Vietnam, I feel like I made a new friend. I wasn’t sure if I would like you at first because of all the scary things I heard about you. But I’m glad I decided to give you a chance, and that’s an important lesson I’ve learned since my arrival here. That it doesn’t matter what people say or do, you won’t really know what it’s like until you do it yourself. And it’s been a consistent theme in my life. For most of the times when someone told me not to do something, I’m always glad I did it anyway and going to Vietnam confirmed that for me again.
My first impression of this country was that it’s HOT and it’s hectic. As soon as I stepped out of my hostel in Hanoi I thought, “Oh boy” and then I got lost. But I was only two blocks away from my hostel. Sometimes our big problems really aren’t that big, and the solution is just around the corner if we remain calm and look for it.
After my wonderful four days in Hanoi I headed down to central Vietnam, to the sleepy, beachy town of Hoi An, where I spend quite a lot of time doing nothing. One of my favorite part of this trip though was my journey there on the train. As usual before the ride I was quite nervous, afraid of the boogey monster in my head, but it turned out more than fine. I met the friendliest and SWEETEST family from New Zealand on the train, whom I spend a great 16 hours talking and enjoying the scenery with. They even offered to pay for my cab ride to the hotel when I got there for no reason! I was so touched by their friendliness and generousity that I actually wished the train ride was longer.
|View from train from Hanoi to DaNang|
After I got to my Hoi An hostel, I met some wonderful travellers and had a night out with them. This involved a copious amount of beer and going to the only bar in town that’s opened after 9pm named “Why Not” because, why not right? It was all good fun. Then the next few days I pretty much lounged by the pool and beach, and explored the old town. On the way back from the beach I got lost again (of course,) but ended up on this bridge that offered the best view of sunset in town! See picture below. 😀 I just love happy accidents like this.
Also Hoi An is known as the ancient town of lights because of all the lanterns that turn on at night, and it’s quite sight. I remember when I first walked through the natrow alleys and saw all the lights for the first time, and I just went WOOOOW for a good five minutes. The architecture also is interesting since it’s blend of Chinese style buildings and French. You almost feel like you’re walking in a movie set.
|The town of Hoi An lit up by lanterns.|
After my few relaxing days at Hoi An and feeling quite refreshed, I packed up and headed south to my last destination in Vietnam which was Ho Chi Minh City aka HCMC. HCMC is Vietnam’s largest city and this was the city that reminded me of New York most. It’s got the narrow streets, public parks, and tiny restaurants with tiny bathrooms that reminded me of home. But at the same time it was very different. The noodle stands on the sidewalks, the outdoor markets, the swarms of motorbikes, and the tropical humidity all reminded me that I wasn’t home. Actually HCMC resembled my hometown in China, Jiangmen quite a bit, except the language and food was different.
On the topic of food, a lot of people asked me if it’s similar to Chinese food. In my opinion? No. Yes, there’s the noodles and rice dishes, but if look deeper you’ll notice all the differences in herbs and spices. For example, a lot of Vietnamese dishes come with a side of raw lettuce, basil, lemongrass and even mustard greens, which Chinese dishes rarely do. And the spices and sauces that they use such as spicy green peppers, lime, dill, fish sauce, shrimp sauce are also rarely present in Chinese cuisine, or at least not in southern Chinese cuisine where my family is from. Not sure about the North.
Another highlight of my trip in HCMC was a tour I did with a local group called “Talking to the Tourist.” This was a group that a bunch of students from local universities started to open up opportunities for local students to improve their English and share their culture with tourists. When I first heard of this I thought, “What an unique and great idea!” and it was because I ended up having a blast meeting three new friends that showed me the country that they love. First they showed me the famous Cuichi tunnels, where Vietnamese soldiers use to hide and strategize during the Vietnam war. I also got to hear some personal tales from my three tour guides about how the war played a role in their families. War, if anything, I’ve learned is destructive and tears families apart.
After that my three tour guides showed me a great place to eat delicious local Vietnamese food, and I loved it. It was different from the food around my hostel and different from the Vietnamese food I’ve had at home. It was truly an experience I would not have found by myself, and I’m so glad and grateful to the guys that showed me around. Thank you all again of you are reading!
Wow I wish I could go on but it looks like I’ve blabbered on quite a bit. I think I’ll close this up for now with some pictures, and share more next time. I’m also in a new destination right now in Cambodia so I have to go out there and explore the new land!
Thanks for reading again!