Monday, September 22, 2014

Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam

The next and final stop on our way through Vietnam was Ho Chi Mihn City, or Saigon as they call it.

We opted at this point to take a plane to the south of Vietnam, which was a good decision.

We were there for a few days.

We visited the Chu Chi Tunnels, an underground network created by the VietCong.  We walked through them for about 50 meters and it was horrible.  The tour was depressing. You could shoot machine guns and you better believe one of us did that.

We visited the War Remnants Museum which was also depressing and a little awkward being American.

We took a guided tour of the Mekong River, which was dirty but the experience was cool being on one of the longest rivers in the world.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was taking a cooking class where we learned to make fresh spring rolls, squid stir fry, and banana leaf salad.  All were perfectly delicious. Note to self: Take all the cooking classes in all the countries.

One of my favorite parts of every trip I take is checking out the local markets, and the Cho Ben Thanh Market did not disappoint.  My only regret is I didn't take more photos.  I never need to buy anything, just watch the people work and smell all the food.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An isn't that far from Hue, our last stop.  We came by private car and it was rad.

The city was well-preserved and felt to me like Asia meets Central America. 

The town is known for making custom clothes and suits.  I myself had some custom made leather shoes made. Two, in fact.  A black pair of flats that I wear almost every day at work and a pair of woven flats that hurt my feet.  I ordered them late in the day and they were ready for me early the next day.  I try to buy ethically sourced clothing but I'm not sure about these shoes...

I enjoyed Hoi An.  So did most of France.  We of course came upon tourists all over Vietnam, but never so many as here.  Shops and restaurants lined the cobblestone streets and nighttime strolls along the river were a true treat. These are the things I dream of in the throes of a long school year. 

We rang in the New Year here, with strangers from around the world, excited and hopeful for what 2014 had in store. 

Hue, Vietnam

The next stop on our trip through Vietnam was the city of Hue.  Between 1802 and 1945 it served as the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty. I'm not quite sure what that is but I know I could look it up if I wanted to.

There were many old beautiful monuments and buildings.  Most of the pictures here are from the Citadel.

What I remember most is the amazing hotel my man found for us and the fact that it was too cold to swim in our private plunge pool.

Hue is halfway down Vietnam and it took us another overnight train to get there.  The days were still overcast and dreary and I was beginning to wonder what what up with this country and where the sun was.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Halong Bay, Vietnam

After Sapa we took the long treck back to Hanoi and then on to the ultra famous Halong Bay. 

While I try and steer away from negativity in this space, I'll admit my experience at Halong Bay was not what dreams are made of.

I was quite sick that day, so I'm sure that was most of it. 

We didn't have much time there, but made the most of what we could. 

It is common to take boat tours in this area but we opted not to. Instead, we stayed in a guest house and took a ferry to Catba Island during the day. 

We rented a scooter for something like four dollars for the entire day.  Since the left hand break didn't work my man had to drive extra carefully. We drove around the island all day.  

I don't have any good photos so I snatched these off my VSCO grid. (taken with iPhone) 

Sapa, Vietnam

We took an overnight train to get to Sapa, known for its verdant rice paddies and ethnic minority groups.  Everyone says, "You HAVE to go to Sapa".

Somehow we ended up with our own berth on the train car, complete with two sets of bunk beds.  I'm not sure if it was by chance or if we paid for it, but it was a lovely introduction to "training" in Vietnam.

Sapa is in the Northwest corner of Vietnam, and remained untouched during the Vietnam War.

The first thing we noticed upon arrival was that we were severely underdressed and had under packed.  Also, the green rice paddies were more brown.  I guess all those pictures I had seen online hadn't been taken in December.

Our first stop was to the nearest shop to pick up some North Face (Fake?) jackets, hats and gloves.

We had a special time nonetheless.

We opted to take a two day journey around the area led by a Hmong tour guide.  Her name was Lisa and she smiled and laughed the whole time.  And she had epic earrings.

We spent the days being followed by village ladies, marveling at how some people still live like the American Pioneers did, watching ladies weave hemp cloth and dye it with indigo, make rice wine, and hull rice.

I bought a bracelet from a lady I still wear every day.

The time was too short, and the pictures don't do the experience justice.