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We finally made it home from the lengthy flight across the globe. What a trip!

After spending 2 weeks in Vietnam, we have come back with a few travel tips that we'd like the share:

  • Pack light! It's best to buy your ammenities once you arrive in the city, everything is fairly cheap and readily available.
  • Tips are not expected but greatly appreciated. It is considered proper to make a donation after a visit to a pagoda, especially if a monk has shown you around.
  • The climate in Vietnam is tropical and the rain is often soaking rain. It's a good idea to bring/buy a waterproof backpack and keep plastic bags with you to keep articles in your bag dry.
  • Internet cafes are in abundance in the main cities. They are clean, safe and inexpensive.
  • When you depart Vietnam, you must pay an airport tax of $12 per person in either American dollars or Vietnamese dong. Make sure you have this money set aside!

Vietnam is a beautiful country with an abundance of culture, history and adventure. The dense jungle, tropical climate and the rich and unique culture give it an extremely exotic feel that I think everyone must experience once in their lifetime. Vietnam has a little to offer for every type of traveller; gorgeous sandy beaches, mountain treks, river cruises, and an endless supply of temples, pagodas, tombs and palaces that each hold a piece of Vietnamese history. There are endless opportunities to explore and discover and the people are gracious and welcoming. Go expecting the unexpected, be ready for an adventure as much as a holiday and Vietnam won't let you down!

Posted by tvtvietnam 18:36 Comments (2)

The Mekong Delta -- An H20 Highway!

28 °C

We just arrived back in Ho Chi Minh City after a day excursion to the Mekong Delta. The Mekong River flows through China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and just before it dumps into the South China Sea, the river branches off into many different sections, forming the Mekong Delta.

The day began with an early morning bus ride to the river, where a small boat awaited. Our river navigator and tour guide was a local man named Bay and his son Lan, who gave us incredible insight about life in the Delta. Because of the waterways are so abundant and boats are easy to make, the river literally acts like a highway between cities and villages in the region.

The city of Can Tho is the “capital” of the Delta region and is located along the river. We travelled through the city and past under the newly built Can Tho Bridge, which is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Asia. We took a brief stop at an outdoor market to buy fresh local fruit – mango, pomelo, and jackfruit. Delicious!

canthobridge

canthobridge

It seems that life in the Delta revolves around the resources that the river provides, and it was quite amazing to see thriving villages situated along the many waterways. We made stops to purchase local crafts, taste local foods and interact with the interesting people of the Mekong Delta. My favorite part was the stop at the floating market, which is an interesting take on your average shopping experience but proof that the river is a lifeline for these people. It was organized chaos at its finest! We also stopped for an amazing meal upon a small barge and learned a very important lesson about eating with chopsticks – Never leave your chopsticks standing vertically in a rice bowl, it resembles the incense that are burned for the dead and is seen as highly offensive to Vietnamese.

mekongrivermarket

mekongrivermarket

Our day ended with a bus ride back to Ho Chi Minh City. Tomorrow is our last day in this amazing country, and I think we’ll spend it further exploring Ho Chi Minh City and doing some last minute shopping! Our tour guide suggested Ben Thahn Market because of its central location and has a wide variety of merchants, selling all sorts of things. Looking forward to it!

Posted by tvtvietnam 14:05 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City

As we get off the train in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon and the former capital of South Vietnam, we heard the sounds of the loudspeakers as they announced the daily messages to the locals. The sounds of the city can be overwhelming to anyone who is used to peaceful, quiet surroundings. People shout to be heard over the buzz of the 3 to 5,000,000 motorbikes, pedal bikes, motorbike taxis and the odd automobile that are on the road, along with the industrial & construction cacophony. No wonder we were warned to bring ear plugs!

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was known as Saigon until 1975, when North and South Vietnam merged to become what is now Vietnam. Saigon got its name from the French during their occupation (the colony of Cochin china, then later named the independent state of South Vietnam) from 1955 to 1975; after Saigon was taken over by North Vietnam the name was changed to honor Ho Chi Minh, the deceased communist leader. HCMC is now the economic center and the largest city in Vietnam with over 7 million people.

After we checked into our hotel we hailed a taxi and managed to squeeze the four of us into the little sedan. We were warned before getting to Saigon (HCMC) about the taxis and which ones to avoid. For the most part the taxis are fairly honest and trustworthy, but there are the odd ones that will overcharge people, especially unsuspecting tourists. The HCMC government is trying to put a stop to the crafty taxi drivers who are stealing people’s money. The taxis we were told NOT to get into were the “Taxi Du Lich”, which means ‘Tourist Taxi’. Our safest bet was to hire a taxi that the locals are using.

Our taxi ride took us to the War Remnants Museum. This museum is dedicated to the past wars and American war crimes in Vietnam. Included along with many army vehicles, planes and equipment we saw a lot of photographs and newspaper articles on the crimes against the local people, all made by American soldiers.

War_Remnants_Museum.jpg

About a block and a half from the museum is the Reunification Palace. Formerly called Independence Palace, this is the building that was finally taken over by the Northern Forces, and Viet Cong, on April 30, 1975. This was the day that North and South Vietnam ‘re-unified’ by Lê Duân and the Americans retreated from the war, thus marking a huge failure in the American’s military history.

Reunification_Palace.jpg

After wandering around the museum and the hall we just had to visit the two very futuristic buildings in downtown Ho Chi Minh City: the Bitexco Financial Tower and the Diamond Plaza. The Tower is a 68-storey office and shopping building that has 16 high speed elevators on site. On the 47th floor visitors can purchase tickets to go out on the observation deck. Three floors above is a helipad that sticks out the side of the building.

BitexcoTower.jpg

The Plaza is a huge complex with two buildings, one 15-storey, and the other 22-storeys. This monstrous building is surprisingly a luxurious shopping complex.

Diamond_Plaza.jpg

Our second day in Ho Chi Minh City was jam-packed with a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels were created by the Viet Cong to remain undetected in the city of Saigon during the Vietnam War. These tunnels were basically an underground city with living quarters, hospitals and communication & supply routes. Even though the tunnels have been widened for tourists, they are very cramped; this attraction is not recommended for visitors who are claustrophobic.

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Entrance into tunnels

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The all-day trek at the tunnels was exhausting so we just stayed in a relaxed. We had to get everything ready to go to the Mekong Delta in the morning, which we are all really looking forward to.

Posted by tvtvietnam 12:33 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Nha Trang

sunny 31 °C

Well, we have reached our 8th day on the Vietnam Adventure tour and have now arrived in Nha Trang. The two days we will be spending here will be very relaxing and will include a lot of sun and sandy beaches. Nha Trang is a huge beach destination with a very lively restaurant culture and nightlife.

During our first day here in Nha Trang Melissa and I (Ashley) decided to try out the kite surfing. Wow, was that ever an experience! The people who are able to stay up for longer than 30 seconds must be in immaculate physical condition because it sure takes a lot of strength to balance on the board, catch some wind and manage to stay in an upright position the whole time. My hat’s off to all of the physically able people who can kite surf well! After our quick lesson in kite surfing we were still having a hard time mastering the techniques of the board. Of course, as Murphy’s Law goes, we were just getting the hang of it when our lesson was over.

kitesurfing.jpg

While Melissa and I were off getting our butts kicked by the kite surfing, Sara and Candace went on a more exploratory adventure: scuba diving!

Candace and Sara here! Scuba diving was absolutely amazing! You really missed out Melissa and Ashley! We bought some underwater disposable cameras before we left Canada, hoping to catch some great underwater shots.

nha_trang_diving.jpg

Dive Vietnam gave us some great lessons before we were off doing some shallow water dives. Once we got the hang of what we were doing we saw some amazing underwater plants and creatures. The Lionfish were huge here and words cannot describe how amazing it was to see a Cuttlefish right in front of me in the Rainbow Reef. See for yourself!

Cuttle_fis.._diving.jpg

While we had supper at our hotel we found out about a great bar. It’s called Crazy Kim Bar & Restaurant. Who could pass up a chance to have a bit of fun at a place called “Crazy Kim”. Kim, the owner, is Vietnamese but formerly lived in Canada. During the day her bar/restaurant also serves as a school to teach the local children the English language. She is determined to help keep the children from falling prey to pedophilia.

Thanks to the American soldiers looking for some R&R in the bars and brothels during the Vietnam War, child sex tourism has skyrocketed and frankly, it’s a disgrace to know that people from all over (Australia, France, England, Canada – arrested Christopher Neil – and many others) are partaking in this horrible crime against humanity. It was great to learn that locals are trying to do what they can to prevent such things from happening. Back on topic… a great time was had by all!

After our adventurous first day we voted for some much needed rest and relaxation on the beach. We decided to try out the infamous Thap Ba Hot Springs Center that other Vietnam bloggers have raved about. The mud bath was unbelievable! Afterwards we needed to cool off a bit and the only way to do that is to get out of the pools! We let the mud dry and crack on us; it felt really weird! The hot mineral springs shower rinsed the baked on mud just fine though. The hot pools kept us for a bit longer until we finally had to get on the train to our next stop. So long to the beautiful beaches of Nha Trang and hello to the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh City!

Nha_Trang_beach_2.jpg nha_trang_beach_1.jpg

Posted by tvtvietnam 19:30 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Travel from Hoi An to Nha Trang

Hoi An we had a small stop by the well known ornate covered bridge which was built by Japanese trades men in the time of the opium clippers boats. With quiet down to earth foreign traders walking the small bike lined streets, we each purchased a rice paper fan.
Nestled in the mountain foothills of a remote province in central Vietnam just SE of Hoi An, one of the country’s most important archaeological discoveries has recently come to light. As we stop in front of what seems to be a pile of rocks, Professor Phan Huy Lê, president of the Vietnam Association of Historians, says: “This is the longest monument in Southeast Asia.” He then explains to us as we begin our walk down a portion of the 127km “wall”, after five years of his exploration and excavation they have uncovered what the locals call “Vietnam’s Great Wall.”
Great-wall.jpg
Traveling on to Quang Ngai we stop to pay our respects to the events that have happened in this location. As we hope back onto the bus we head towards Quy Nhon, once we arrive we make a quick stop at the 17meter high Buddha at long Khanh pagoda. Driving through Phu Yen we now head to Nha Trang after a 450km bus journey it feels nice to be in our next major destination.

Posted by tvtvietnam 16:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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