Scooters, Skyscrapers & Shooting. Welcome to Ho Chi Minh

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As a wise man once said Vietnam is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Ok I’m paraphrasing, but it’s true.

One of the true charms of Vietnam is the constant surprise factor. After weeks in Vietnam visiting the beautiful Hoi An, the bustling Hanoi and the serene Halong Bay I thought Vietnam couldn’t have any more surprises in store. Then we landed in Ho Chi Minh.

It is undoubtedly the most developed city in Vietnam, boasting a financial district fully equipped with skyscrapers and (wait for it)… TOP SHOP! Then you head out of the city and get to experience first hand a history lesson like no other at the Cu Chi Tunnels.

It truly is amazing and there’s plenty to see and do. We didn’t have nearly enough time but still managed to jam a lot in. Here are a couple of must-do’s, can’t wait to go back some day and add to the list.

Planning your pilgrimage:


Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

Yes it’s touristy but it’s a must do when in Ho Chi Minh. Book a day trip through your hotel and head out to see just a small fraction of the kilometres of narrow tunnels that so many Vietnamese functioned and fought out of for years. This trip will teach you more about the war than any history class. And the first hand experience crawling through the tunnels is one that will stick with you.

OH yeah and you can shoot an AK47… I’ve read from some reviews that this is offensive to those who fought and died in the war, but you know what, shut up. If the Vietnamese want to capitalize off a really shit situation by letting me shoot a gun, then good on them.

(Side note: Yep I have no gun skills as seen in the pic)


 

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants

I can’t warn you enough about how disturbing this museum is, but it’s a must do. The museum has hundreds of photographs and exhibitions telling the story of the true affect of the war.

Now I have to tell you this includes fetuses’ in jars that were affected by agent orange. This is 100% as awful as it sounds, but you know what? Look at it. They’ve put it on display to show you how bad things were (and for some still are) so take it in. Please don’t take photos, I mean you can, there’s no rule against it but come on, have some respect. Rant over.

(As you can see by my snap the only photo I took was outside…)


 

Bitexco Financial Tower

TowerIt’s really easy in a place like Ho Chi Minh to not really grasp the sheer size of the place. Well head up the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh and see just how wide spread the city is, it also gives you an idea of how much development is going on.

It’s a little more expensive than other activities in Ho Chi Minh, but in reality it’s costing you $15 instead of $2 that everything else is, so the bank isn’t broken.


 

Shop

At the Cho Ben Thanh Market. It’s full of watches, clothes, shoes, souveneirs etc. all genuine fakes of course. But it’s lots of fun and just remember to haggle, haggle and haggle some more. Or as a friend taught me, offer to pay one very low price for the item and a tip for the seller as that means they actually get some money to take home rather than giving money to the stall owner.


 

Wander

Ho Chi Minh buildingsAs per usual I recommend taking a good walk around the city. Make sure you stroll past the Saigon Opera House, the Post office and Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral. All amazing buildings and a reminder of the various influences the city has had over the years.


Eat

Beer Ho Chi MinhFor the first time in my Vietnam rambles I will tell you to go to an actual restaurant. That restaurant is 4p’s pizza – it is (wait for it) an Asian, Italian fusion restaurant (think Teryaki chicken pizza) and wholly hell it’s delicious. It sounds so wrong when you are in Vietnam to not eat Vietnamese but it’s worth detracting from the spring rolls for just one night. Trust me.

(Sorry no photos of 4P’s so instead you get a pic of another meal we had in Ho Chi Minh… yep there wasn’t just beer, although there was a lot of beer)


 

Alright that’s my reminiscing of Vietnam done for now… But i’ll be back. Mark my words. Love you Nam.

Nha Trang – Take a moment from the madness

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Have you ever been to a really intense party and you’re having a great time but you just need a break? With people everywhere, a range of scents permeating your nostrils and so much to take in you just need a moment to yourself? Nha Trang is that moment at the party that is Vietnam.

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This beach side town is your quintessential resort town; the main road is littered with imposing hotels, every store is geared towards tourists and there is sweet bugger all to do except lie on the beach and drink cocktails.

Now that sounds great, and it is, but it’s not my kind of place. I find these sorts of places offensive as a traveller, I don’t know why but I do. Somewhat adding insult to my self imposed injury there are direct flights from Russia to Nha Trang (a throw back from some friendly communist agreement)… as such the place is littered with Russians. This isn’t at all a bad thing but the Vietnamese subsequently speak to you in Russian and all the signs are in Russian. For me this just detracted from the charms I’d come to know and love in Vietnam.

Anyway rant over, thanks for listening. Let’s move on. I shall tell you a little more about the things you can do here to keep yourself entertained should you get bored of sunning and drinking.

Planning your pilgrimage:


 Vinpearl Land

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I introduce you to the kingpin of theme parks… the godfather, the absolute master. Vinpearl land.

What makes Vinpearl Land so special? It’s a whole freaking island dedicated to amusement/entertainment. Not only that to get there you take the longest sea cable car in the world, so the party starts before you arrive.

On the island you’ll find an amusement park with a whole host of rides, a water park spreading over 50,000m2, an aquarium, shows, food and if you’re bored (???!) a shopping street.

I actually dislike ‘rides’ with a passion, the need to scare myself shitless left me many years ago, however this place must be seen to be believed.

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100 Egg Mud Bath

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This place is surprising, different and well… down right strange. But 100% worth a visit.

Basically it’s a spa resort. It has a range of pools at different temperatures and then these wacky egg shaped ‘pools’ spread across the hillside. You hire said egg, they fill it with mud and you soak in it. It was all shades of filthy gloriousness – super relaxing and supposedly good for the skin. Win-win.

We didn’t actually hang out there too long after our mud bath as we got there so late however the property is spread over 17 hectares and I assume it would be well worth exploring.


Louisiane Brew House

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Ok so you’ve cleaned the mud out of places that mud should never be and now you need a drink… head to the Louisiane Brewhouse.

It’s right on the beach (with loungers on the sand during the day), it serves a huge range of beers (obviously… brewhouse…) and food and is quite the bustling spot.

I like to be a little more at one with the locals so it’s not my first port of call for a bevvy, however I would suggest grabbing a beer and a snack (I do seem to remember some ridiculously huge deserts) there at least once during the course of your trip.


Drink cocktails on the beach

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Finally, and as mentioned at the start, the main thing to do in Nha Trang is sit on the beach and drink.

So I shall leave you with this photo. Could be you on that deck chair, with that cocktail. Think about it 🙂

A journey through Vietnam – One Building at a time

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I’m no architect, in fact I generally struggle putting together flat pack furniture… stupid instructions that do more harm than good. But for some reason I’m infatuated with buildings when I go travelling. I think it’s because they explain more about the history of a country than perhaps anything else.

So join me now as I take you on a journey through Vietnam one building at a time…


Hanoi

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Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hoi An…

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Ho Chi Minh’s Residence 

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Run down building
These sort of sites aren’t uncommon in Nam

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Room with a view
These homes overlook an American bomber jet shot down and left in this lake

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Electricity, Nam Styles
Waiting for a power company to sort power to your house can take forever… why not just DIY power like they do in Nam?

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Shopping Centre
French Quarter Hanoi… Rather different from some of those earlier pics and pic below!

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Markets and multi-coloured building
I truly don’t know if it’s my photography or the building that is on the piss

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The signs of development
Hi-rise buildings are becoming a normal site in the north


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Japanese Bridge 

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The beautiful riverside

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Vibrant colours of Hoi An

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Traditional temple

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Incredible mix of cultures can be seen in the architecture of Hoi An

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Curb side supermarket – too easy!


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Like any resort town Nha Trang has a main strip littered with hotels

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Modern meets old world, check out the differences in buildings in this pic!

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My favourite building in Ho Chi Minh – the People’s Committee Building

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Followed closely by the Municipal Theatre

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Third world?? 

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The Independence Palace, the site where the war ended in 1975

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Notre-Dame Basilica

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The most boss post office around!

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And Ho Chi Minh from above


I hope you got something out of our little journey, if not, well I had a good time taking you on it, so at least I’m a winner!

Till next time pilgrims 🙂

Hoi An – A Pleasant Surprise

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Surprises – they can be good and bad.

You come home to find your house burgled… bad surprise. You come home to find a present from your loved one… good surprise.

Hoi An Street

Our arrival to Hoi An was more like the latter… a surprise gift given to us on our journey through Vietnam.

This UNESCO World Heritage site has managed to capture and embody the charming elements of Vietnam’s diverse history. It has been a trade port and home to Japanese, French, Chinese and many other cultures – as such it really is a mixed bag of beauty, from cobbled streets to wooden bridges and vibrant colours of lanterns.

Lanterns

Oh and yes Hoi An is the place where you can get custom made clothing quickly and cheaply. There are stalls upon stalls of tailors who will literally take your measurements one day and have a suit/dress/jacket (WHATEVER YOU WANT) ready for you by the next day.

Charming town and great shopping? You can see why it’s a great surprise…. Get there. Now.

Planning your pilgrimage:


Walk the River

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  • Running through the centre of town is the river. During the day it’s a hive of activity with fisherman, travellers and locals alike. At night it really comes alive. Local kids sell candles in little containers that you float down the river for luck. Lanterns light up the streets. It’s bustling and a great vibe.
  • Please remember too (a local reminded us of this on our trip) the tourist dollar is their way to live, so yes they may seem intense when trying to sell you something but they have lived in poverty for too long. Buy their candle and float it down the river. It’s their livelihood.

Jack Trans Eco Tour – BMW Buffalo Cart

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  • This was by far the most interesting and fantastic thing we did in Vietnam
  • Jack Tran hires local guides, and uses local families to make his tours a true Vietnam experience.
  • As we rode along in a cart drawn by a buffalo, our tour host openly told us of how her family had gone from complete despair to a happy life with the help of the tourist dollar.
  • Bufalo tour 3The Buffalo took us to a farmers house – he had also struggled for years, not making enough money (or rice for that matter) to feed his family. To make matters worse while tending to his rice fields one day he stood on a live grenade which blew off his foot.
  • His daughter ran a day care out of his home, and the little Vietnamese kids were adorable. Our host told us that as a child she called white people ‘hello people’ as that’s what we say when we see them.
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  • What stood out for me on this tour was not the ride on the buffalo (yep you get to ride that bad boy) or the delicious rice the farmer cooked for us, or the beautiful scenery of Hoi An’s farm land… it was witnessing first hand how resilient the Vietnamese are and how despite their trials and tribulations they are still welcoming, smiling and happy. I love them.

Eat at Bale Well

Bale Well

  • Have you ever had the food sweats? Or been so full that you thought you might explode? Well you will experience this at Bale Well and all for under $10.
  • Bale Well is the Vietnamese answer to a smorgasbord. You sit down and the friendly staff feed you, and feed you, and when you thought you couldn’t fit in anymore they feed you again.
  • Salad, spring rolls, rice pancakes, 1000 types of meat (slight exaggeration) oh yes and ice cream for desert.
  • It’s beyond insane and you must do it if you go to Hoi An.

Thuan Tinh Island Food Tour

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  • This is the number one rated activity on Trip Advisor for Hoi An and deservedly so.
  • The tour takes you through the entire meal creation process from purchasing your food at the market, to cooking, to eating. The recipes are simple enough, for those like me who have no idea what they’re doing, but the class teaches you about authentic Vietnamese ingredients, keeping those real foodies happy.
  • Above all that you get to take a little trip in a woven basket boat (see pic) and you get a small insight into local life on your walk from the river to the venue, stopping at local homes to learn about grinding rice.
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Shopping 

  • Ok shopaholics, sorry it took me so long to get here… Shopping in Hoi An.
  • Tip one: Before you go take pictures of what clothes you want the tailor to make.
  • Tip two: Make this your FIRST activity in Hoi An so to give the tailors as much time as possible to make your clothes.
  • Tip three: Cheaper options are in the market, there are stalls upon stalls of tailors in here and it’s quite intense. You can shop around, and there are some who don’t know what they’re doing. We used ‘Cloth Shop Number Forty One’… they really were on point.
  • Tip four: Be prepared for it not to be perfect – they do pretty well, but there might be a few bits that aren’t 100%.

  • SO there you have it. Hoi An in all it’s glory. There are also beaches, incredible beaches nearby that we never made it to, so the entertainment possibilities are endless. Happy travels 🙂

South East Asia: Fun facts to know before you go

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Knowledge is power right? So to make you more powerfule below are some interesting, remarkable and down right wacky facts about South East Asia. You’re welcome…

Sou1. The name “Southeast Asia” came into popular use after World War II and the region has 10 independent countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (map from imagekp.com)

2. In Thailand barbers are usually closed on Wednesday because Thais think it will bring bad luck to cut their hair that day of the week.

3. Some people in Malaysia wash their babies in beer to protect them from diseases.

4. Indonesia is the world’s biggest archipelago with over 17,000 islands.

Angkor Wat

5. Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, is the largest religious temple in the world. It is estimated it took 30 years to build!

6. Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee in the world. Only Brazil exports more coffee, by volume, than Vietnam. Most of Vietnam’s coffee is exported to the U.S.

7. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam, other sports of interest include table tennis, volleyball, badminton, tennis, and martial arts.

8. The national anthem of Singapore is written in microtext on the back of the $1000 note.

9.Laos has been tagged as the “World’s Most Bombed Country.” Over two billion tons of bombs were dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War.

10. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public in Brunei.

11. The Philippines is the world’s leading producer of coconuts, having produced 19.5 million tons of the fruit in 2010 (Photocred: Internationalcoconut.com).

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Learn something? Me too!

If you have any other fun facts do get in touch. Happy travels.

 

Shocking and Spectacular – Visit Hanoi

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It’s hot, it kinda smells like burning and fish and there are bugs… lots of them.

To say Hanoi is a shock to the senses would be an understatement… but to say it’s one of the most intriguing and fantastic places I have ever visited would not do it justice.

Hanoi has a unique charm which really comes down to the fact that’s it’s the only place I’ve visited that travellers do as locals do. You sit next to a local for dinner, you buy goods from the same stores, you walk the same streets.

Adding to its appeal is the fact it’s the cheapest place I’ve ever visited. Beers are 20c and dinner is $5. You can live like a king on a backpackers budget.

So go on – embrace the madness.

Planning your Pilgrimage:


 Crossing the road

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I covered this in my last article about Vietnam, but it’s worth mentioning again.

When crossing the road SLOW AND STEADY wins the race. Don’t run across the road, literally step out and walk calmly, the thousands of scooter riders will go around you, even if it doesn’t look like it.


Eat/Drink

Eamon eating

in the wall cooking

 

Eat and drink at side of the road establishments. Yep the places with kids stools, plastic tables and no roof.

Please do this.

Yes the hole in the wall oven looks ominous, sure you’re never 100% sure what it is you’re eating, but the flavours are a treat for your tastebuds and it’s such an awesome experience. Trust me, you’ll have your best meals at these places.

 

 


Bia Hoi

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Bia hoiI’ve mentioned the price of beer, and yes it’s ridiculously cheap, but moreover drinking beer on the side of an intersection is the best way to spend an evening in Hanoi. It’s hugely entertaining as you watch locals weave around each other on scooters, narrowly avoiding collision.

There are tiny beer selling ‘establishments’ on nearly every corner – our favourite was a jewellery store by day, then by night they wheeled out the keg, set up the stools and wam bam thank you mam it became a bar!


Stay

In the Old Quarter.

Specifically I’d like to recommend the Cinnamon Hotel chain (they have hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). A first class experience on a backpackers budget. Super cheap but offer beautiful rooms, amazing service and free massages!


Visit

Ho Chi Minhs Mausoleum (where an embalmed Uncle Ho lays)

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√  Go super early in the morning as it gets really busy but in fairness the line moves quickly

√  Side notes:

  • He’s sent back to Russia to be tidied up for two months each year, so make sure it’s not when you’re there.
  • You have to cover up knees and shoulders to go in

Huu Tiep Lake and the Downed B-52

B52√  Huu Tiep Lake and the Downed B-52

  • OK this is a nightmare to find but well worth it once you do.
  • It’s an America bomber planed that was shot down during the war and now sits in a lake in a suburb of Vietnam basically.
  • They say the address is: Ngo 55, Hoang Hoa Tham, Hanoi, Vietnam, but try asking locals or getting a cab there…
  • It is walking distance from Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

Explore the Old Quarter

me carrying goods

old town shopping√  Really take it all in. Get lost. Turn corners, take narrow side ally ways.

√  It’s a crazy place with loads going on, and each street is sectioned into a ‘theme’ so there’s home goods street, sunglasses street, children’s toys street and even party decorations street!


Walk around Hoàn Kiếm lake

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√  Located right by the Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem is a great place to go for a walk for three reasons:

1) There’s a pedestrian only track so you aren’t afraid of being hit by a bike.

2) It’s very relaxing and calm, the polar opposite of the rest of Hanoi.

3) There are always cool things happening at the lake, brides getting wedding photos, Vietnamese practicing Tai Chi.


 

So there you have it – Hanoi in 800 words or less. It really does deserve your time and your tourist dollar – go get lost in the mayhem.

Vietnam Road Rules – Or Lack Thereof

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Ever wanted to know what it feels like to run with the bulls but haven’t made it to Spain? Try crossing the road in Vietnam instead.

Using the road in Vietnam in any capacity, whether it be as a pedestrian or a passenger in a car is both hideously frightening and highly entertaining at the same time. Some would even call it an adrenaline rush.

As you sit in the back of a van on a highway and see a car overtaking a bus who is overtaking a truck and all coming towards you, you wish you’d paid closer attention to your travel insurance policy.

It’s no joke either, in 2014 nearly 9000 people died in road accidents in Vietnam and almost 25,000 were injured. This is actually an improvement from the year before…

With that said, it’s just part of the experience and shouldn’t deter you from visiting or enjoying Vietnam, you’ll surprise yourself at how quickly you get used to the madness.

But to make sure you’re safe not sorry have a read through some of my road related tips…

Planning your road related pilgrimage:


 

Crossing the road

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You are putting your life in the hands of fate by crossing the road in Vietnam.

With cars, trucks and scooters coming at you from all angles it can be likened to an adult version of the school yard game bull rush, however those charging at you have engines powering them rather than nikes.

There are four simple steps to making it to the other side of the road. They are:

1) Look for a gap in the traffic: and by gap I mean when 20 vehicles are coming at you rather than 60

2) Step out on to the road with confidence: don’t hesitate, if a scooter driver sees you step out they’ll avoid, if you hesitate you are putting you and the scooter driver at risk.

3) Walk very slowly: it goes against all logic, but literally just slowly meander across the road. The vehicles will avoid you. If you move too erratically you’re not giving anyone a chance to avoid a collision.

4) Celebrate: you made it.

Just check out this video I took at an intersection in Ho Chi Minh.

 


The sites you will see

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The way people use scooters in Vietnam is similar to how you might use your car, ute or even truck and trailer for that matter.

They will literally pile anything and everything on their scooter and make it look like it ain’t no thing. What you are seeing above isn’t actually that shocking, yes the child doesn’t have a helmet, but hey she’s safely squeezed between mum and dad… right?

From cages of animals to 3m long pieces of wood, versatility is the middle name of scooters in nam.


Anything goes

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Yep that is a cow on a roundabout. Count your luck stars it’s not on the road… that’ll happen too.

The roads aren’t limited to vehicles, you may run into live stock and of course people selling things.


When in doubt: Do as the locals do

Vietnam Road Rules

As with anything while you’re travelling, if in doubt, do as the locals do.

If, like this lady, they walk along the side of the road, you walk along side the road. If they casually stroll out onto the road and into what looks like imminent death, head on out with them. They know what’s up.


In Nam it would appear there are no road rules, that’s not true, there are, but like everything else in Vietnam they are negotiable and come down to varied interpretation – good luck!

Vietnam – Where your traveller dollar counts

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“We love tourists. Tourism in Vietnam stopped my dad from hitting my mum.”

This is a direct quote from a tour guide in the beautiful city of Hoi An, Vietnam. In two sentences this young girl depicts not only the suffering endured, but the perpetual spirit of the Vietnamese. They’ve borne hundreds of years of hardship, yet they have this welcoming openness that really does make Vietnam a fantastic place for travellers and “tourists” alike.

Vietnam Flag

I read somewhere that Vietnam is a place “whose greatest charms lie in its everyday, unexpected curiosities just as much as in the more renowned tourist attractions,” and it couldn’t be closer to the truth. From the moment you touch down you can’t help but be caught up in all that is great in Vietnam.

Sure you should visit the “must-sees” – the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh. But your memories of Vietnam will be made, as cliché as it sounds, getting yourself lost on the manic streets.

What makes the entire experience better is that every time you sit to eat, enjoy a beer or take part in a tour you are helping the Vietnamese (like our guide in Hoi An) provide for their families, taking away the stresses that once plagued and devastated families.

So there you have it people – what better reason to travel, spend and drink!

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the main centres of Nam – Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh etc. so tune in for my tips. For now though, here’s some important intel for someone going anywhere in Vietnam.

Planning your pilgrimage:


What to pack:

eating√  Always carry tissues – there will be more than one reason you need these

√  Hand sanitiser.

√  Diastop:If you don’t eat on a curbside from a local vendor while you’re in Vietnam you’ve done it all wrong. This can wreak havoc with your guts but it’s worth it, so just go prepared.

√  US Dollars – this is good for most things in Vietnam, and you will pay your hotel in USD, there are plenty of HSBC or ANZ bank machines around Vietnam to get money out. Get the maximum out (around two million dong), it sounds like loads, but you’ll get through it.


BYO nerves of steal:

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√  Everything you’ve heard about the traffic in Nam is true.

√  Best tip when walking, take it slowly across the road. It goes against your better logic, but trust me, slow and steady wins the race as motorists will go around you, they can’t plan for you if you’re running.

√  If you’re on the roads for a tour or whatever be warned, they pass each other three abreast, they pass on blind corners, they pass when a truck is coming towards you. It’s horrifying – but somehow they make it through. Tip: Close your eyes if you’re a nervous passenger.


Practice your hand signals:

The Vietnamese are great at communicating even if you have no common language, get ready to sign your way to buying food or reaching a destination.


The people are excellent

People

Tourism is fairly new to Vietnam, so in my opinion the place and the people still find the whole thing a novelty. As such while people are always selling you something, they’re not as annoying as vendors in say Thailand for example.

I actually enjoyed every encounter with the Vietnamese, I found them incredibly accommodating, willing to help and willing to have a laugh.


Don’t be afraid to barter

Selling stuff

Like any markets around the world the first price they offer is not the last. So do barter – you’ll know if you’ve pushed them too low.

Interestingly we learned from a friend who travels there regularly that the people running the stores don’t necessarily own them, so they get a cut of the profit made off you. SO if you ask them what their lowest price is then offer to give them personally a little something on top of it (do it with a bit of a wink, but not too creepy) you’ll usually get a better deal.


What “motorbike” really means

MotorbikeThere are loads of men (particularly in Nha Trang, and some in Ho Chi Minh) that will yell out “motorbike, motorbike” to you. They are NOT trying to rent you a motorbike, they are trying to sell you drugs. Be careful.


There are some starting tips, there’s plenty more where that came from so keep checking back to Pilgrim With a Plan for great stories and intel! 🙂

 

 

South East Asia – The place travellers dreams are made of

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With beers for under $1, food that your taste buds thank you for and something new to marvel at around every corner – South East Asia is the destination travellers dreams are made of.

After our travels around Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand last year I fell head over heels with the region. Someone told me before I left “you’ll love it, it gets under your skin” – that’s on point.

It may be third world, it may be hot and it may be manic but South East Asia is endearing. It’s my destination of choice and we will definitely be going back.

So on that note for the next month or two I’m dedicating Pilgrim with a Plan to South East Asia, and below is a bit of an overview as to why it should be on your list!

Why plan your South East Asia pilgrimage:


The people are welcoming

SEA people

(Kids in Cambodia – I know I’ve used this photo before, but I can’t help but use it again, so cute)

After travelling through Europe, S.E.A was a whole new kettle of fish, particularly in regards to the welcoming nature of the people.

In our experience the people are genuinely willing to help you, feed you, serve you or just have a yarn. Yes their economy is largely reliant on the tourist dollar and yes that helps, but there’s an unrivalled willingness to open their doors to you in a very genuine way. They want you there, they want to find out more about you AND let you understand more about them.


Getting off the beaten track is easy (and affordable)

Cambodia

(Remote floating village in Siem Reap – we didn’t go in rainy season… hence not floating)

One of the biggest catch phrases in the travel world is “getting off the beaten track”. Problem is it usually costs you two days travel and a whole lot of your budget to get off said track… not in South East Asia. Never have I visited countries where it’s so easy to get away from the tourist hot spots and into the eye opening every day lives of the people.

Take the above pic for example, this was taken at a floating village in Siem Reap. I think the locals could count on one hand how many times they’d seen a white person. The beauty of it all? It took us one hour and perhaps $20 to get out there. It was hands down the best part of my trip and I will write more about it in an upcoming blog post.


It’s cheap

Cheap food

(The man with a bottomless pit for a stomach is beaten)

Everything is dirt cheap in South East Asia, buying a beer for 20c is normal and paying $20 each for a room for a night will get you luxury, like free massage and cocktail on arrival type luxury.

A great example is the meal you can see in the pic above. This meal broke Eamon, just look at his face. It was a smorgasbord of epic proportions… the cost? Under $10.


The food is unbelievable

SEA food

(One of our best meals in Cambodia)

On that note, the food may be cheap, but it’s next level incredible. I’m salivating just looking at the above picture.

The thing with food in South East Asia is not just the taste – it’s the colours, the textures and the scents that make it what it is. They have the most incredible way of pulling together a meal that excites so many of your senses and whether you pay $1 on the side of the road or $10 in a restaurant your taste buds will thank you for it.


It suprises you

SEA suprise

(Truck tipped over in Cambodia while people ravage through the contents strewn on the roadside)

Just when you think you can’t see anything stranger you turn a new corner and something more bizarre smacks you in the face (hopefully not literally, but don’t rule it out).

South East Asia is wild, wierd and wonderful. It will shock, suprise and amaze you. Go with it. It makes for a great story back home.


The service is amazing

SEA service

(Standard welcome in any hotel in Nam)

You know when you go home and see your parents after a really long time and they’re super glad to see you and will do anything to make you feel comfortable? That’s the feeling you get every time you arrive at a hotel in South East Asia.

They’re welcoming, they make animals out of your towels and they’ll help you in any way they can, whether that’s booking a trip, making you a drink or just telling you about life in their world.

It’s fantastic.


If that hasn’t convinced you to put South East Asia on your ‘must-do’ list, well you’re a tough crowd, but as promised the next few months will be dedicated to my South East Asia experience.

Prepare for wanderlust travellers!