Back in 'Nam..

Trip Start Jun 27, 2009
Trip End Jun 25, 2011

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

another late blog, this one is about Vietnam!

After our volunteer trip in Cambodia ended my friend from Wakayama, Parry and I headed to Vietnam to travel for our last week of vacation. I love Asia because for the most part the countries are relatively close to each other. Parry and I flew from Siem Reap, Cambodia to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi. We had arranged to be picked up by someone from the hostel and walked right past the sign with my name because it was spelled "KatE ClUkAtluE"!! When we realized there was no one there to pick us up we walked around again and spotted that sign, and thought that must be it despite how badly they butchered my name.

We stayed in a dorm style hostel room with 10 people in it, but to our surprise it was really clean, spacious, and the beds were comfortable. Since we only had about 4 days in Hanoi we hit the ground running and immediately booked an overnight boat trip to the World Heritage Site of Halong Bay. Our Australian friends Michelle and Greg (from our PEPY trip) joined us as well which was fun. We set sail in an old 'junk boat' into a beautiful bay that supposedly has 1,000 rocks jutting out of it. We visited caves and went sea kayaking then hung out on the boat with the 6 other passengers and enjoyed a nice dinner on the boat. In the morning we hung out on top of the boat, reading, drinking strong Vietnamese coffee and generally jsut relaxing and taking in the view. It was a short but nice trip! The next few days were spent siteseeing around the city: Ho Chi Minh museum, Textile Museum, and the famous must-see Water Puppet Show! 

Parry and I decided to devote our last full day in Hanoi to a coffee taste test and we visited over 6 cafes just sampling their coffee, rating it and writing postcards. It was a really fun morning and we definitely felt a strong buzz from the strong coffee!!

Overall I really enjoyed Hanoi, the way the city is centered around a lake and the French colonial feel to a lot of the buildings. Oh, and did I mention the food? Unbelievable!

Our next and final destination was Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. Since Vietnam is so long we saved time by flying down south. We were greeted by insane traffic, the worst I've seen in my life. There aren't many cars, everyone has moped like scooters or motorbikes - it is madness in the streets!! Rarely do you see traffic lights and people always seem to be running red lights. Our "hotel" was pretty dissapointing, but I guess we shouldn't have expected much because it was only about $7 a night. There isn't much in the way of culture in HCM besides the War Remnants Museum, and President's House. We spent one day visiting those sites and another on a day trip to this fascinating temple and tunnels used during the Vietnam War. I even got to shoot an AK-47 and an M-16 when we visited the site of the tunnels! A lot of countries in Asia have a surplus of weapons left over from they figure why not charge tourists to fire them! Our leader in Cambodia shot some automatic weapons in Cambodia and was asked if he wanted to buy a real cow to shoot at!! He was like 'No, thanks! I'm fine using the targets..'

I didn't particularly like HCM because it was so big, and difficult to get around because of how hard it is to cross the street without getting hit by a car or motorbike, but on the positive side I did learn a lot about the Vietnam War, or as the Vietnamese people call it, the American War.

Due to a 15 hour lay-over, Parry and I spent the night on couches at the airport in Taiwan before our last flight home to Japan. It was nice to come back to clean and orderly Japan after our 2 week journey...but it's always hard for me to start working after great vacations :( I always want to start thinking about the next place I'm going, and luckily spring break wasn't far off...

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