Good morning Vietnam. Cambodia behind us we get through border patrol and step foot into the socialist republic of Vietnam, first glimpse of the yellow star and red background that makes of the flag of Vietnam.
HO CHI MINH.
Unsure of what to expect in Vietnam, other than the myths and tales of crazy drivers and swarms of scooters we hop back onto the bus and set of towards ho chi minh city. To be honest the only other glimpse of Vietnam I have seen is that on top gear. The war is something else that springs to mind when I think of this country, along with the robin Williams film of course, hopefully by the time we leave I will learn something a little more.
13th, July. We arrive in Ho Chi Minh right at the bottom of Vietnam. As we get of the bus we have the usual sight in front of us, the locals surround us asking were we want to go, what hotel or if we need anything. After travelling on a bus for plenty of hours all you want to do is get to the hotel. Arriving to the hotel, taking the long way of course and being ripped of by the taxi man we unpack are stuff, unpack are fold out bed and set of on a mission for food. KFC of course. The city, big and industrial, yet the people were friendly and welcoming. The city wasn’t as smoggy as I expected, although the rumours were right about the swarms of mopeds. The filled the gaps left by cars, and if the lights were red and the road was blocked they wouldn’t think twice about spilling onto the footpath and using them as a way round a traffic jam. The unorganised chaos on the road seemed to work, it even had its on charm.
After getting some food and watching the city go past, we ended up bumping into Myhila one of our friends from Koh Chang. 3 became 4 and we all travelled up to Hoi Ann together.
The next day we all made way to the War Remnants Museum. Many of the people we met along the way had told us this is a “must see” in Ho Chi Minh, although they did warn us it is an upsetting museum. Obviously we ignored these statements, and no museum would affect 3 men like us however shocking it would be…! Weaving through the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter, an F-5A fighter, and past the M48 Patton tank we get inside. Instantly you can feel the silence and the look on peoples faces sum up the experience. One of the first images that catches my eye is of a US solider holding up the remains of a Vietnamese person, unrecognisable, unsure if its male or female the face and body hangs like a piece of leather that’s been ripped to pieces. Making your way through the museum and up through each level the photographs and articles continue to inform and shock. The surreal atmosphere in the museum means everybody walks around showing not much emotion. I brought my camera and I soon put it away as you really don’t feel like talking pictures inside. Bến Thành Market was are next landmark of Ho Chi Minh, it felt right to leave the KFC behind and sample some of the local food, with Myhila there to guide the selection the street food was impressive and it felt good to sample the culture.
From local Vietnamese culture to the A-Team in the cinema. We decided to treat ourselves to the movies, popcorn and mega drinks all for about £3.
Up early for the bus we set of north towards Nha Trang, a beach side town, stopping of in Mui Ne. Travelling up the coast during the day isn’t the most comfortable but you do get a to see the landscapes, you get a few seconds of how the country works. The journey seems built up by different scenes, the people working in the fields or playing by the side of the road. The environment is a lot different in the south to what the image I had in my head. The sand covered mountains wouldn’t look out of place in the middle east. Eventually we pull into Nha Trang, right beside the bay, Vinepearl island runs parallel to the shore. The crystal blue sea between the pristine beaches meant it was very easy to enjoy this town. As soon as we arrived and found the hostel, we took care of Spanish kebabs then made are way to the sea for a night time dip. The interesting thing in Nha Trang is that you can walk down a street past a Spanish restaurant, then German then Japanese and when you get to the corner and see the tiny blue and red plastic chairs and table you remember your in Vietnam.
It was about time I sampled the local food, this time we went seafood. Lobsters, Crabs, strange crustaceans and other salty things. Sitting on the beach the old Vietnamese lady cooked the food in front of us that we wanted and as my confidence grew I really enjoyed tearing apart the lobster. On the subject of food I think its important to mention the evening we sat down at a table of a fish and chip shop. Across the room, on a poster illuminated by the flickering bulb. “Monster Burger, if finished, free drinks”. Mark failed miserably, Chris took nearly 2 days to finish and I wont celebrate to much but victory was achieved. A free drink and the strong sense of pride. The Pain to follow wasn’t a highlight, but the triumph will remain. To sum up the rest of Nha Trang, played football on the beach, went round the markets and watched the sun set and rise over the sea. Leaving Nha Trang we took the sleeper bus to Hoi Ann.