What I learned in Vietnam 

As done before (click here and here) this is what I learned in Vietnam:

1. Coffee is served with a cup of light, cool green tea instead of water.

2. Going off the beaten path, to a place where tourists are still a welcome novelty, is a great idea (charm and money wise).

3. Saying yes to new adventures is the difference between traveling and discovering a country.

4. But doing stuff along with hundreds of tourists can also be great (like Ha Long Bay).

5. Some farmers in rural areas walk their cows. And not from A to B but to let them graze.

6. Young locals will come up to you and talk. They don’t want to scam you, they just want to practice their English.

7. The Vietnamese wear helmets on the road.

8. The food in Vietnam is the best. But here I also had the blandest food of my trip. Mostly while on tours.

9. When people tell you to bring insect repellent it really means to wear a body protection suit. At least for me.

10. Always, always bargain. The asking price is just an opening for a lengthy discussion.

11. Don’t scratch the mosquito bites, you will only make it worse.

12. Salt is served with sugar cane juice to cut the sweetness. You dip your straw in and stir it in; and it tastes surprisingly good!

13. It doesn’t matter if you get wet in the rain, it’s like swimming in the sea without the salt.

14. The best way to start the day is with a Pho.

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The doors of Vietnam

As done on previous occasions (click here and here to see), I photographed a small range of different doors in Vietnam. Most of the pictures are from Hoi An though, I have noticed that the further south I go the more difficult are the doors. Most people leave them open during the day so I included some gates.  Yours, Pollybert

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Leaving Vietnam

My last morning started with the usual soup at the hotel and then Willemeijn and I walked to a nearby indoor market. Here is the street on which our hotel was, right in the middle of the backpacker district.

  

The indoor market was not very exciting but there was not much else to do for the last couple of hours. At the market everything imaginable was sold. We strolled around for a while, looking at all the stalls and trying on clothes but ended up buying nothing.

  
  
  
What I did end up buying though was a small ice cream at Baskin Robbins that was about three times as expensive as the lunch we had after. Because while sitting in the air conditioned shop we were watching the street and noticed a lot of people going for lunch into the corner shop. And this is exactly what we did. A last soup with all kinds of sausages and meat inside and a local ice tea. Life can’t get much better.

  

After lunch it was time for me to walk back to the hotel and catch my shuttle. The shuttle was again a private car and in no time was I at the airport. Due to the international flight I had to be there two hours earlier so I spent my time wandering around.

Finally we boarded and after a little over an hour I landed in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Immigration was quick and efficient and I was happy I had the necessary picture with me. I was also happy that I hadn’t done the online application which would have been more expensive and wouldn’t have saved any time at all.

  

The Rose Apple Guesthouse I had booked for my three night stay had a free pickup service and Mara (I really hope this is the way he spells his name) was already waiting for me with his tuk-tuk.


At the hotel Tim, the Belgian owner welcomed me and helped me plan my next three days touring Angkor Wat with Mara. I decided on starting with a sunrise tour so the next day pickup would be very early. I therefore stayed in that evening and went to bed early. Yours, Pollybert

HCMC Tour and the Cu Chi Tunnels

My last day in Vietnam had begun. After almost a month here it had come down to this. My last day.

But last day or not, I had a tour planned today. A half day city tour and in the afternoon the Cu Chi tunnels. Pickup was at 8am and since I had already woken up Willemeijn she came down to breakfast with me. As usual I had a soup, such a great way to start the day, and I noticed that here different herbs were served with it.

Thus energized the tour could begin which it did at the Reunification Palace. The president of South-Vietnam resided here during the Vietnam (American) War and it all ended when a VC (Viet Cong) pilot managed to drop a bomb on top of it. This bomb hit the central staircase which is therefore kept in a state of ‘holiness’. The stairs have been repaired but we weren’t allowed to walk on them. To get to the first floor one had to use the back stairs. Next to the stairs (on both sides) was also a picture of the successful pilot.

The building itself was not so interesting, more the history behind. It was not only the residence of the president, it was also the military headquarter during the war. Anyway, we toured the building including the bunkers and here are the pictures. Quite the cozy residence!

  
  

Please note that the president always had to be higher than his guests. 

These are real elephant legs (male, female, baby). The children of the president used them as paper baskets or so we were told.

The entertainment room with games, a piano and a pool table.

From the palace we walked a short way to the Notre-Dame Basilica. On the way there I noticed that there really was a lot more traffic in Saigon. I got myself an ice-coffee and then slowly walked over to the church and the Central Post Office right across the street. The post office was designed amongst others by Gustave Eiffel.

  

While visiting the church there was a choir singing, if you want to hear it, please click here.

     

And as always there were brides around.

Our last stop on the city tour was the War Remnants Museum. It started slow with pictures taken by American War correspondents of American soldiers and then the further up you went into the museum (it has 3 floors) the more difficult the pictures became to me. The killings and the atrocities and Agent Orange and the aftermath of it. On both sides, but of course they were and still are a lot worse here in Vietnam. Looking at the pictures and reading the stories made me feel so mad at how we could allow it. Actually how we are still allowing really, really bad things to happen all over the world. Have we not learned anything from history? I was glad that I was on a guided tour and there was a time limit to the visit. So in the end I rushed through and couldn’t read everything. So maybe that makes me a coward but there is only so much I can take. If you ever go to HCMC make sure that you go and see the museum. It is well worth your time!

Even in Austria there was a demonstration against the war. It took me a while to find this picture (for Sylvia: there were a couple of demonstrations in Budapest!)
     

I didn’t want to take closer pictures of what agent orange left behind. I think it is enough that I have seen it and if you are interested you can google it. Not easy to stomach though.

The morning program was over and we went for lunch. Since with the cheap tour I had booked only a light lunch was included I decided to leave the group and have lunch on my own. The other reason was probably that lunch was at my hotel and I found it a little bit weird. The tour for the day by the way was only 10$ but didn’t include any entrance fee. I had to pay all this extra. Still it was quite the bargain.

So I went for lunch three restaurants down and had a fish in clay pot. Really good but full of bones. Took me the better part of my lunch hour to not kill myself on these bones. Still have not mastered the art of eating the fish with the bones, but am working on it. It tasted better than it looked!!

For the afternoon we had a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels planned. These were all around Saigon that’s how far the VC came without the Americans knowing. The visit on site was really amazing. The facts you learn on how they lived underground including their animals. How they disguised the air vents with anthills, how they stole American clothes and dragged them across the tunnel entrances to make sure that the dogs wouldn’t find them.

We started our tour with an introductory movie about the tunnels and then went right into the woods.

We saw all kinds of secret holes and traps in the ground. No wonder the Americans lost the war!

The disguised ventilation shafts. After that we came to a shooting range where you could pay for a round of ten bullets. The weapons and the bullets were still from the Vietnam/American War and they had enough left to sell for a very long time! Unbelievable what the Americans had to leave behind or let’s put it this way, what they had brought into the country in the first place!

  

After the shooting range we had one more stop in the woods, the tunnels. Everyone who wanted to could go down and try them out. There were exits after 20, 40 and 60m. I managed exactly 20m. The man in front of me was big and blocked out all light. Plus he stopped every couple of meters which made me nervous if there was something ahead. I couldn’t believe that the VC lived down there, had children, raised animals etc. Unbelievable!

When I returned to the Beautiful Saigon 2 Hotel Willemeijn was already there after a day of leisure. Instead of crawling through tunnels she had gone to the museum as well and spent the afternoon in a spa getting pampered.

For dinner we followed a recommendation she had gotten from someone she had met in Dalat. Since the place was a bit further and we had learned from our mistake the night before we got a taxi and sat down before telling the driver where to take us. As it turned out it wasn’t problem at all. We arrived at the restaurant where only locals ate, always a good sign. I can’t really remember the names of what we ordered, but this is what we got.

  

There was a bit of work involved with dinner since we had to put the little pancakes and also the big one (broken into pieces) on a salad leaf and then roll it. So delicious!!

Since it was our last evening together and the last one in Vietnam for the both of us, we decided on drinks at the nearby Shri Bar which as I have just found out is the number 1 rooftop bar in Saigon. The view was lovely and drinks were excellent. Yours, Pollybert

  
  

Last days in Quy Nhon 

Last night I had talked to the receptionist about my futile search of the Han Mac Tu grave. In a way I really wanted to see it now and it must be possible to find it.

Which I did easily today after the lengthy explanation the evening before. Because I had already passed it. Not just once but a couple of times actually. I was sitting across from it yesterday while having coffee and I just didn’t recognize it.

So since I knew where to go I went for breakfast first. What better way to start the day than with a delicious Pho.

It had been a good idea to eat before because again I had to push my bicycle. At least it was only a small hill. Soon I parked it and walked the rest of the way. If you find that the woman on top looks like Holy Mary, congratulations you are right. He was Catholic. I have noticed more and more Catholic churches the further south I go. So this was not something that should astonish me, but it did. Han Mac Tu died at the age of 28 of lepra by the way. I couldn’t tell you any of his poems, but they are still taught in schools in Vietnam today.


From the grave I took the longer route back to the bicycle to discover the rest of the small hill. It had a great view over the beach, a small temple and a Catholic church. Except for the view no picture is worth posting here though.

Once I returned down to the crossing, I went for an ice coffee to the little coffee shop. Today I had the place to myself. My bicycle was parked as usual right outside.

  

Since it was again overcast and grey I went back to the hotel and decided to have a pedicure at the place I saw on the first evening.


No one spoke English and I still didn’t speak Vietnamese, but we could communicate easily and when I was done I walked out with baby smooth soles and red toe nails.

While I was worked on another woman came in who got her hair done. She spoke a bit of English and asked me if I wanted to eat curry. She had a small curry shop up at the mall.  Always open to new suggestions I followed her on the bike and ended up at her place. The fish curry I tried was very tasty.


Since I was already in the mall I thought I would get some snacks for my train ride tomorrow. The supermarket was on the second level and I explored every aisle. It’s always so interesting to see what products other countries have. It took me the better part of an hour to do that and when I ended up at the cash register on the third level I noticed that there was also a movie center in the building. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check if there were any English movies and surprise, surprise they showed ‘Jurassic World’. I bought my ticket and had two wonderful entertaining hours.

For dinner I cycled to a restaurant close to my hotel. The Alaca had mostly ‘hot pot‘ but also other things. So I tried the grilled octopus with special sauce. Special meant only extra spicy. I could breath fire after, the octopus was grilled to perfection though.  The next day was already my last one. In the early evening I had to take the night train to HCMC (=Saigon). I spent a lazy morning in bed, posting a bit and also watching another episode of GoT. Around noon I checked out and took the bicycle once more. A last coffee at my favorite place, followed by a sugar cane juice at the beach. 

One last dip in the sea, and a short stay in front of the Seagull hotel as the only tourist on the sun bed, I read my book a bit more and then it was time to go. At the Hai Huong Hotel I could have a shower and wash my hair before leaving. So prepared I was ready for the train ride and HCMC. Yours, Pollybert