After India we had planned to be moving on from Asia, but instead we headed back to SE Asia, specifically Vietnam, to meet up with our friends Andreas and Ellen. It was awesome to be able to see them and experience Vietnam with them! We ate at tiny tables, fell in love with Vietnamese coffee, admired the lanterns in Hoi An, drank too many beers, and ate an unthinkable amount of pho.
Before this trip I had read really mixed things about Vietnam. People either love it or hate it. Some people mentioned that they felt as everyone looked at them like an open wallet (which might be true, but I feel like that is the case everywhere in SE Asia) while others felt like as Americans they were treated poorly (especially in the north). We had an amazing time catching up with friends, learning more about the Vietnam war, and exploring this incredible country! We did not make it to the north and will have to return back to that part of the country on a future trip.
Hoi An and Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon)
Things We Liked
Food (pho! Shellfish!), tiny tables/chairs at restaurants (although uncomfortable), friends, history there, learning about the war, easy to get around, street food, Vietnamese coffee, inexpensive everything, and craft beer.
Vietnam felt so calm and clean (at least compared to India), but it still had enough chaos — we love large Asian city chaos, especially Scott.
Things We Disliked
Motorbikes, playing frogger to cross the street, hot weather, motorbikes on the sidewalks, and bad internet connections.
There is nothing like eating a steaming hot bowl of pho in a tiny chair located on the sidewalk in 90+ degree heat.
1. Catching Up with Friends
We met up with our friends Andreas and Ellen in Vietnam…it is amazing to see friends across the world and get to experience new places together! We get a bit homesick at times and it has been incredible to see people we care about all over the globe. Vietnam could have been a complete dump and we still would have loved it since they were there (really though – Vietnam is awesome). We biked to the beach, ate pho, visited museums, drank beer, wandered aimlessly, and swapped India stories (they had just come from there as well). It was wonderful.
2. Learning about the War (Independence Palace and War Remnants Museum)
Learning about the Vietnam War (which in Vietnam is referred to as the American War, Resistance War Against America, or the US War of Aggression) was really fascinating to us as Americans. It is our history too and to learn about it from the other side of things was a bit hard to hear at times (and maybe a tad bit one-sided), but very educational. We visited the War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace, the place where the war officially ended in Saigon. Side note: it is really interesting to see that most of the planes and tanks they have are US military equipment. It makes sense, but I suppose I never really put much thought into it.
Saigon has the most motorbikes I have ever seen. Everyone rides them – even Uber has a motorbike option. We got used to crossing the streets dodging motorbikes and playing a game of Frogger to cross every intersection. What I did not get used to is the motorbikes driving on the sidewalk. We have seen this a few other countries, but nowhere else has it annoyed me more. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I was on a motorbike, but I was not sorry to say goodbye to the scooters when it was time to go.
The Case of the Missing Shoes
The place we were staying in Saigon was a guesthouse with 5 rooms. They asked us to remove our shoes when you enter the lobby and leave your shoes in the shoe rack next to the front door. It was a bit odd to have to go shoeless in the elevator, but we followed the request with no complaints.
One morning we were headed out we got to the shoe rack to find that Scott’s shoes were not there. We figured they must be on another rack somewhere so we asked the girl working there and were met with a look of panic. The shoes were missing. We left them with a picture of what they looked like and went on with our day. When we returned in the afternoon all of the staff had been watching security videos of the front area and could not figure out when they went missing. They apologized a million times, offered to reimburse us the cost of the shoes, and were so nice about the whole incident. We tried to be understanding as possible as we know nobody wants to steal a pair of shoes – we are sure the guy who checked out that morning took them by mistake, but they were gone for good.
Handmade in Hoi An
Hoi An is famous for their lanterns and their custom tailors. Walking around the city you find shop after shop offering custom suits, dresses, shirts…whatever you can dream of they can make it and return a completed product in 1-3 days. Obviously, we couldn’t leave without getting Scott a suit and Andreas joined in on the fun by ordering a sport coat. The whole process took 3 days. The first day you are able to choose the color, fabrics, and cut of the suit that you want. They took some measurements and within a day they had a preliminary suit. We returned two more times to make sure that their clothes were going to fit just perfect!
The Cu Chi Tunnels are a must see when passing through Saigon (so we hear). They are a day trip away from the city, but it is not overly expensive or hard to make the journey to see the series of tunnels that were used during the Vietnam War. We were in Saigon for 8 nights and did not manage to make it there. We have no excuses why we did not go, but we are bummed that we missed out.
Total Number of Nights: 12
Currency: $1 USD = 22,500 Vietnamese Dong
Number of Miles Traveled: 3,250 miles (including our flight from India)
Number of Miles Walked: 72 miles (average of 6 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 154,932 steps (average of about 12,900 per day)
Transportation Used: Taxi and plane
Type of Accommodations: Hotel (1), Airbnb aparment (2)
Number of Beds: 3