So finally, places we went to in Vietnam that was pretty interesting. I thought I had better hurry up since leaving Vietnam end of January we’ve been and gone to Laos, Bangkok (although only 3 days) and we’ve recently arrived in Cambodia. Oops.
So we travelled from South to North Vietnam and the country is pretty narrow inbetween. The post office in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) was designed by a French architect. It’s pretty grand.
We also went to the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. I recommend this if you like museums but the photos of the war and the victims of Agent Orange is graphic and can be distressing.I believe the effects of Agent Orange is still found in the 4th generation, crazy. The information presented tends towards one side but regardless the lesson is that war is terrible for everyone.
So we went to the Cu Chi War Tunnels (hopped on several local buses to get to the less touristy tunnels rather than pay for an overpriced tour to the main tunnels that everyone goes to). It was nice, you get to travel as a local and see some interesting sights such as someone’s life sized noah’s ark collection they had going on in their backyard.
So we have several opportunities to climb down these tiny tunnels that the Vietcong used in their fight against the Americans and south vietnamese. Remember, Vietnamese people are small people, these are not built for westerners and it’s super hot in there.There’s some rooms built in there, small air tunnels, an escape route to the river and also lots of horrific sharp bamboo traps for Americans who find a way in.
Luckily we didn’t go down those. At first glance at the hole below, no one thought they could get in until this dude volunteered.
Chris managed to fit in! But it’s super tight and narrow in there. I could get by with crouching but if you’re bigger than me, you might have to crawl on your hands and knees. It’s insane, the network in total here was about 125 km? The guides at this place have to know all of it in case tourists ever get lost.
Well after Saigon, we head up the coast towards Nha Trang. A place known for its beach and on way there are rice paddy fields.
Hi Nha Trang! Looks pretty good until you realise it’s full of Russians sunbathing and some of them don’t look so pretty when they’re sunburnt like a lobster that’s just been cooked. I think there are direct flights here from Russia, hence the high number of Russians.
There’s so many Russians here that even places have translations in Russian and some of them don’t even bother even English but only Russian.
Did you know that Alexandre Yersin, who found the bacteria responsible for the bubonic plague lived in Nha Trang for 50 years?
In this coastal place, we head to Po Nagar – temples built by the Cham people betwen the 7th-12th centuries (only 4 remain out of the original 7 or 8). It’s still used for worship. There are Hindu and Buddhist influences (to be honest, I couldn’t find out much information) – we saw carvings of Shiva on the temples. The Cham people are now a minority after the Vietnamese people came and took over the land a few centuries ago.
Within the temple complex, there’s some work being done. Hah, imagine if this was done in the UK! Health and Safety wouldn’t be pleased.
I got a nice shot of this guy having a laugh.
So apparently according to wiki, in the photo below – the image just above the entrance is of Durga the goddess Hindu slayer of the buffalo demon. As these places are still sacred, you need to take off your shoes before entering and also making sure no bare shoulders and bare legs above the knees – you get given something to cover up with!
It’s a pretty interesting place. Wish there was more information readily available about this temple and about the Cham people.
We head up a little further along the coast to a place called Hoi An. It turned out that we were there on their full moon night festival that goes on in the old town! It was super pretty. This place is also famous for tailored made clothes here, so many tailors everywhere and you can get whatever you want handmade in whatever material or style. I might go back one day and get some coats or dresses done!
However the bad thing is that this place is filled with tourists, even at the full moon festival its really the tourists enjoying it and the locals looking to make money off you.
However, remember those lit lanterns you bought to release along the river because it’s so pretty, well they end up polluting the river below! Here’s the ugly morning of truth after a night of fun. Dudes pulling out lanterns from the river, although they gave up on the harder ones and rowed away….
I wouldn’t bother with doing the lit lanterns unless you’re going to clean it up after. Same goes for chinese lanterns as they just end up polluting something somewhere.
We went to a teashop that’s run by a place that employs deaf staff, which was great as it provided them with jobs. I get the impression that it’s tough to find employment if you have a disability.
It was really nice cafe, because Vietnam is SO noisy with the constant beeping and honking that it was a breath of fresh air when you walk in and it’s nice and peaceful. They do great biscuits.
So Hoi An has chinese influences due to Hoi An being an important trade port over many centuries until the end of 18th century (according to wiki) and during that period some chinese came over and also the japanese (there’s a japanese built bridge nearby).
Walking around old town. You had to pay to get in from one direction, we refused and walked around and snuck in through a side street. What’s interesting is how there seems to be a lot of dogs that are either stray or have an owner that lets them roam about. I often wonder what they get up to when they trot past you in some direction.
Hoi An also has a beach! Filled with tourists roasting their bottoms.
On the way back from the beach to our guesthouse, think there’s some sort of fish or crustacean being farmed below.
So Hue was our next stop, it used to be the capital from 1802-1945 when the Nguyen (pronounced more like Nu-en rather than N-guy-en) dynasty ruled . We didn’t realise that Hue only has 2 types of weather. Wet and wetter. It rained the whole weekend we were here and we basically spent our time here over 4 cafes. The last day, it stopped raining for a few hours so we took a quick jaunt to the palace before we caught our bus up to Hanoi. We didn’t have a lot of time or could be arsed to pay to go in so here’s the outside. Hah!
Hanoi! Interesting place. It has a cathedral. Sorry about the lighting.
This is a statue of a king who made Hanoi a capital in 1010.
Lady carrying her wares.
I liked this tree a lot so here’s a picture of it for you to enjoy as well.
Some Hanoi street life.
So we hung out with Veronica from Italy, and there’s our awesome friend Simon who came and visited us!
We went to a women’s museum, which was pretty interesting. I don’t think Simon is a very happy husband in the photo below.
There was an interesting video about these ladies who come from the countryside to make a living here in Hanoi – they buy stuff from the morning market and resell it on the streets with their hanging baskets. These ladies have a tough life as they have to live away from their husbands/children and stay in a room for mutiple occupants and spend 12-14 hours working each day to send money home. It makes you think about when you haggle with them, the difference to them is more to them than it is to you.
I recommend this museum.
Chris having a go!
So there you go. The end of Vietnam wasn’t awesome, I picked up a nasty stomach bug and cramps but thankfully this wasn’t on a travel day. It’s kind of a good thing because everytime I have a stomach upset now, I feel relieved that it’s not as bad the one in Hanoi and it’s easier to deal with.
Next day was travel day and with some help of my best friend Immodium, we travelled up north to Sapa so we could go to the border town of Dien Bien Phu and cross over into Laos by bus and river boat.
Sapa is the famous place of mountainous rice paddy fields and hill tribes but it was winter and foggy – visibility was less than 5 or feet.Our room was so cold you can see your breath in the air. Here at the guesthouse we’re enjoying some sunflower seeds and ‘central heating’ courtesy of the lit coal bucket.
The day we leave, we finally see a glimpse of what’s been hiding behind the fog! I think we will have to come back one day.
So doing an overland crossing during the run up to Tet and Tet itself – the Vietnamese New Year is not recommended. Everything starts to shut and we had to walk around and ask various places about buses to get to the border town – Dien Bien Phu but what can you do when your visa runs out on the day of the national holiday… And then getting a bus from Dien Bien Phu into Laos was interesting. Ended up pissing off a few people (including taxi driver) but no one died as one Norwegian traveller said to me. Good advice.
We had a pretty good time in Vietnam and didn’t actually get scammed much if any? (we’ve read other people’s blogs about scams they’ve experienced) and we met some really nice Vietnamese people (especially over food) and made new friends 🙂 Ate lots of good food and picked up new skills as a result of crossing roads in Vietnam, we’re pretty good at it now South East Asia style.