The South of Vietnam in fast motion


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Asia
March 1st 2019
Published: March 3rd 2019
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On Thursday, February 21st, I left Cambodia and flew to the last country on my bucket list for my trip around the world : Vietnam. It had been very stressful to get there because my passport was full and I had to get an emergency passport for this last country. It was very stupid : if Belgium could, like every neighbour country (Germany, Netherlands, France, Luxembourg) ask for an e-visa, then the half-page left would have been enough for the 2 stamps but since we can only get a visa on arrival, I needed 1 additional page that I didn’t have. :-(. It had been stressful because some websites say that Vietnam doesn’t accept the emergency passport and I wasn’t sure if the airline would accept it either : not every airline does... Fortunately, we have an exceptional honorary consul in Phnom Penh who wrote me an official letter stating that I have to get into Vietnam with my emergency passport to get my flight home from Hanoi.



When I got to the airport, the airline did indeed give me some troubles but after a while studying my 2 passports (the old one is still valid, just full) and the letter of the consul, they agreed to let me fly under the condition that I do it on my own risk if the immigration in Ho Chi Minh doesn’t let me in. Sure, I can do that !



The flight itself was uneventful ; I met a nice French lady and had good company on the flight. At the immigration, the big stress out : will they let me in?! And yes, they did! :-D People always stress a lot about things like this, saying the immigration doesn’t accept this or that, demands this or that document, but in my experience it’s usually much easier than you’d expect. :-) Actually, they didn’t even want to see my « old » passport or the letter from the honorary consul ; they said they didn’t need anything and just - after 1 hour waiting like everyone else - gave me the visa and let me through immigration! Juhu!!! :-D I was tired (it was 11:30PM), but incredibly relieved and happy! :-D







At the airport, I met 3 young guys from Croatia and we shared a Grab into the centre of Ho Chi Minh. The wifi in the airport didn’t work and since the taxi companies asked way too much money, I just bought a cheap Sim card (6$ for 30 days with 4G each day) at the airport so that I could call a grab for us. The 3 guys were staying in a hotel not far from my hostel and so it was perfect for sharing, cheaper and nicer. :-) It was 12:30AM by the time I finally reached the hostel and I was exhausted, but the staff in the Vietnam Backpacker Hostel Saigon was super nice and received me well. They told me that if I had any question about Vietnam or needed help with planning anything, I could just ask at their travel desk and they would help me. Super nice!



The next morning I got up pretty early considering I had gone to bed at 1AM (super late for me) : 6:30AM. I had breakfast and went to the ATM to get some cash, gave my laundry to the reception and booked the Cu Chi Tunnels tour for the afternoon. By 9AM I was already ready to go explore Ho Chi Minh, a very productive day! :-D



I walked around Ho Chi Minh downtown, visited the War Remnants Museum, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Independence Palace. The war museum was very moving : I learned all about the Vietnam war, how the French had abused the country, then the US invaded and the rest of the world stood by while the US bombed Vietnam and destroyed it and it’s people with agent orange and Napalm gas. So horrible, and incredible to believe that this war ended only about 40 years ago!



Just before I had been to the genocide museum and the killing fields in Cambodia and now this, I must say it was almost too much, it made me very sad (of course my emotions were heightened due to a lack of sleep).



In the afternoon I did the tour to the famous Cu Chi tunnels South of Ho Chi Minh. These tunnels illustrate how the Vietnamese lived in tunnels for years during the war to evade the US soldiers and the deadly napalm and agent orange rain. Our guide had been a young boy then and could tell us from his own experience how it was to live in these tunnels. Awful! Can you imagine living for years in very tiny and narrow tunnels 1 to 9 metres below the earth!?



It had been a very emotional day for me but I’m glad I saw all of this so I get a better image of Vietnam and more respect for what these people have achieved in the last 40 years : it’s actually hard to believe that it’s only been such a short time if you see how touristy this country is today!







When I came back from my tour, I went to the travel desk of the hostel and just wanted to get some information about the itinerary I had planned by ended up planning everything in detail with George, the volunteer from Ireland. He was super nice and helpful and after 2 hours I had a complete itinerary with every hostel and every tour booked for the next couple of weeks until the departure of my plane from Hanoi back home. It was a bit expensive and usually I wouldn’t do anything like this, but a) the dates are flexible and I can change them as I want and b) this way I can enjoy my last weeks of travelling without any worries or any stressing about where to go next, what tour to do and how to manage everything on my list. So I was rid of a lot of money but very happy : everything I had wanted to do was on my plan, like the famous Northern loop on the bike, Halong Bay, Hoi An and the Phong Nha national park! :-D



After this I went to the rooftop for a couple of beers but in the end I went to bed quite early around 11PM, super tired and satisfied with my day. :-D







Ho Chi Minh is not a very nice and everyone who has been there saying the same : don’t spend too much time there, go north. I’m very happy I had only planned 1 day there, leaving the next day. :-)







The next morning, I took the 9AM sleeper bus to Mui Ne. It was my first sleeper bus in Vietnam and I loved it : it was the most comfortable bus I have ever had! It’s not like the sleeper buses where you have just a flat mattress and have to share a bed : here it’s single seats that look more like long chairs and that are very comfortable. This way the 5h journey seemed very short. :-)



I arrived to Mui Ne around 1PM and went to the VBH (Vietnam Backpacker Hostel) there. There for lunch I had my first Pho soup, one of the most famous dishes in Vietnam and delicious. It’s basically a big bowl of soup with noodles, vegetables and either beef or chicken.



I spent the afternoon at the pool, relaxing and reading until I accidentally ran into my friend Saidi whom I had met on the slow boat in Laos! :-D It was so nice to see her and we spent the rest of the day together. A bit later 2 Brasilian guys who had also been on our slow boat joined us as well and we went out for dinner together. In the hostel they had suggested a restaurant but we went there and when after 1 hour, we still didn’t have any food we just left and went to an Indian restaurant next to our hostel. I’m not a big fan of Indian food in general, but the food there was fantastic! :-D







The next morning, I did the sunrise tour to the famous white and red sand dunes in Mui Ne and there I met Marjorie from France who was very nice. We also visited the fish market and the « Fairy Stream ». These last 2 stops were actually the best part of the tour, the sand dunes were nice but nothing special.



When we came back to the hostel at 9AM (the tour had started at 4:30AM), the next surprise waited for me : at breakfast I ran into my friend Etty whom I had met in Bagan, Myanmar! :-D We were both super excited, I thought she had already left Vietnam and she thought I was still in Cambodia. :-) It was great to catch up and this way the rest of the morning passed very quickly.



Just before I left Mui Ne, the 4 Swedish guys who had also been on our slow boat in Loas arrived at our hostel and it was very funny to have such a big and random slow boat reunion! ^_^ I was sad I couldn’t stay another night, I’m sure it would have been a great party! ^_^







Mui Ne is a nice town at the beach, but except for the beach and the restaurants, there is not much to see. If you like to do Kite surfing, this is the spot (my friend told me it’s pretty cheap compared to other places). I would have liked to do the sandboarding there, but I couldn’t get any information about it and I guess it’s not a big thing if VBH doesn’t offer it.







Anyway, I was picked up at 12:30PM and I was a bit surprised that it was a minivan who brought me to my next destination, Da Lat, I thought it would be another sleeping bus because it was a 4h journey. Still, the journey wasn’t too bad and since I had been up so early I slept most of the way anyway. :-)



In Da Lat, I had booked the Friendly Fun Hostel that my friend Saidi had recommended and it was really nice : the owners are super friendly, the rooms really nice and in Da Lat it was fortunately a bit cooler than in the last places I had been. I was happy to be out of the heat! :-D



The people in the hostel were nice, but in general much younger than I (like often here in South East Asia). The family dinner was very good : some soup, potatoes, mushrooms, rice and salad ; it was the perfect opportunity to meet people because everybody participated in it. Afterwards we played cards for a while and had some of the free rice wine the hostel offered, but we decided to leave the going out to the famous « Maze Bar » to the next night.







The next morning, I did the famous canyoning tour in Da Lat. I was very excited and since I had never done this before, I was a bit nervous. We were 4 people in total, Larissa from Germany, André from the US, Pamela from Colombia and I and our tour operator was Viet Action Tours. It was really nice to be such a small group and our 2 guides, Louis and Happy, were fantastic. A few times I was very scared, but it was a lot of fun and definitely worth its 72$. The first abseiling was on a dry spot of a waterfall, just to get used to the abseiling, the second one was half abseiling on a waterfall and half free ziplining into the water, the third was a water slide ; then we got to the highest waterfall : 25 m! This was pretty scary and all of us had some troubles, Larissa slipped and was very scared, I got under a patch with particularly much water and thought I would drown and Pamela didn’t even try. Finally, the last one was the « washing machine » ; the name alone scared us, but it wasn’t half as bad as is seemed! ^_^ All of it was a lot of adrenaline and fun! :-D







Around 3PM we got back to our hostel and we didn’t do anything for the rest of the afternoon because we were super exhausted. At some point my friend Etty arrived and Marjorie from France came to our hostel as well and we all went to the family dinner together. After dinner we all went to the famous Maze bar where we met some friends of Etty and André (he was staying in a different hostel) and his friends. The Maze bar is really cool ; there are countless narrow stairs, the design is fantastic (it reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland and of the Never ending story) and it’s pretty easy to get lost there! ^_^ It was a nice evening but we were pretty tired and went to bed early.







The next morning, André and I went together to the famous « Crazy House » that was built by the same architect as the Maze bar. Neither of them are finished, they are still being built but they are open already. The Crazy House really was crazy and also absolutely fantastic, but we liked the Maze bar better ; the Crazy House was just too touristy and it was a bit kitschy. Afterwards we went to the lake to relax a bit before going back to the Maze bar. I wanted to go there during the day to see it by daylight and to take some pictures. :-) Finally we went to the famous « An Café » for lunch.



At 4PM I had to say goodbye to my friends because I was taking the night bus to Hoi An.







I liked Da Lat a lot. It was the first nice place I’ve been to in Vietnam, the other places had been kind of boring. Yes, the Cu Chi tunnels and the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh had been nice just like the sand dunes in Mui Ne, but I wouldn’t go back there ; I can only recommend you to spend only a very short time in the South and travel North fast, because the North is way better (as you will see in my next articles). :-) Bla









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