I just came back from Vietnam…what a great experience. It was a short visit (6 days) but still enough to get a sense of the country. It was a last-minute decision, I had a week off in between my Thai cooking school and I had to get out of the country for visa requirements. My initial plan was to go visit a friend in the Philippines but I couldn’t find a reasonable flight to buy, but then talking to the girl who coordinates the courses here in Thailand it came out she was going to Vietnam and she invited me to join! We also traveled for the first part of our trip with a Danish couple, he does wind surfing and they are staying in Thailand for 6 months.
First destination was Ho Chi Min city (aka Saigon)….this city is crazy! so chaotic, noisy and polluted. The city, located in the south, is not the capital of Vietnam (Hanoi is, up in the north), but it’s the biggest of the country, with a population of more than 8 million. The most distinct part of the city are the amount of motorcycles rushing around, which is estimated to 3.5 million. They are literally everywhere which makes traffic very bad. Crossing the streets is like jumping off a rock, no driver follows the rules or lights or crosses so you have to put your self out there hoping that they will stop, which they do kind of but there are so many of them that something wrong could happen. the experience is both thrilling and funny. I couldn’t contain laughter every time while crossing because the situation is so bizarre.
I put this video together, that gives an idea of the city we visited:
Anyways we spent two days in Saigon, we found a cheap hotel on arrival in the so-called backpacker area (you can find hotels or hostels averaging between 4 and 10 us dollars a night, obviously you get what you pay for but still very good for youngsters that have a budget). We toured the city a lot, but mostly in district 1 (there are 24 districts total!), we took a small boat one afternoon that took us on a circle on the river around a very poor/slums area, visited the night market where you can bu very cheap things, visited the war museum, and saw the “touristy things”.
Next destination was a beach town called Mui Ne, a 4 hour bus ride from the city. Honestly, we were quite happy to leave the crowded Saigon, it was too noisy and polluted for my taste. Again, once we got there (around 1 Am) we went looking for a cheap hotel or Guesthouse (that’s how they call them) and found a place, same cheap pricing as the city, which we then changed the next day, for a better location. We stayed in this area for two nights, explored it with scooters, visited some sand dunes and fairy streams.
The food during the whole trip was ok, we were looking to have authentic Vietnamese food but it’s kind of difficult when you don’t know where to go. Their signature dishes are the spring rolls (fried or not fried, rapped with rice paper), pho’ (which is a noodle soup) and ban xeo (a savory pancake that looks like a frittata, but used as a crepe for different kinds of fillings). The fruit stalls are everywhere like in Thailand, so we’d have about two fresh smoothies everyday, my favorite mix was avocado, mango and soursop. It was challenging for me to find vegetarian/vegan options, they use a lot of meat and fish. On my last night I researched online and found a vegan café also close to where we were staying, so I was so happy to have something I could eat, it was called Vegan Saigon.
I have to say the people were not as friendly as we had imagined, some Vietnamese were really polite and helpful, but others quite aggressive and not very nice. Maybe it’s because of the tourists, but where we went there weren’t that many of them and in Thailand it’s not like this.
I was happy to be back with Thai people who always have a smile on their face, and also to drive without hearing honks every second!
If I decide to go back I would like to see the northern part of Vietnam, which is supposed to be quite different and has a much cooler climate.