Snake Wine and Motorbikes Galore?

Trip Start Aug 04, 2012
Trip End Dec 29, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, November 16, 2012

You may be possibly intrigued by the title, is what I'm guessing. But.... I will talk about it in a little bit.

We travelled to Vietnam with much of the usual gang, Tim (Germany), Michelle (U.S.A.), Lindsay (U.S.A.), Tanay (U.S.A.) and started our 5 day trip with a bang in the nation's biggest city, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Many locals call it Saigon, which was the name before the whole Vietnam-America war, but we don't need to talk too much about that. My first impression of Vietnam and HCMC was, "WOW, HOW MANY MOTORBIKES ARE THERE?" This is literally the city of motorbikes, scooters, and way too much traffic. Our tour guide later explained that motorbikes used to be $1000 and very expensive, but overtime, many Chinese manufacturers were able to offer cheaper quality bikes for about $300 (The Chinese always do stuff like this) and that price decrease impacted the amount of people who could now afford bikes. 

We checked into our hostel, Diep Anh Guesthouse, which won many awards from lonely planet, trip advisor, and hostel world as being one of the best places to stay in HCMC as a college student. They weren't wrong at all. The owners were named Diep, and Anh, a lovely elderly couple who really took good care of us throughout our stay with them.

On Thursday, our first day in HCMC, we ate their famous national dish called Pho Noodle Soup. It's basically noodles and vegetables in a very soupy base. This was awesome, and super super cheap for only $2. No wonder everyone is so skinny in Vietnam though, because for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a late-night snack, you always see them eating Pho Noodle Soup. It was actually pretty funny for us, because eating the same thing for every single meal everyday could get really tiring. 

We also decided once again to get some nice tailor made suits. After shopping around a bunch we ended up at Nam Silk, where their first quote was around $100 for a full suit. After hearing quotes of plus $200 at other tailors, we decided this would be the place to go. I ended up getting a nice pinstripe suit, tailored dress shirt, and silk tie all for only $120!!!!!! I was super happy and if you are travelling to Vietnam to buy suits, this is the place to go. Thursday we also watched the famous Water Puppet Show at the Golden Dragon Theatre. DON'T EVER GO. I mean it was kind of cool and the puppeteers were really good, but everything was in Vietnamese so we really didn't understand what was going on at all. If I could retake that time, I would not have watched it. 

Friday we decided to take a tour and see the famous Cu Chi Tunnels in the outskirts of the city. After a very uncomfortable 2 hour bus ride with a very weird and awkward tour guide who could not properly speak english, we finally ended up at the caves. The caves were pretty interesting, but at the same time not a great place for Americans to be. They were all about how Vietnam killed Americans, booby-traps, how they hid, and how they killed Americans. Of course I didn't reveal to anyone that I was an American, but nonetheless it was still interesting to see how they used their terrain to battle against the powerful American army. 

On Saturday we decided to take another tour to the famous Mekong Delta of Southeast Asia. This tour was easily the most favorite experience that I had on my Vietnam trip. To start off, I sat on the bus next to a random person from New Zealand and Australia who told me that he is the Head Director of Sales for "Otterbox" cases, which is a very hot new product for phones and tablets. It's interesting the type of people you meet when you are travelling to different countries. 

We started with the bus ride to the Mekong River, and got on a small boat that could fit about 30 people comfortably. The Delta was gorgeous, and travelling through you could see coconut trees, forests, river houses, and much much more while on it. Right after the Delta, we took our first stop at a rice paper factory, where we got to watch the production of thin rice-paper which was extremely tasty when they added some sugar flavoring to it. After I got convinced to buy a little bit for 50 cents, we got back on the river and headed towards the famous honey bee farm. This was something that I wasn't looking forward to, as I hate bees, and still have never been stung. (Knock on Wood) We saw the farm and even got to try some tea with fresh honey in it. IT WAS AMAZING. I wish I could have brought some back. I got a lot more than what i asked for when our tour guide brought around a wooden plank with a bee hive on it with hundreds and hundreds of bees. All of my friends took turns holding it in their hands, inches from their face, and finally they convinced me to do it!!!! The picture of me holding it is on my friends camera so I'll get it soon.

After the bee farm we want to go try some fresh fruit and watch some local singing/dancing which was definitely a treat. When this was finished, we split up into groups of four and headed on the Mekong Delta in very small boats that were commandeered by one small Vietnamese women wearing the famous straw hat. I'm surprised how strong she was to row me and 3 of my friends for about 10-15 minutes without stopping. 

We took our last stop at the famous "Snake Wine" stop. This is literally exactly what it sounds like. There was a giant jar of Wine, and filled inside the jar were about 15 snakes!!!!!! I HATE SNAKES. Obviously the snakes were all dead, but just thinking about it creeps me out completely. Some idiots in our group tried it and said that it tasted disgusting. The tour guide asked if I wanted some but I said no way. Vietnam is weird, as our tour guide went on the explain that they eat animals such as Cats, Dogs, Snakes, Horses, Turtles, and even Rabbits. Not very pleasing for the stomach, but as always interesting to hear. 

That concluded our tour and we picked up our suits later that night. We even convinced the 2 girls in our group to get Tailored dresses which they did, and it came out pretty well. Although Tim and I were heading back on Monday because we had to get back to study for finals, the other 3 in our group, Tanay, Michelle, and Lindsay left us to catch a flight to Hanoi, the northern part of Vietnam. Tim and I went to the Chinese market and also had some famous French bread with cheese and vegetables street-side food. These little stalls lined up the entire of HCMC, because the French had a strong influence in HCMC in the 19 century. Tim and I then got a call from the other three informing us that their flight got delayed by 8 hours so we got to spend more time with them on Sunday night. It sucked for them, but Tim and I luckily got some good company for that night.

The last day in Vietnam, Tim and I went to see the Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Post office, and my personal favorite, The war remnants museum. This museum had many tanks, aircrafts, jets, and bombs from the U.S. army during the U.S.-Vietnam war. Although the museum itself was very depressing, seeing pictures of what U.S. did to the people and land of Vietnam, it was extremely eye-opening for me. In all of our history classes, our teachers always skirt over the Vietnam war because it was one where America was not victorious. 

To reflect on Vietnam, this country is definitely where I could stay for a longer period of time. I feel that I need atleast a full month to see everything that I would like to in this country. Vietnam is famous for the Ice Coffee with condensed milk, and it is safe to say that I had atleast 2 of these per day. For about $1 each, it goes through your wallet pretty quick. The food was pretty good, noodles got boring after a while, but what was awesome about Ho Chi Minh City was that you saw something new every day. I'm glad that even though it has been only a few decades since we went to war with them, Vietnam opened its arms out to me and I really got to experience the local culture. 
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