Published: June 28th 2010June 28th 2010
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City close to nightfall and were amazed by the vastness of the city and the amount of people and motorbikes zooming around our bus. We were dropped off just down the street from the main backpacker stay in the city and quickly found a room at one of the many guesthouses down one of the bustling alleys just off the main strip.
The city was amazing right from day one, and we wasted no time booking ourselves onto a day tour to some of the main sights for our first full day. We saw the war museum, where the courtyard is filled with old American choppers, planes and tanks, and the inside is filled with pictures and weapons as gruesome reminders of the devastating war. A quick trip into Chinatown allowed us to see a very ornately decorated Chinese temple and then it was off to the reunification palace. Previously a palace for the president prior to the war, we were able to see everything from his personal bedroom to the presidential office to the kitchens. A stop off at the “Handicapped Handicrafts” showed us some amazing artwork made by disabled
people, large blocks of granite (I think) were polished down, and then the workers would crush up eggshells so tiny they looked like sand, and created amazing pictures on plaques, bowls, plates and vases. After lunch we went to see the Notre Dame cathedral, built during French rule and the massive old post office, with its high vaulted ceilings and numerous desks. The city tour was a worthwhile venture, as we felt that we were able to see quite a lot of the tourist attractions for a fair price, with guided information the entire time.
Our second day we spent wandering around the small section of city known as district 1. Spending some time at one of the markets and mailing ourselves home some gifts before catching the evening’s world cup matches and heading to bed. The next few days we laid low as Scott had come down with a bit of a cold, and decided that once he was back on his feet we would purchase our open ended tickets to take us through Vietnam, starting with the beach town of Mui Ne.
We arrived in Mui Ne about midday and
were whisked away on the back of two motorbikes to our chosen guesthouse. A waterfront resort with a pool and an overpriced restaurant with mediocre food was what we found. We literally dropped our bags and rented a bike for ourselves and took off to see the city. We only planned for two nights before carrying on and wanted to make the most of our time. We found ourselves cursing down a semi-deserted stretch of highway with nice views of the ocean and surrounding towns before we wound up passing the red sand dunes and BAM, flat tire! We walked for about 45 minutes in the heat to a road side repair shop (no English) and about ten minutes and $3 US to replace the inner tube and we were back on the road and headed for.... nowhere in particular! We saw a lot of the country side and felt a bit more comfortable with the city, and were prepared for our adventure the next day, finding the white sand dunes about an hour and a half outside of town.
Our only full day in Mui Ne, Scott bolted up at 8:45 and realized that our
free breakfast coupons expired at 9 and took off for breakfast while I was lazy and slept in, waking up to cold pancakes. Yum! We set off about 11 in search of the white sand dunes, which we were told were better than the red dunes (which we had passed the previous day). We managed to find the mini Grand Canyon of Vietnam and spent some time exploring the depths of the area before carrying on to the (amazing!!) white sand dunes. 20 minutes down a bumpy wet sand road and we found the entrance, a canopy covered area with two guards, a few restaurants selling water, food, ponchos and blue plastic sheets for tourists to slide down the dunes on. We had a quick bite, I haggled with the owner’s son for my very own blue plastic sheet for the day, and we were off into the great sand beyond!!
Now this part is gross so skip it if you want!! We hiked for about half an hour to what we thought was the highest and most deserted peak, and found the most spectacular view of the lake bordering the dunes. We got to the
top and I was just about to go down for my first run when I had the overwhelming sensation that I needed a bathroom. NOW! I dumped all of my stuff and took off down the sand dune toward some nearby bushes; barely making it before... well.... no words are needed for that. The only thing I learned from that was leaves really do work, but make sure you check for bugs!!
Horribleness aside, once I had composed myself it was off with the magic blue sheet!! We spent the next hour and a half playing in the sand, me sliding down anything with a slight incline, and Scott taking some amazing photos of the most unreal landscapes. Finally, just before it started to rain, we decided to head back. Me covered in sand with broken sandals, and Scott... just Scott!! :)
We left the next day around 1, our next stop; Dalat. The central highlands of Vietnam, full of delicious coffee and amazing scenery!! We had a great day and a half in Mui Ne, and while there is a lot more activities to do in the city (kite surfing being
one of the major attractions), we felt like we had seen what we needed and were happy to be moving on!!
There are more photos below