Because Vietnam is such a big country, I have split it up into several blog posts, starting with the south. My friend Katie and I spent a month there and travelled the whole country from the south to the north. We started off in Ho Chi Minh City, having caught the bus there from Cambodia.
Ho Chi Minh City is a huge, crazy city and is named after their famous Communist leader, but is also known by its previous name Saigon. On our first day there, we explored the area near the hostel and found some hectic but amazing markets and bought some yummy nibbles. There are so many motorbikes everywhere, it was insane- you put your life in your hands when you cross the road! I heard it is because there a huge tax on cars so most people can only afford a motorbike.
That afternoon we visited the ‘War Remnants Museum’ which was one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever been to, but also possibly the most horrific. It was all about the Vietnam War which took place for nineteen years from 1955-1975. Being Vietnamese, the museum was naturally very biased, with lots of horrendous propaganda against American aggression. It was so interesting, because growing up in the UK, you only get the Western versions of history, and this museum was very anti Western world (mainly America and France). During the war, amongst many other war crimes, the US poured chemicals over the land, in the hope of pushing out the guerrilla fighters living underground. One of these chemicals in particular, called ‘Agent Orange’ had a display to itself because it was so awful. Basically as a result of the land being so contaminated, a huge amount of people have been born with horrible deformities and disabilities, even to this day. Honestly it was so horrific we were nearly crying. On a slightly lighter note, on the way back we got some good street food- our first taste of Vietnamese food.
The next day we were booked onto a half day trip to the Cuchi Tunnels. We got picked up from our hostel and got driven about fifty minutes to somewhere called Handicapped Handicrafts where people disabled by Agent Orange sell their crafts. We drove for a further fifty minutes and arrived at the Cuchi Tunnels, which is where the guerrilla fighters lived during the Vietnam war. First we were shown some savage underground traps and some leftover tanks, and then we were shown actual tunnels where the soldiers lived. We crawled through one for 120 metres and then through a smaller, second one for about 50 metres. These had apparently been slightly widened since the original size, to allow Western bodies to fit through. They were boiling, dark and dirty and a tad scary- we couldn’t believe anyone would put themselves through living down there.
Our next stop was Mui Ne, which was a small beach town just up the coast. We stayed in a hostel with a pool, which felt very needed after a few back-to-back hot cities! On arrival, we went straight to the beach for a few hours and then went swimming in the pool, which was lovely. Our hostel was pretty social and later that evening we bought some ridiculously cheap beers, and played some drinking games and then all to a club called Dragon Beach. It was weirdly full of Vietnamese people of all ages and families until very late- very strange concept!
The next day we were booked onto a tour to visit the Sand Dunes. We got picked up from the hostel at midday and made two stops en route to the dunes. The first, was called ‘the fairy stream’ which was essentially a muddy stream running over sand, but it was surrounded by really impressive huge white and red rocks. It was really pretty! The second was a viewpoint overlooking Mui Ne fishing village, which was really nice, and then after that it was a long drive to the white sand dunes. When we finally got there it was so worth it, as it was like being in the middle of the desert and it was incredible. You could hire quad bikes, and Katie and I paid for half an hour as we weren’t due to stay that long. It was so much fun- we took it in turns to drive and we actually both found it quite difficult as the steering was so heavy! We kept getting stuck in the sand – at one point two guys had to pull us out because our wheels were fully submerged. After an hour or so there, we were driven to the red sand dunes, which also looked absolutely amazing- just sand as far as you can see. I did not expect this in Vietnam! We bought some fresh pineapple and headed up a dune to watch the sun set. It was absolutely unreal.
An excellent start to our month in Vietnam!