Vietnam: Part 1
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City
Nicole, Lauren, and I departed Bangkok and headed to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. The visa-upon-arrival took about two hours at the airport, but what can ya do? We took a cab to our hostel in District 1 and by that time it was already 8pm and we were exhausted.
Travelers tip: The first thing we noticed when we stepped outside was how humid hot the air was. If you’re traveling to Southern Vietnam in late Nov.-Early Dec. pack light airy clothes.
We woke up the next day and explored the city. I read about the french influence on the architecture so we set off to see some buildings.
I also read about the scooter mayhem that was Ho Chi Minh. Imagine a family of four on one moped and multiply that by 1000. Then, imagine trying to cross the streets where you don’t even need a license to drive and stop lights aren’t obeyed. It’s like real life frogger.
Travelers tip:If you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh and need to cross the street try to time it with the stop light. Then, walk very slowly, making eye contact with the moped drivers. If you do this, the drivers get close but they have time to go around you. If you run, you will get hit. This seems very counter-intuitive since you’re surrounded by a constant movement of cars and mopeds but that’s just how it’s done. That doesn’t make it any less stressful.
Playing frogger to get there, we saw:
When we checked off all the buildings on our list we headed to the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. As an American, I believe every American who visits this country needs to go to this museum. It’s definitely hard to get through without feeling overwhelming sadness but I think it’s important to understand the impacts we have on other countries. Regardless of your stance on foreign relations or the war, it’s an eye opening experience.
Leaving the museum, feeling rather depressed, we stumbled upon an international friendship market across the street. The market had booths from all different regions across the world and each booth served local food from their country.
At this point we were pretty hot and tired from walking around so we decided to go get a $3 pedicure. With freshly painted toes, we went back to our hostel to rest before heading to the Ben Thanh Street food market for dinner.
The food market was amazing and if it wasn’t for feeling so icky I probably would have eaten a lot more. We all shared a variety of food then decided to check out one of the infamous sky bars in District 1.
None of us were keen on drinking but we all knew after that day we’d only be in Saigon once so we better knock out our to do list. We chose to go to Glow. As backpackers staying in hostels we didn’t bring nice clothes. At any rate, most of the bars we went to were pretty casual. However, Glow let us in barely meeting the dress code.
If you’ve ever been to Vegas you’ll know what I mean when I say this bar had a Vegas feel. It was modern with a DJ booth and impossibly dark. All the lights were so dim we had to pull out our phones like 75 year old grandmas to look at the menu. I guess that’s why they named it Glow.
The price of the drinks were the second Vegas reminder. When you go into a bar in a third world country you don’t expect drinks to be $10.00. We were accustom to drinking 50 cent beers on the street.
On the other hand, if we had the right attire and felt lively it probably would have been a blast. The views of the city were definitely the most beautiful of the day.
After one drink we braved the streets and went back to our hostel. We booked a Mekong River tour for the next morning to get out of the city and see more of southern Vietnam.
Day 2: Mekong Delta River
There are tour stands all over Ho Chi Minh City. Lauren looked up one for My Tho that was close to our hotel and we set off for the day. We took a big bus about an hour out of the city to the harbor where we would have four different boat tours and stop off at two of the islands along the river.
The first island we stopped at was Unicorn Island. On this island we experienced:
A small honey bee farm where we drank fresh tea with, you guessed it, honey (from the hive!). Topped with bee pollen.
Banana & Ginger fried in honey
Fresh Fruit: Dragon fruit, pineapple, mango, and delicious durian. (While being serenaded by traditional Vietnamese folk songs as we ate).
After our snack we hopped on another small boat on the river. Incidentally, this was a little more touristy than I anticipated. It left us wondering what the people in the village did when they weren’t entertaining tourists. Still a good experience, none the less.
From here we hopped on yet another boat and headed to Dragon Island for lunch.
We docked and were brought to outdoor tables set up for our lunch. We had a whole fish prepared from their fish farm along with spring rolls, summer rolls, chicken soup, and rice. It was honestly the best meal in southern Vietnam.
After lunch we took a carriage ride around the island. It was kind of strange but I guess that’s what the people felt the tourists wanted. Consequently, the horses were too small to carry four people and were overworking themselves. As Vietnam develops as a country, I hope the treatment of animals will improve.
Our final stop was to see the progression of how Vietnamese coconut candy is made.
The shorthand version is:
- Coconut pulp is removed from whole coconut
- Pulp is pressed for the coconut milk
- Milk is mixed with sugarcane and palm oil
- The mixture is set in an oven to bake (with peanuts)
- After the coconut candy solidifies it is wrapped in rice paper and packaged
We were lucky (?) enough to chase our candy down with snake wine. Yes, that’s a thing. Yes, it’s as strange as it sounds.
Finishing our final tour, we hopped back on the boat and headed back to Saigon. From there, we took a red-eye flight up to Hanoi to start our northern Vietnam adventures.
If you have any questions about our itinerary in southern Vietnam, feel free to contact me or leave a comment!