Finally finished writing about Vietnam… only took 2 months…

I can’t believe I’ve been in Vietnam for 3 weeks already, it seriously feels like I just got here. I feel like all of this is just one long dream. We have been moving around a bit, just staying in a place for a few days then venturing on. It’s such a large country I wish I had more time to see everything! We arrived in Mui Ne which is a beach town in Southern Vietnam and were actually quite disappointed! I guess it will be difficult to find any beach that can compare with the beaches in Indo but this one was pretty sad… they’ve covered a lot of the beach with concrete and the sandy spots are all in front of hotels that make you pay to sit on the beach. We really weren’t feeling this place so we booked a bus ticket out of there and spent a few hours on the beach before getting massages and mani pedis.

The next day we headed to Dalat which is a southern city in the mountains. Dalat had a large French population from the time of the colonies and it is so apparent by looking at the architecture. It felt like a place in Europe more than Asia. The weather was also really cool and rainy so it didn’t seem like Asia at all. We booked a tour on motorbikes and headed out into the mountains for the day to a couple cool spots. My ankle had just finally healed enough to walk around easily so I was so happy to get out and move around again! We visited two Buddhist temples and it was really neat to look at the art and know exactly what everything was. I’m so grateful I took Buddhist art history and history of Southeast Asia before coming on this trip because it has made me appreciate things more. Unfortunately it rained so much here that we needed to leave quickly because we would just be wasting time sitting waiting for the rain to stop each day and not seeing anything.

After Dalat we went back to the beach… I really find it hard to be away from the beach for more than a few days! Nha Trang was a pretty fun town with much nicer beaches than Mui Ne and a beautiful view of a few islands. Unfortunately we got rain everyday here as well but it would stop after a few hours. Keri and I had a really good time here going out at night then spending the days on the beach. Our first night we met the bar manager of The Sailing Club which is like the nice nightclub/bar on the beach. He totally hooked us up with drinks all night and offered us free dinner and drinks the next night if we distributed fliers for the big full moon party that night. Of course we took him up on the offer and probably distributed about ten fliers and partied pretty hard that night ๐Ÿ™‚ The Vietnamese are pretty crazy partiers… the bars tend to be about 75% Vietnamese and they definitely work it on the dancefloor. Many of the young girls here appear to be prostitutes and a lot of times they will be with much older Western men and it is really sad to see. I can’t forget this one girl I saw… she looked about 14 years old and she was sitting with a man who was probably in his sixties. She just looked so miserable and sad silently next to him having dinner and then they walked to his hotel. I kept looking at her and made eye contact a few times. I felt so bad for her I just wanted to give her money to walk away from him. It is really difficult to see how much prostitution there is here. The city of Nha Trang is also well known for having a lot of thefts so I almost never carried my camera on me and therefore I don’t have many pictures of it. The night of the full moon party the guy I met in Bali, Daniel came and met us in Nha Trang. He has about ten days in Vietnam so we have all been traveling together and having a really good time.

We left Nha Trang after about 5 days and got on a 12 hour overnight bus to Hoi An. It was a pretty intense bus ride… It is so incredibly hot here and they kept shutting off the air conditioning so I would wake up all the time just so fucking hot then they would put the AC on so cold. It was like having a fever just hot and cold all night long. Hoi An is famous for the tailor shops here so we went out to look at clothing and got a little carried away shopping. The clothes they make here are unbelievable. You can have anything you want custom made to fit you and pick out exactly what fabric, buttons, style, whatever. Keri and I each had a few coats made and I’m so excited to wear them when I get home! A custom made blazer costs as little as 25 dollars for something that would be 100+ back home. So the majority of the days we were in Hoi An we spent going to different tailors and having things made and altered. Daniel rented a motorbike so we went to the beach one day and stopped at a spot along the river. It was so so beautiful! The water is ridiculously warm, I think its even warmer than Hawaii. We also went out to a place called Marble Mountain a little ways out of the city. It was kinda hectic because somehow we lost Keri and couldn’t find her until it was dark.

The longest bus ride EVER… after spending so much time in the south of Vietnam we realized we needed to get up north asap to get to see everything we wanted to. So we took a bus from Hoi An to Halong Bay which took 24 hours! Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad, Daniel and I talked the whole time so it was a good experience for me. I actually never got bored! But we had to stop in Hanoi and get to a travel agent at like 6am which was awful because we were all barely awake and we get into a taxi that is blasting techno music. He drives us about 5 minutes then tells us our fare is 475 dong, which is like $25. So we are standing in the road arguing with him at 6 in the morning and finally we give him about half that and just leave. Sometimes things in Vietnam are just really difficult, like ordering breakfast can be an ordeal because they really don’t speak English well and Vietnamese is so complicated!

So by the time we got to Halong Bay Daniel only had a couple days left in Vietnam before he had to be back to Australia. We were all having dinner one night and Daniel and Keri were talking about how nice Australia is and then they both were telling me that I definitely need to go someday… after a couple of beers I decided I was going to go to Australia when Keri went home. So I booked a one way flight to Australia while we were in Halong Bay ๐Ÿ™‚ I really love the freedom I have traveling, it’s nice not having any real plan because it allows me to be spontaneous and do things like go to another continent! So we booked a hotel in Halong Bay and it was pretty incredible. Daniel and I had a HUGE room on one of the top floors with giant windows overlooking Halong Bay. The room was big enough for like 5 people, there were 3 large beds and we pushed 2 of them together and had a giant bed. The room cost 15 dollars per night! And it was actually really nice! We wanted to go somewhere nice for dinner so we asked a taxi driver to take us into town to a restaurant… he dropped us off at this seafood restaurant and I was so freaked out. When we walked in there were octopuses being scooped from an aquarium into a bowl and one of them climbed out of the bowl and was moving across the floor. I was really upset seeing that so I made us leave the restaurant. We went to a place next door where everyone was sitting outside on the street on plastic chairs and there were only locals eating there. I thought this would probably be some good Vietnamese street food but they didn’t speak English and the menu was only in Vietnamese so we weren’t too sure what we were getting… They brought out this big camping stove with a pot of boiling water and some veggies. Then they bring out a shitload of live seafood. I was so upset by it I actually felt like crying. I couldn’t eat the seafood after seeing it alive and moving in front of me. I think that was definitely the strangest meal we had in Vietnam.

The following day we went on a cheap boat tour of Halong Bay. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The water is this emerald green color and there are thousands of tall limestone islands all over the bay. It is so beautiful, by far the nicest place I saw in Vietnam. Keri and I booked a 3 day boat trip of the bay for the following day after Daniel left. I was so glad I was going to Australia because otherwise I would’ve been so sad saying bye to him in Vietnam. Every traveler we had met in Vietnam had told us that we had to do the Halong Bay tour with Hanoi backpackers. It was a little bit more expensive but we would be with all westerners (many of the other tours are full of Asian tourists) and we got to camp on a private island. So we met up with the group going on the tour and immediately knew we would have a good time. Everyone was super friendly and definitely down to have fun. The first day we all went swimming for a few hours in the bay then went kayaking to a cave. Keri and I thought we would be fine kayaking just us girls but everyone else was paired up guy/girl. So we were pretty far behind everyone! It was probably the most work my arms have gotten this whole trip. It was kinda embarassing how slow we were actually! So on the way back we definitely paired up with some guys so we weren’t holding up the group (team USA, always last). The night… this definitely was a group who liked to party. We started playing drinking games and it was the craziest game I’ve ever played. I was actually scared of this game! There were rules like, A to B, someone picks two people randomly with their eyes closed (so they have no idea who A and B are) then makes a rule as to what A will do to B. The craziest thing I saw was A had to take off another guys underwear with their teeth and pass them by mouth to B. A and B were both guys… I seriously couldn’t believe some of the things that were happening! There was another rule where guys and girls had to trade clothes so by the end of the night the girls were wearing guys clothing and vice versa. The next morning we arrived at the island we were camping on. It was a nice small little beach and there were about ten of us that had it to ourselves. You had the option of going rock climbing, waterskiing or tubing out on the water but Keri and I just relaxed and swam in the water. The night time was crazy again but we all had so much fun together. Around midnight I decided to go skinny dipping in the bay. I went in alone at first but within a few minutes everyone joined. There is this special algae in the water that glows in the dark when you swim. It was absolutely amazing to swim with it. You move your arms around and the water around you lights up. It was probably one of the most special experiences in my life. After spending three amazing days together our group really bonded. We went back to Hanoi together and spent the next few days going out shopping, eating, drinking, and getting massages. It was so much fun having a big group of us.

For our last trip in Vietnam Keri and I went to Sapa which is high in the mountains, very close to China. We took an eight hour overnight train there, the train was a pretty interesting experience actually. Definitely not like the trains back home! Arriving in Sapa was incredible, the mountains are carved into rice terraces and there are waterfalls everywhere. The Hmong tribe lives in Sapa and you see them everywhere. We went trekking through their villages for 2 days. They are the cutest, smallest people I have ever seen. They wear these beautiful handmade outfits with elaborate jewelry and hairstyles. The women get married and have children very young so you see many girls about 16 years old carrying babies on their backs. Our guide when we were trekking was only 21 and already had 3 children. They are very persistent sellers and make some really nice hand woven things so I ended up getting a couple purses and pillowcases… Luckily Keri took my things back to California for me so I don’t need to carry them around with me everywhere. Sapa was also very different because the weather was so cold. I actually had to rent a jacket while I was there because I don’t have any warm clothes and it was really cold there!

So that concludes Vietnam, it was a really interesting country. I feel like it was quite difficult at times, the language barrier is extreme! The people are either really friendly or really difficult. I had a hard time being there because I felt guilty being an American in their country. I think Vietnam has struggled a lot in their history and it shows in some of the people there. They can be really pushy and most of the time you are being harassed to buy things or getting ripped off. My very last day in Vietnam I was alone and I just wanted to get a massage, I walked around for nearly an hour trying to find a decent priced massage (I only had a little money and didn’t want to take out any more from the atm). I wanted a massage to relax and never found one so I ended up even more stressed just walking around getting lost in Hanoi. Walking around alone was kinda scary because some of the people actually grab you and touch you when they try to sell you things. It can be really frustrating. At this point I was feeling just so tired in Asia, it was perfect timing to go to Australia for a little break. I really needed to get away and go someplace where people speak English and you can walk down the street without worrying about having your bag stolen or someone trying to sell you something!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sara Mikkelsen
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 13:21:44

    I’m so glad you posted this!

    Reply

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