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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted on January 19th, 2018

After quaint and gentle Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City came as quite a shock to the system! We arrived in the pulsating heart of this loud, busy and crazy city. Our hostel turned out to be on Bui Vein walking street which is the equivalent of Bangkok’s Khao San road: full-on hustle bustle party scene.

Our first full day in HCMC was a hands-on lesson in Vietnam’s war-riddled history. We took a bus to the Cu Chi tunnels where we learnt about the Vietnamese Guerrillas and how they lived in the 200km network of underground tunnels, fighting against the American soldiers.

We were shown the various booby traps created to ensnare Americans and got to crawl through a 120m section of the tunnels. It was really cramped and extremely hot and sweaty. I can’t imagine living down there with no light for an extended period of time!

In the afternoon we visited the War Remnants Museum, finding context for what we’d witnessed earlier in the day. Here we walked through exhibits telling stories of the French colonisation of Vietnam, its fight for independence led by Ho Chi Minh, the war against Japan and finally the brutal 17 year Anti-US war (that’s what it is referred to as here). It was utterly heart-wrenching and deeply disturbing seeing photographs and reading stories from what was an inhuman and brutal attack on many innocent people (of the 3 million casualties during the war, 2 million were civilians). I don’t think I’d ever truly felt the weight of what Vietnam had been through until now. And it just made me so proud to see how far this beautiful country has come since then.

On our second full day we had organised a trip to the Mekong Delta. Driving through the most incredibly lush green rice paddies, I just sat in awe of the beauty of Vietnam’s countryside. Our first stop was a coconut and bamboo fibre factory where we were shown their amazing benefits of high absorbance and anti-bacterial properties. We continued on to the port where we boarded our boat, cruising on to the Mekong River.

We sailed to the first island host of a honey bee farm where we sampled the sweet honey in green tea and saw the swarming bees. We were then treated to a traditional folk music performance while sampling exotic and interesting fruits.

Walking through the fertile land boasting tropical fruit trees of every kind, we arrived at a thin river. Here we were rowed in bamboo boats by old men and women wearing the traditional hats. It was so picturesque with the leaf hats and overhanging palms.

Our next stop was a coconut candy factory. Here they showed us how they removed the husk of the coconut to get the white alone, shredded it in machines, squeezed out the coconut milk, mixed this with sugar and caramel under heat for 45 minutes before molding the sticky mixture into sweets. They were delicious! We also sampled some coconut ice cream before heading to our lunch stop.

Lunch was simple but yummy and afterwards we explored the new island with lovely swings and hammocks in the trees and a crocodile farm. It was quite sad to see so many baby crocs crammed into such a small space being fed meat from a fishing rod by tourists.

We made the final chug along the Mekong back to our bus and thus concluded our trip to the Mekong Delta. On the way back to Ho Chi Minh City we stopped at a beautifully bougainvillea framed pagoda. A final bit of serenity before HCMC’s noise hit.

Our time in HCMC felt very short as we had two full day trips and not much time in the city itself. But we definitely feel like we got the vibe and the frenzy.

And that’s it for Vietnam. We had the most incredible two weeks exploring one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been too. I loved delving deep into the wounded history of Vietnam, exploring the vastly diverse beauty of the country while having the most wonderful and memorable experiences. Nic and I have had the most amazing month of traveling together with some much-needed sibling bonding time. But now it’s time for Luke to join us in Cambodia and I couldn’t be more overjoyed! He’s flying towards us as I write this! Cambodia, you’d better be ready for this kick-ass trio!

 

 



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