Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam we were faced with a similar welcome party to that of Nepal; hundreds of scooters filling the roads, every nook and cranny. Unlike nepal these roads were big and fast, channeling hundreds of people between a maze of skyscrapers, offices, shopping malls and hotels.
We had been advised by our AirBnB hosts that Uber was the best way to get around. We actually ended up ordering an ‘Uber Moto’ (aka a guy on a scooter) by accident to collect the two of us, our giant 65L rucksacks and two day packs! Our hosts thought this was hilarious!!
Like old friends in no time
We have used AirBnB a few times now. Sometimes you just get a great value place to sleep but on some occasions you get a real gem; great place, great location, great hosts. That is what we got in Ho Chi Minh. Hosts Choe and Thuy are creative and innovative; a real credit to the youth of Vietnam. They handmade all furniture in their apartment; creating both a space to live and a workshop for their crafty business making and selling leather items, you can check out their Etsy shop here! The breakfasts they provided us were amazing too, every day a beautiful traditional Vietnamese breakfast. If you’re going to Ho Chi Minh, look up their AirBnb, here.
Their home was also full of greenery; plants and flowers were everywhere. This is something I noticed a lot in Vietnam, even in the most run down temporary homes people would make an effort to have plants in their life. I envy this; you see when I walk into a garden centre all of the plants run and hide; there is only one outcome for any plants in my care and it is bleak my friends! However, that said, travel is meant to allow you to grow, so when I get back perhaps I will have to do some research about plant care and bring a little more green into my life.
Within the first few days of our stay in Vietnam I began to notice something; people were actually speaking to me… me! They weren’t ignoring me and going directly to Andy. We had been in Nepal so long that I had gotten used to the fact that over there it is all ‘hello sir’, ‘how can I help you sir’. Even if I asked them a question they would naturally answer to Andy. It was so refreshing to feel human again!
War Remnants Museum
Read any travel guide for Ho Chi Minh and it is sure to mention the War Remnants Museum. It was a must see for us as the Vietnam war is something we knew very little about even though it’s relatively recent history. I’m ashamed to admit that we often skip through large parts of museums and rarely read all the information (there is only so much you can take in about 13th century ceramics!) however we felt this museum surely deserved all of our attention.
Be warned, if you plan to visit the War Remnants Museum It does contain a lot of disturbing pieces of information and images. The effects of the war can still be seen today, many families are still mourning the loss of their loved ones and Agent Orange along with other chemicals used during the war continue to inflict the most terrible birth defects. You should also keep in mind that this is a story told by one side (the communist Vietnam regime); even our hosts gave us a word of warning on this.
Vietnam is not all doom and gloom, Ho Chi Minh is a thriving city. We spent a lot of time just walking the streets, eating amazing food watching people go by. Oh and attempting to cross the 6 lane roads where apparently a green man means nothing!!
Ho Chi Minh has a popular backpackers area which is disappointingly pretty similar to backpacker areas in Thailand; loud, filthy and aimed at men. One night we were being particularly hard on ourselves for not wanting to go out until the wee hours, dreaming instead of our comfy bed and free wifi, when a young guy stood in a door way asked us if we liked Jazz. Andy and I turned to each other and said ‘Jazz? I could go for some jazz!’ (that still counts as a night out, right?). It turned out to be amazing!!! Trần Mạnh Tuấn was the lead artist, it’s definitely worth checking him out if you get a chance. See pictures in the gallery, and below.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to explore North Vietnam which we hear is really beautiful. Being limited on time but wanting to explore a little more of Vietnam we caught a flight to Hoi An following so many recommendations from friends, family and fellow travellers. Hoi An is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is beautiful, I think, well from what I could tell. Unfortunately we only got to spend around 5 hours exploring the town and then spent the remaining 4 days shut away in our BnB with the kind of sickness you really don’t want to read about! Just another reason to come back to Vietnam, I guess.
There are plenty of pictures of what we did see in the gallery, as we made the most of those 5 hours. We explored the historic village / town; enjoyed some local music & ventured to the Marble Mountains on the way to the airport. But we then flew back to Ho Chi Minh to carry on our trip towards Cambodia, up the Mekong river; which will be the subject of my next post!