This week’s post comes to you from the beautiful country of Vietnam, and for the past few days I’ve traveled from the south up to the middle of the country.
My journey started in Saigon, a sprawling city reflective of any western hub – skyscrapers provide welcome shade from the heat, roadworks surround a main train station, and the traffic is mad. This isn’t London mad though, as in just stationary, this is the realisation that everything you’ve heard against Vietnamese driving is true. Pavements are free game apparently, and traffic lights merely there to add to the city lights at night. ‘Don’t look, just walk’ is definitely my new motto for trying to cross roads in this country.
Aside from the very amusing traffic situations, I really like this city. We stayed in District 1 (don’t worry, there were no signs of Hunger Games-esque behaviours) which is the main backpacker area and is surround by restaurants and bars. It was nice to be surrounded by other travelers and to meet up with some familiar faces again whilst we were there. My first point to note to you is that Vietnamese food is amazing, but more importantly, we finally aren’t using dollars as currency, so the exchange rate is better and everything is cheap again! Woo hoo!
When we were in Siagon, we took an early morning trip to the Ho Chi Minh tunnels, a few hours out of the city, where the Vietnamese guerilla fighters used to set traps and hide from the US troops in the war. Honestly, the video we watched before exploring the area with our guide was more of a propaganda video, stating how brave the fighters were for “killing 100s of Americans” but after what I’ve learnt these past few days, I can’t really blame them too much. I didn’t actually climb into the tunnels – In 35°C heat, a small confined space underground didn’t appeal very much, but it turns out you couldn’t see anything anyway (hardly surprising) and that it isn’t actually a real tunnel from the war. They had to build a version 10% bigger for the western tourists as we can’t fit into the Vietnamese ones. We continued our day of learning by going to the war museum when we were back in the city. That was tough going, as from all of my reading, I can’t find a true, just cause for declaring war on Vietnam, and I certainly cannot find any reason for the atrocities conducted by the US troops during it. We all walked back to our hostel in silence, trying to process it all.
From Siagon, we moved north and up into the mountains, to a town called Da Lat, well known for its main adventure activity, canyoning. For those who don’t know, canyoning is basically abseiling down waterfalls. Disclaimer, not the one shown below.
However, what I wasn’t prepared for in Da Lat was having to dig my jeans out from the bottom of my rucksack – it is definitely colder up there and was pouring buckets when we arrived. Therefore, first impressions were hard to judge by, but the evening was filled with the best Vietnamese food so far and a necessary visit to the 100 Roof bar, otherwise know as the maze bar. Head downstairs into a labirthn of dead ends, tiny stairs, hidden alcoves, weird sea creature paintings and try to find your way to the top. After a few drinks, what could possible go wrong?
The next day the weather brightened up in the morning, so I headed off to try canyoning with a group of people from my hostel. I was lucky – the weather held off until we’d finished and our full group was really friendly and funny, so despite slipping at one point and slamming into the rock face (smooth as always) I had a great day. My hostel hosted family dinners which I joined that night, sat around a huge table eating great food… it was perfect.
After a few days of adventure, it was time to leave the rain behind and head down to the coastal region of Qui Nhon, to a small fishing village called Bai Xep, where I have spent the remainder of this week. En route we stopped at Nha Trang which is basically your typical tourist resort, filled with Russians and Chinese. After having spent so long in less touristy spots, I’ll be honest that type of place really doesn’t appeal anymore – look at me changing already!
When we finally arrived in Bai Xep, to our little hostel on the beach, I was pretty disappointed that clouds had followed us and it was overcast. Luckily, by 11am the next morning, it had all had cleared up and I spent the next 4 days lying on a beautiful beach, reading so many books, meeting the locals and getting invited to dinner with them, finding hidden restaurants that serve the local beer at 20p a bottle, visiting an island just off the mainland and trying to teach a 2yr old girl how to count to 10 in English.
I also fell asleep under the stars and woke to see the sunrise, which all sounds very romantic, but it was completely unintentional (a group of us just kept talking for ages and gradually nodded off) and I got eaten alive by mosquitoes – turns out I’m still their favourite snack. Despite walking around scratching like a dog with fleas for the last few days as a result, it was really good to reboot and just reflect on how much I’ve already seen in such a small amount of time.
I’m heading north to the busy city of Hoi An now, where I’m sure the few days rest ive just had will be very much appreciated!
Until next time,