A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Goodbye Vietnam


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The top ten things we've learnt whilst in Vietnam:

1. Tam REALLY hates 24 hour bus journeys!
2. It's a dollar - just pay him to stamp the passport!
3. Puppets performing in water are highly amusing.
4. Winter is nice when it comes for a few days.
5. Just because beer is cheaper than water it doesn't mean that you should drink non-stop!
6. BEDBUGS ARE REAL AND THEY DO BITE!!
7. Just because it's a tourist attraction it does not mean it's worth seeing!
8. Hhhhmmmmm, cough, cough...... Communist propaganda.... who said that?!
9. Jo found a soup she liked - Pho Bo.
10. Quad bikes are fun, if not a little dangerous when Tam is behind the wheel!

Posted by Tam-Jo 17:11 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Street Pho Bo...finally!

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Not much to report on. We had to move to the hotel next door as ours was full. Packing for this took a long time...our room was a state!

We've had a very productive day, getting plans sorted for Cambodia and Thailand. Inbetween planning we went for little walks trying to find the ABC Bakery that Sarah and Felix told us was amazing. After almost an hour in total of pounding the pavements in Saigon, on a day when it was hotter than the sun, we found the bakery. It was closed for Tet. Oops!

But this evening, we finally completed Adam's challenge to eat Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) at a street stall. Very proud of ourselves!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:46 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon Comments (1)

Death, destruction and Die Hard

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Today we tackled what we knew would be one of the more difficult museums on our trip - the War Remnants Musuem (formally the American War Crimes Museum). We were both still feeling a little tender after Tet, and despite Dan's warnings that the museum would take several hours to get through, we attempted to get through it in the 40 minutes between us arriving and it closing for lunch. We didn't manage it! But we did spend the morning in the upper reaches of the building going through a very moving exhibition of photographs of the war, taken by photographers that had died in the war. Their stories and pictures made it all seem very real to us, in a way that no other site until then had managed. It also told a story of American losses in Vietnam, something largely overlooked elsewhere as the numbers pale in comparision to the numbers of Vietnamese killed. Needless to say, it was very, very sad.

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When closing time came we were a little relieved to have a break. We went to the nearby cinema and booked tickets to see the only English language film showing - A Good Day to Die Hard. What can I say? Is it time for Bruce Willis to give it up? Maybe, but he still kicks ass! Then lunch, and a wander around Saigon (which was half empty because of Tet!) to see the Notre Dame Cathedral and to find a post office. Then back to the museum.

Our afternoon was spent looking at pictures of the effects of Agent Orange, a herbicide sprayed in vast quantities over southern Vietnam to try to expose the Viet Cong, who were adept at hiding in the forest. It is easy to see the effects today on the streets of Saigon, and these genetic abnormalities look set to continue into the future here. The museum also contains an exhibit on the massacre of a whole village by American soldiers, which was hard to get through.

By kicking out time we were both feeling emotionally drained. We had dinner (i.e. comfort food) at a Mexican restaurant across the road and then headed home to watch some trashy TV to soothe our poor heads and hearts.

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:43 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon Comments (0)

Write off day

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We finally surfaced at around 1pm today only to realise that our hangovers were so severe that we couldn't possibly get out of bed for several hours (apart from a quick run by me to the shop to get some Kettle Chips, Pringles and Coke to sustain us)!

Here's some highlights from last night's celebrations:

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- Drinking cheap beer on stools in the street.

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- Going to a stage performance in one of the parks to see some proper Vietnamese celebrations.

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- Infiltrating the stage of this performance once the show had finished!

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- Making friends with some soldiers who were initially trying to force us off said stage.

- Drinking vodka in the street bought by our new Canadian friends Karli and Meghan...classy we know!

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- Watching Wales win against France...Jo was very, very happy!

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- Doing shots bought by a some fellow Brits (neither of us can remember their names).

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- Drinking more cheap beer on stools in the street.

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- Dancing in a bar.

- Dan getting kicked out of the bar for trying to smuggle in cheaper beer from down the road.

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- The rest is a blur.

So today we did nothing but watch films (including Spiderman 3 and 102 Dalmations) and go to Pizza Hut for dinner to meet up with Dan and Karli for a hangover fix. We had the best intentions of going to the pub at 10pm to watch the England game but we both fell asleep in our room! Oops! Will have to read up on the match report tomorrow instead.

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:37 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon Comments (0)

Tunnels and gun fire

sunny 34 °C
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Today we went to the Cu Chi tunnels, outside Saigon. This was a base of the Viet Cong in the war. We had seen a set of tunnels on our DMZ tour and weren't sure what to expect of this well visited tourist site in the south. It started relatively badly with us sharing the tour with a huge bus load of people. Then followed a long drive, a forced shopping experience, and a lot of waiting around.

When we finally got into the Cu Chi tunnel site we were herded into an underground bunker to see, what I can only hope was, a propaganda video shown in the war about "crazy devil American bombers" and "the American killing heros of Vietnam". This was followed by quite an informative, but short, talk by a South Vietnamese army veteran, telling the often unheard side of the war story in Vietnam.

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The "sights" of the tunnels lurched between uninspiring and horrific. The home-made man traps looked incredibly painful - bamboo spikes galore! But the firing range on site, for people to try their hand at shooting the guns used by both sides in the war, was a tourist gimmic too far in our eyes! The tunnels themselves were TINY! As we're both a little claustrophobic we dared not brave them!

Tonight we are out to watch the Six Nations and to celebrate Tet (lunar new year)! I will leave it for Tam to tell you about our evenings antics tomorrow!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:15 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon Comments (0)

A nice sleeper bus...shock horror!

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We had planned to go and lie on the beach this morning before our 1pm bus to Saigon. But when we woke up, the weather was against us...cloudy and windy! So instead we had a lazy morning re-packing our bags and getting some planning done for some of the rest of our trip.

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The seven hour bus to Saigon was (in comparison to many other bus trips we've taken) amazing! It was a sleeper bus but in stark comparison to our last one, it was clean, modern and spacious. Bliss! We arrived in Saigon happy ladies although that didn't last due to another taxi driver trying to con us. The tactic this driver used was to drive in a massive semi circle to take us to our hotel therefore taking five times as long as it should have. Needless to say, we didn't pay him what he wanted! And he didn't even try to argue it!!

After checking into our hotel, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Pizza Hut before getting an early night. We're up early tomorrow to go and visit the Cu Chi tunnels!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 05:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon muine Comments (0)

A lot of underwhelming sandy locations

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Early this morning we left Dalat and headed to Mui Ne, somewhere that was not on our original schedule but was a bit of a last minute addition a few days ago when we realised we had a day spare! We should have known it was going to be a bad day when we realised we were making the 4 hour trip with the mouldy bus company (otherwise known as An Phu) again! Our mode of transport was like the weird love child of a minivan and bus, with nowhere to put our big backpacks! The result was people sat in the aisles (not us thankfully!), bags flying everywhere during emergency braking (of which there was plenty!) and finally a bag half rammed onto my already pretty small chair! After two hours of very strange seating positions in order to be able to fit in the seat with Tam, I finally had a hissy fit and moved the luggage around into what I thought was a sensible order. The Chinese man behind me disagreed, but by then it was his problem and not mine for the remaining hour of our journey!

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Yet again, we didn't have accomodation booked at Mui Ne, but we grabbed a taxi into "town" (one small street of shops and restaurants) and quite easily found a very nice backpackers place with a room free. We even had a balcony! We booked onto what seemed a rather expensive tour of the local sights and then went to get lunch. Lunch was an epic fail, but the views of the beach were OK.

We were back in time for our jeep tour...... I'm not sure if we were seriously jaded by the days events so far, or our expectations were high following the easy rider tour, or what, because the pictures have come out well, but it felt like the most pointless four hours of our lives! So, the sights:

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1. Fairy stream. A stream. Granted the sand was pretty cool, being red in some places and white in others. Pretty, but the hoardes of tourists ruined it a little. I know, I know, we were among them! But I feel that if a place is teaming with tourists then it should offer more than Fairy Stream did!

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2. Fishing village - or so it was advertised. What we actually went to was a pavement on the side of the road that overlooked the bay of the fishing village. A nice picture but not much else!

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3. White sand dunes. A lot of white sand with people driving quad bikes on them (including us, although Tammy did most of the driving! She might have nearly killed us a couple of times, but I definitely would have killed us if I'd spent too long behind the wheel!).

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4. The red canyon. Not a canyon, just an old stream bed which was red. I guess that if you like red stuff then you would have loved it. The graffiti was a little sad, as was all the rubbish!

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5. Red sand dunes, where we were meant to watch sunset. Loads of people, a view of the sunset which would have been obstructed by power lines had we bothered to stay for it, and yet more rubbish.

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FAIL! Our tour guide topped the whole experience off by being incredibly rude and having a serious lack of respect for our safety when driving! If we got five words out of him in the whole four hours we were with him then I would be surprised! Our fifteen minute stop at a petrol station was nice too! Hands down, worlds worst tour guide!

Highlight of the day - dinner! Salad and pizza! Yum! Although, even that wasn't hassle free thanks to power cuts, weird, masked fanning men, and the most god awful musical parade for tet! Defnitely bed time I think, before this day gets any worse!!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 04:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged muine Comments (0)

Biker chicks!

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Today was our Dalat Easy Rider tour. Ted and his colleague, Tai, met us early this morning to start our tour. As soon as we got on the bikes, we gladly realised that it would be a much more comfortable ride than our motorbike tour around the tombs in Hue. And the helmets we were given to wear were proper motorbike helmets...health and safety is clearly on the radar of Dalat Easy Riders. Yay!

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First stop today was the Golden Budhha on top of a big hill here in Dalat. It's huge! And the views of the town from the top of the hill were amazing. It was here that Ted explained to us that the huge mansion type houses we could see all belonged to farmers, something which surprises even Vietnamese tourists in Dalat. The plentiful flower farms in Dalat make a lot more money than crop and rice farms elsewhere in the country. We also went into the Buddhist temple by the Golden Buddha. Inside it was decorated with mosaic which used glass bottle and crockery pieces. And outside the gardens were filled with bonsai trees. Very pretty.

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The next stop was at a flower farm. Tai gave us a tour around this farm. This time of year is the busiest time for these farms as it is the lead up to Tet, the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated across Asia. The flowers from here are sent all over Vietnam and to neighbouring countries like Cambodia. We saw many boxes marked for the Mekong Delta!

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Other stops on the tour included an old South Vietnam army base on top of a massive hill (which we had to walk up!), another flower farm, a silk worm farm, a silk factory, a waterfall where we did some "rock climbing" called Elephant Waterfall (from the top, the grassy rocks look like elephants), a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch and the Laughing Buddha temple. We also made random stops along the journey at view points to take photos and to see a bit of the local way of life. We stopped when Ted and Tai saw giant sacks of vegetales being hauled down a hill and getting packed into a truck. We were told these sacks could weigh up to 80kg and the men carrying them probably only weigh about 50kg! We also got to see some fishing in one of the rivers.

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The penultimate stop was at a coffee producer just outside of Dalat which produces one of the famous coffees of the region, Weasel Coffee. So we had to try it! This coffee is made by feeding the coffee beans to weasels. The weasels then excrete this, the coffee beans are cleaned (we hope!) and then used to brew coffee in the normal way. It tasted strong! And bitter! And I don't think we'll be trying it again. We decided that it definitely wasn't worth the price (it's five times more expensive than regular coffee) so we'll stick to the cheap stuff from now on!

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And the final stop was at a very unusual looking Catholic church...it had dragons on the roof!

It's an early start for us in the morning (a 7am bus to Mui Ne) so we've just grabbed some fresh baguettes from a road seller for dinner and will enjoy them whilst watching some movies tonight!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 06:48 Archived in Vietnam Tagged dalat Comments (0)

New Year take 2 begins!

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According to many internet threads and the lonely planet (!) one of the best ways to see Vietnam is on the back of a motorbike. But this is a very expensive way to travel! So Tam and I compromised and decided to head to Dalat, in the central highlands, to see a bit more of the country on a one day easy rider tour. So today we set off on a 4 hour bus ride inland. It is the first time we've winged it and not booked accomodation before we get to a place. This was mostly because the place we wanted to stay wouldn't reply to our emails and didn't have a phone number, and we couldn't be bothered to search for anywhere else online! So when we turned up at the bus station far out of town in the late afternoon we hailed a taxi and headed to our preferred choice of guesthouse, hoping they would have a room. They didn't. So we wandered off in search of a home for the night.

Just down the road we found a hotel that was well within our budget and had an OK looking twin room, so we took it. It turns out we're both allergic to our room and the place is completely soulless, but it will do for two nights!

We immediately headed out to find a tour office where we could book an easy rider tour for the next day. We had only walked a few minutes down the road when we were accosted by a group of Vietnamese bikers.... Dalat Easy Riders. They were in the middle of a party to celebrate Tet (lunar new year), but one of the group, Ted, broke off for ten minutes to tell us about their tours and sign us up to one for the following day.

We were then ushered through to the party, sat at the table and given beer and food. Feeling that it would be rude to refuse them, we merrily ate and drank away the next couple of hours with our new biker friends. Weirdly, they all know the names of a number of Welsh football players and kept shouting them at random intervals to prove that they knew where Wales was! They also tried to teach us some Vietnamese, which we struggled with! But it was a very entertaining evening!

We decided to head back to our dusty room before we got completely hammered, thinking that it probably wasn't a good idea to be drunk/hung over on a motorbike the following day!

Jo xxx

Posted by Tam-Jo 21:22 Archived in Vietnam Tagged dalat nhatrang Comments (0)

Sunshine (ish)!

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We awoke this morning to more clouds! But today, we could see some blue sky trying to peep through and we were determined to lie in the sun and swim in the sea so decided to be optimistic and head to the beach!

By the time we got there, it was hot. And the sun was out in full force! We faffed around for fifteen minutes trying to decide whether or not to pay for sun loungers for the day. Concluding it wasn't worth it, we wandered down the beach and found a nice shady spot under a wooden parasol that was past it's best and so no longer used by the overpriced sun lounger sellers!

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We spent a pleasant few hours sunbathing and going in and out of the sea. The sea was a little rough for my liking but the water was the perfect temperature so I braved it regardless!

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The wind picked up in the early afternoon and it started to feel a little chilly so we called it a day. My Granny had told me, on her friend's recommendation, that Jo and I should try the seafood sold on the beach here in Vietnam, so we stopped off on route back to our hostel. And I'm so glad we did! The prawns were probably the tastiest prawns I've ever eaten. Delicious! And Jo tried a scallop too which she said was amazing. We will now be on the lookout for seafood sellers on the beach wherever we go!

This afternoon, owing to the "bad" weather, we caught up on some life admin before going back to the Vietnamese restaurant we went to last night for dinner. I'm pleased to report that both dishes tonight were edible!

Tam xx

Posted by Tam-Jo 21:20 Archived in Vietnam Tagged nhatrang Comments (0)

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