a strange drag-style karaoke show-thing (don’t ask??) as the seas got too choppy to visit the fourth.
I lingered in Nha Trang for a few days before hopping on the night bus to my next location – Hội An!