We flew down from North Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in South Vietnam. We pre-booked our hostel for the first time, staying at some place called New York Hotel. We arrived late and I for one did not want to be wasting our time searching, especially with still being iffy with pain. The hotel was fine other than our room being located on the fourth floor. It was a hike everyday going up and down, but I guess I can't complain it's exercise!
We had a good amount of time in southern Vietnam around 7 days. Our first day we just explored around the city, and visited a small indoor market thing. One thing I did notice about Vietnam was that it seemed to be more expensive than the other countries. I would not have thought about buying any souvenirs here when I could get them elsewhere for cheaper along our way.
Unfortunately our second day Mike was unable to join due to having to get more passport pages at the US embassy. Whitney and I booked a Cu Chi Tunnel tour. These tunnels were used during the Vietnam war by the Vietcong. This massive underground tunnel system was used as supply routes, hospitals, living quarters and hideouts for many of the northern Vietnamese guerrillas within the allied South.
Life in the tunnels was difficult. You have to imagine living in these cramped spaces due to the enormous amount of bomb activity going on above ground. There was a lot of disease and poisonous animals in the tunnels as well as booby traps for anyone not belonging to the National Liberation Front (ex. Americans).
We were able to go through a portion of the safe part, and were they small. This was a factor that helped the small stature Vietnamese. Any westerner that tried to explore would normally not be able to fit through, and a couple of people from our group bowed out due to feeling claustrophobic.
I forgot to mention we picked up a friend before this, or rather she picked us up! We met Laura in a Circle K. Of course all of us love to talk so we ended up hitting it off and invited her to spend the day with us. She is lovely and just left traveling with her friend so it ended up she spent the rest of our time in Southern Vietnam with us.
After checking out the tunnels and small hidden hiding spots around the Cu Chi district we decided to be dropped off at the War Remnants Museum. This museum is not for the faint at heart. Originally the museum was known as," The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government." Since Vietnam's liberalization and the relations between the US and Vietnam have normalized the name has been changed.
The museum has three levels each displaying their own themes. The level that was incredibly disturbing to me was consumed with photographs of people who had been hurt and effected by napalm and agent orange. These photos were obviously detailed and showed people that were hurt, and also effects on later generations after being exposed to the chemicals. Mutations were highly prevalent after this situation, and their were even three fetuses of unborn babies that had apparent mutations.
I felt slightly uncomfortable being an American here. It was informative, but at the same time I am aware of the certainty of this being a propaganda based museum. There was no mention of any wrong doing or situations that could view North Vietnam in a bad light. Saying this, I hadn't felt that there were bad feelings towards us from anyone Vietnamese I met along the way.
In the following days we booked a Mekong Delta tour. This took us west to the delta where the Mekong river empties into the sea. We took a bus a couple hours away and I should have know it was going to go downhill once I met the guide who was practically screaming at us to get on the bus. We took a river ride to a couple of islands on the delta that specialized in their trade. One was for coconut candies. At first while hot they were amazing, but after Mike bought two packets of them he basically couldn't give them away.
One of the upsides of the trip was that we made some friends! Demi and Sabine were two girls traveling from the Netherlands and Tobias from Denmark.
While making it back to the bus I realized that I had left my American money with my bigger bag underneath my chair. Before leaving I retrieved my passport from it, but left my cash that I had been using to purchase my different visas. Becoming aware of this I went straight to look and alas... Of course it is nowhere to be found. Yet again I fall for the, "go ahead leave anything on the bus, we will be locking the doors," scam. After searching through my big backpack and getting into a yelling match with the guide after he raised his voice to me, I had to tell myself to breathe. He thought I had been accusing him, which at that point I hadn't, but with the way he reacted his face read guilty. Hopefully from this everyone will learn to not trust anything that comes out of most peoples mouths.
These scams that keep happening started making me extremely frustrated. They can happen anywhere, but it's unfortunate to happen when your visiting other countries to try and understand their culture and get to know their people. I hated that it started making me feel like I disliked the people of Southeast Asia. I didn't want these thoughts to taint my mind and I had to tell myself I have met beautiful individuals along the way and I can't let the other masses leave a bad taste in my mouth.
And in saying some things within my blog, I'm just trying to keep to air of honesty throughout my posts. This in my opinion helps to keep the experience real and not paint an unrealistic picture about the world of travel.
Moving on that night we decided to do a homestay. The bus dropped us three, Laura, Tobias, and our new Korean friend Hwan off. We walked to their home and across a makeshift bridge to stay for the night. We had a nice time chatting and eating dinner that the mother of the household cooked for us. Hwan was living in Vietnam overseeing the construction of a major bridge. He insisted that we try the home made rice wine. From just trying we went to finishing two bottles. I didn't have much though, it wasn't my favorite!
We did another couple things, that were to be honest just okay and made our way back to Ho Chi Minh that afternoon. That night we were staying in the city before catching a bus north to Mui Ne the next day. We decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo right all the way over in Vietnam and even school our foreign friends on this holiday. We found a Mexican restaurant and even had a round of tequila shots before scooping out the town and starting a dance party.
There are Also these bottle shops/ littttllllleee bars things on the side of the road that you can sit in small plastic chairs and drink cheap beer while socializing. We decided to play 'I bet you won't.' Apparently established by Whitney's brother Hunter. My favorite one was when Sabine and Mike had to get all the people lined up drinking on the other side of the street to do the wave. And it turned out great! That night we had to say goodbye to Demi and Sabine. And our short trip to Mui Ne would begin the next day!
Better late then never : )