Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

I love this city way better than Hanoi, the annoying capitol. People are nicer, and there’s so much to see.

A friend of a friend, Catherine, met up with me in Saigon. She is one of thirteen children, a Texas sweetheart and great fun.

We walked to the Ben Thanh Market which has tons of places to eat, fresh produce and souvenirs. Pushy vendors try to sell you anything you look at.  The chicken we got was excellent.

History time, off to the War Remnants Museum we went. It was super propagandist, but it was still pretty interesting. The Agent orange display was heart wrenching. Many generations were affected by chemicals that were dropped on Cu Chi to kill all vegetation so we could identify where the tunnels were. Exposure to this chemical caused health issues for generations to come. Baby’s were born retarded or without limbs.

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After the depressing display, we checked out the Bitexco Financial Tower, which is the tallest building in Saigon.  We made it just in time for happy hour on the 52 nd floor which is where they have a helicopter pad. It was night so we got a good view of there city all lit up. There were two other rooftop bars we checked out after, but the Financial Tower was by far the best as far as view and atmosphere.

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The next day we had to check out the Cu Chi tunnels and the Cao Dai Great Temple in Tay Ninh.  First we went to the Cao Dai Temple and arrived just in time for a service. Local attendees dressed in all white and some elders wore colorful robes. The music had traditional Vietnamese string instruments and pipes and a chorus. They worship the divine eye which knows all. They believe that there are 36 levels of Heaven and 72 planets. Number one being the closest to heaven and 72 nearest to Hell. Earth is number 68. Lol!!

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The Cu Chi Tunnels were next on our itinerary. I got to climb in one of the original entrances, which was super compact.

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We also got to crawl in a tunnel which made me feel claustrophobic about half way through. This tunnel was made bigger so tourist could fit and experience what it was like. During that time the Vietnamese were very tiny especially because of their diet. I wouldn’t be able to fit if it were any smaller.

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Back to the Viet Cong’s diet, they only ate potatoes to fill their stomachs, so eating an American soldier dog wasn’t out of the question. Americans used dogs to sniff out the tunnels because the entrances were camouflaged as ant hills, which were everywhere.  Sometimes a dog would get caught in a booby trap or would pass away. Soldiers would leave the dogs and the Vietnamese would eat the dogs. As you know, they still eat dog to this day.

They sure knew a thing or two about booby traps:

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We checked out a night market and got an excellent Vietnamese meal!

After we grabbed ice cream and ate it at the park where young teenagers hung out on their motorbikes and people played badminton. Two Spanish ladies, who just arrived to Saigon, approached us asking in Spanish where we were staying. They didn’t speak a lick of English, but we managed to tell them en espanol where to go and how much we were paying.

Tomorrow we head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia via bus.

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Mui Ne, Vietnam

This place is known for their fishing, sand dunes and kite/wind surfing.

Stayed at Xinchao with two lovely British girls that I met on the bus ride down from Nha Trang.  This hotel was super nice and had a pool 😉

Fishing boats = great sea food!!

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I walked along the beach after we got all settled and ran into a French guy I kept on running into. We walked to a delicious seafood restaurant where I got fresh shrimp, lobster and squid fried noodle.

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The next day, I went paddle boarding. It was so windy and choppy I barely went anywhere. Now I understand why its a great place to kite/wind surf. It was a good view out there because I could see the kite surfers up close. 

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Sand Dunes:

The fairy stream goes through the red sand dunes and has a little waterfall at the end.

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While walking through the stream I got offered to ride an ostrich for 100,000 Dong. I easily talked him down to 50,000 Dong (about $2 USD). After talking the price down and encouragement from the British girls I hopped on. Wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be until the owner ran and yelled behind the ostrich making him go faster.

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After that we went to the white sand dunes where you can rent a quad and ride around. I decided to sit that one out because I couldn’t talk them down in price and I’ve done it before in Pismo Beach, CA and got stuck a bunch of times and didn’t want the hassle. One of the British girls foot got ran over and her calf got burned by the exhaust when they were trying to get unstuck. She was such a trooper though and good thing we were with a Dutch Nurse who cleaned it for her.

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You also have the option to “sand board” which is more like sand sledding because you are given a flimsy sled that you cannot stand up on. I skipped this as well. It was too expensive and there were tons of people.

Instead of having a bear rug, why not have an alligator rug???

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That night we went to a place that had live music. Luca Mendoza, a Philippino, played the guitar and sang. He was pretty good and it was hard to understand the lyrics. Lol

I am off to catch a 1:30 AM bus to Ho Chi Minh City where I will meet a friend and we’ll go to Cambodia together 😉

Nha Trang, Vietnam

I got in at 6 am then found my hotel sao mia, which had a really nice dorm room. I would stay there again!

As soon as I could I booked it to the beach for the sun rise. Tons of locals were swimming because they don’t like to be in the sun so they swim early in the morning.

Then I went to book a snorkel tour that I was too late for so I did another tour that included snorkeling, visiting a fishing village and aquarium visit. I meet two Australian girls that were fun.

Snorkeling was OK…


There was a huge eel…

Fishing village…


Karaoke on the boat with a live band (the boat crew)…

I met a bunch of English guys that I ended up watching the Murray v Djokovik tennis match. They were crazy over Murray winning because Brittan hasn’t won this match for like 50 years.

It was a quick visit; now I’m off to Mui Ne.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is known for their tailoring, so I went to get a dress made. Didn’t turn out so great, so if you go make sure you get a recommendation from other travelers!

The beaches were nice. It is an easy bike ride away. An Bang was more chill so I liked that one the best. They had cute little boats.

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The downtown area is really cute, but the shops are pretty much all the same.

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I got a mango banana smoothie that was the best one I’ve had so far in southeast Asia! I also got squid which was super good!!

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Cao Lau, a local specialty, was a really good dish! One of my favorites so far.

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Don’t spend more than 2 days here!

Now I’m off to Nha Trang! Peace out!!

Phong Nha Ke, Vietnam

After Halong Bay, I back tracked to Hanoi to catch a sleeper train to Dong Hoi.  No one spokes English at the train station so there was a lot of sign language to get to the correct train.

My car had a young couple on the two top bunks and a business man on the bottom. He was super nice and communicated with me via Google translator. He also bought me a soup with raw eggs that we cracked and put into the soup. It was so good!

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When I woke I met a Canadian who has lived in Vietnam since 98 and an Irish couple. I shared a cab with them to the Phong Nha Farmstay, which has a beautiful view of the mountains and rice patties. There’s a little pool I took a dip in with some other Canadian girls that were celebrating Canada’s anniversary (July 1st). These girls bought motorbikes and started in south Vietnam and are working their way up north (opposite of me). They have gnarly scars from motorbike accidents and burns from their exhaust, but they will not quit and they are very determined to met their goal to make it to Hanoi. They are pretty incredible! Not many guys finish their motorbike trip!

The Farmstay didn’t have rooms available, so I stayed at Pepper home stay with the moto Canadian girls. They have a very open dorm room with a rice toilet. Ya that’s right instead of flushing you just cover it with rice shells. Lol.

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Yim, the owner is an excellent cook. Don’t judge me, but I tried dog that she prepared. I love dogs and it was really hard for me to get myself to do it. It tasted like roast beef.

That night there was a spectacular lighting storm above us. I’ve never seen anything like it. There were several different lighting bolts going off at different times. I snagged a picture from one of the Canadian girls because she got the best shots.

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The next day I rented a bike and rode around on the dirt roads. All the kids yell “ello” when i passed. They would try to stop me so I’d play with them.

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I rode over a river and went to the pub with cold beer. The owner kills a chicken prepares it on a BBQ. It was delicious

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The best part of Phong Nha Ke was a Tulan cave trek tour. This was no joke. The group trekked through the jungle and rock climbed to get to two caves.

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All geared up and ready to go

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One of the river crossings

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Entrance to the first cave

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Some rock climbing

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In the water

Inside there cave there were tons of bats squeaking and they would fly right by my face when I was swimming in the water.

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Tons of waterfalls in the caves

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There was a lagoon right outside of the first cave. This is where we had lunch and went for a swim.

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Lagoon break

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Jumping into the water

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Second cave had many limestone formations. We had a steep latter to climb down.

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Opening to the other side

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Huge spider eek!!

On the way back it started to rain, which made it so beautiful and cool.

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We saw an iguana on the way out.

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Iguana

This is the hugest web spider I’ve ever seen!!

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We made it! Beer time!

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Ryan (US), Glyn(UK), Daniel (US) and me

The next day i will head south to Hoi An.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

3 day/2 night junk boat tour/cruise in Halong Bay.

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On the deck of the boat

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On deck of the boat

Day 1: Hanoi to Halong Bay
The room and bathroom were nice.

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Visit Surprising Cave – this is very touristy, but was pretty cool to see the cave and all the limestone formations.

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Kayaking – the water was dirty and there weren’t that many caves to go under as promised.

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Swimming off the boat – this was my favorite. I got some exercise and a woman from a fishing village came up on little boat and sold us beers while we were in the water. The cruise ship was selling canned beer for 40,000 Dong which is $2 USD and the lady on the little boat was selling for half the price.  We’re not allowed to bring the booze on board because that’s how they want to make money, so we were safe drinking in the water 😉

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Left to right: Jon(UK), me, Levi, Eddie(Canada) and Henry (UK)

Squid fishing off the boat after din. I didn’t catch any, but some of the boys did. They squirted ink all over there deck.

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Lunch and dinner were surprisingly very good! We had excellent seafood and pork spring rolls we made ourselves.

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Day 2: Halong Bay – Cat Ba Island

Levi left to Cambodia and I stayed longer on the boat. I’m officially on my own 😀

I took a local boat to Lan Ha Bay where Monkey Island is located. Two monkeys fought over tourist food in a small tree and fell to the ground. I was really close to them so I ran away because I didn’t want to get in the middle of it. Swimming was fun.

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Next we went to Nam Cat Island for lunch. This place was really nice. It has about 20 bungalows on the beach and there are like three other beaches you can swim to.

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The bungalows were fully booked, so I took a ferry back to the boat in Halong Bay with all new people. But hey i got a room to myself 🙂 This group was pretty young and fun, but I still missed all the people I met on the boat the first time. A ducth girl that lives in Amsterdam, Sharon, was by far my favorite! Really fun to talk to.

I went kayaking and swimming to another island before I went back to the big boat.

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On the way back i spotted Pencil rock, I wonder when it will fall over:

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I discreetly bought two beers through my room’s window from another little boat. Hey I saved $2 bucks. That can go a long way in Southeast Asia

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Day 3:  Cat Back Island to Halong Bay to Hanoi
Cooking class while cruising back to the port. We made fried spring rolls. So easy, I want to make at home. Ingredients: rice paper, ground pork, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, cooked rice noodles, eggs.

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Biking around Cat Back was supposed to be included, but somehow I didn’t make the list. Good thing I didn’t go because two guys told me it was lame and not worth it. I did get a refund for it. Only $5usd, but hey it was worth asking for money back.

Hanoi, Vietnam

I wasn’t even going to bother writing about Hanoi, the city I like to call hannoying.

Hannoying has the craziest drivers I’ve experienced so far in Southeast Asia. They use their horns for everything and anything and run red lights and hope for the best. Locals walk right into you and taxi drivers yell at you if you don’t use their services. 12:30 am is the public curfew.  Beggars beg for you to buy something from them.

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Good thing I’ve decided to find the good in every place I go even if i don’t like it. The upside simply came from two encounters I had at the Hoan Kiem Lake.

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I walked to the Lake and sat on a bench alone. A 17 year old Vietnamese boy approached me and asked if he could practice speaking English with me. At first I thought awe man here we go, this has to be some sort of a scam, so the first thing I asked was why do you want to practice English? He replied that his school doesn’t teach English very well. That made me a little more comfortable, plus he was a youngen. He spoke English pretty well and asked what a few words meant. In return, he helped me with my Vietnamese pronunciations for hello, goodbye, excuse me and thank you. Edwards is his English name and when telling me his name he said it was like the Edward in Twilight. I told him I was team Jacob and he laughed, so I think he got the reference. 

The second encounter occurred when another Vietnamese guy approached us and was speaking Vietnamese to Edward. He asked if he could practice with me too. Edward politely got up and said now it is his turn if you would like. I can’t remember his name because it was hard pronounce. He spoke pretty well and was asking all sorts of questions. He is majoring in finance so when he found out that I was in accounting he asked what the big 4 accounting firms ask in their interviews, because one day he’d like to work in America for one of them. He was big on trying to sound American, he said he wanted to have an American accent.

Another good thing was Bia Ha Moi beer, which is a locally brewed beer and the pho wasn’t bad. I really like the pho back home because there is more meat in it and it includes tripe.

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The Woman carry produce with two rattan baskets and a pole that crosses their shoulder. They cook on the ground on the sidewalks.

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So glad to be leaving to Halong Bay for a 3 day 2 night junk boat cruise.