After crossing a pretty laxed border (I’m talking a pretty barren area with some sheds labeled “customs” and “visa processing” with a man or two sitting in a hammock which made me laugh) into Vietnam by foot, Can Tho was our first stop. Viewing Vietnam from the bus you could instantly tell you were in another country. No tuk Tuks insight, the greenery reminded me of home, rice fields for days, it was a refreshing change from the less fortunate more polluted, Cambodia.
Just after the border crossing:
First glimpse into a city in Vietnam: With about 92million people living in this relatively small country housing is extremely expensive in the city centres. With land costing so much the houses are oddly shaped. They are extremely skinny in order to take up the least amount of land as possible and very tall all stacked up against one another. Not my ideal living situation. Even the hotels are built in such a way. So a few times there’s been no windows and quite tight stairwells.
Our first, and only, night in Can Tho was at a home stay. It was a lot more luxurious than what I had been staying at in the elephant village, we even had wifi! But it was still a nice change from hotels and busy tourist areas. We were in a small village just outside of Can Tho, in the jungle. We had huge mosquito nets hovering over our beds and a traditional Vietnamese meal for dinner. Cooked by the women of the house we had Vietnamese pancakes stuffed with veggies, spring rolls, rice crackers, rice, morning glory (which is a knew veggie to add to the list) as well as various other vegetables and tofu it was quite delish! We had a night of playing cards, guitar playing and sing songs as well as watching the Vietnam special of top gear, which was very entertaining and also gave us a glimpse of what we had to look forward too!
Sunset from the homestay:
The next morning we visited the floating markets. It’s such an awesome concept. There are literally hundreds of boats, long and slim piled with various foods such as mango, fish, pineapple, Vietnamese coffee (which is coffee with a tonne of condensed milk), banana etc. so we got on a boat and powered though them, pulling up to various boats which had food we wanted to try. Each boat will have a large bamboo stick sticking up out of it with a bunch of whatever it’s selling so you know where to go from afar. The pineapple and mango was Devine, so fresh and full of taste!
A long bus journey was ahead of us to get to the capital. Arriving in Saigon, Ho Chi Min city, meant we would say goodbye to four of our fellow travellers but gain another 3! To mark the occasion we went to a karekoe bar where we rented out a very flash room and sang our hearts out to the likes of Britney Spears, shakira, celiene dion and Queen. It was really a great night.
The next day was another very interesting day. We visited the famous Cu Chi tunnels. This was were many people lived during the Vietnam war in order to escape being noticed by the enemy. It was insane how tiny these tunnels were. Even with them already being enlarged for us European sized people it was still a tight squeeze. They cooked underground in the tunnels, using several vents to diminish the smoke above ground, slept and there were also many women who gave birth in the tunnels.Our tour guide was a veteran of the war And was quite funny when it came to explaining ‘the truth’ and ‘what the new tour guides and businesses have set up purely for tourists’. It was great to be able to have a real, personal perspective on the war. The thing I gained most from this visit was how inivative the Vietnamese were for using what at first glance could be perceived as a disadvantage in war (their small size) to an advantage to escape the enemy.
(Photos on camera sorry)
After our second overnight train which included a mouldy sheet and a friendly mouse, we made it to Nha trang. Here I enjoyed a lovely day out on the boat snorkelling. The fish weren’t abundant but just being in the ocean and having yet another yummy lunch on the water was good enough for me! I also had a new experience with mud bathing. There’s a whole sequence to it. First you rinse yourself off under a hot shower for 5 mins. Second you bath in mud for about half an hour, lye in the sun to soak up all the minerals then rinse yourself off, soak in a warm bath for about 20mins then chug down a bottle of water before relaxing under a hot water fall and pool. My skin was as smooth as a babies bottom, it was great.
After just one night in Nha Trang it was off to one of my favourite places yet, Hoi Ann. This town has an ‘old town’ section where it is purely breathtaking. It has such an oriental feel, no cars are allowed, most people are on bicycles, the architecture makes you feel like you’re in Italy, china, Thailand all at once. The town is full with lanterns and very pushy sales merchants. A few people even got tailored suits made at the place we had watched Jeremy Clarkson get his on top gear. The town is renowned for very inexpensive, well made suits. I was just in awe of it beauty. Little coffee shops lay next to gelato stores while temples and cobbled stone roads provided a peaceful view. I was so happy we were here for three days!
We visited another Gadventures supported programme called oodles for noodles. Where children who are living on the steeets or from disadvantaged backgrounds can learn English and train in the culinary field to be able to have a fulfilling career in the hospitality industry. So we went to one of their restaurants where they can practice their English by serving us as well as their culinary skills and in return we help support what they do by buying their meal so it’s a win win. It was awesome to be apart of something that will have profound impacts on these kids quality of life.
I treated myself to a back, head and shoulder massage before a day of cycling! It’s amazing how you can spend so much time building up your fitness and then you break for a bit and boom. All your hard work is gone. As soon as I hopped on the bike and started to pedal I was like wow I’m so unfit. This was your life for the past 7 months this should be a walk in the park! To be fair it was all flat sour was realively easy but everything is 10x sweater in this heat. A group of us scattered out along the dirt roads that lead us to the countryside. Lush rice fields, water buffalo and cows grazing and bathing, the sun shining, what more could you want? How about the oldest and in my opinion, happiest couple in Hoi Ann?! We pulled aside to a house which had a large garden at the back and a cute dog that was extremely excited to see us. A frail old lady with a beaming smile that radiated happiness (despite having no teeth whatsoever) and a small man with a bit of a waddle to his step but the same smile as the women next to him emerged. Although they could not speak a word of english, their gentle touch and longing gaze at one another spoke volumes. They have been together a total of 72 Years and are now 93 And 88 . They still tend to their organically grown veggies and pose for a photo or two with tourists daily. While back on the bikes we stopped in to witness why the locals are so happy, according to our tour guide. We saw how to process and ferment rice in order to make rice wine! It was rather strong and tasted more like a shot of spirits as opposed to wine. God knows how they drink a glass. Also on our biking expedition we stopped to row a local boat which look like big bowls sitting on the water. They’re made from bamboo. A local lady sat in with myself and my rowing buddy and made a crown and necklace as well as a ring for me out of a flax bush which we managed to crash into on many occasions. In the end, of course, it turned into a race. Who could get back to the dock fist? Suffice to say it was not me and our very uncoordinated paddling. It’s hard because it circular and your paddles are on either side, okay I’m just fishing for excuses. But it was really enjoyable and also great to finally get some excersise! That’s night we were knackered so a few of us had a wee slumber party, ordering room service and watching what happens in vegas as well as extremely over dramatic Vietnamese soap operas.
My noodle I made at oodles for noodles:
Something interesting: you cannot sleep on any vehicle, the roads are literally a collection of pot holes. So when they say “this ride comes with a free bum massage” don’t get your hopes up.