I thought I would do a post about my experience of Vietnam. Alanna and I did lots of things together, but I think we have quite different stories to tell of our time here. With sicknesses and different interests, we managed to see and do pretty different things.
Uncle Ho's new home. Not exactly the burial he wanted, but I'm sure he would understand?
I’ll start with Hanoi- the first time. We only spent two days here, but I saw a lot. Most of which had something to do with the Vietnam War. The highlight was the day I spent seeing as much war related sights as I could. I hired a motorbike taxi to take me around for the day, which turned out not only to be convenient, but also very interesting. My driver (unfortunately I failed to write down his name) told me about his family’s experience during the war. He was born in 1970, and his mother took him to live in the tunnels around Hanoi because the bombing was so bad. He lived there for the first year of his life, and when he and his mother went back to thier house, the whole neighborhood and been leveled by bombs. On top of hearing his story, he took me to the Ho Chi Minh Masaulium, where uncle Ho is on display. Unfortunately it was closed when I went, but seeing the complex was still cool. My driver then took me through a series of back allies in search of the remains of an American B-52 bomber that was shot down over Hanoi during the war. Sure enough, in a small lake in central Hanoi you can see the landing gear and some other twisted metal sticking out of the water. Of course, there’s a plaque proudly describing the take take down of the “Imperialist Invaders”. From there, we went to Hao Lo, which is an old prison converted into a museum. It was built by the French in the late 19th century, and most of the museum is devoted to showing how terribly they treated Vietnamese prisoners. A much smaller part of the museum acknowledges that American pilots were held captive there during the Vietnam War. Most notably, it is where John McCain was held during the war, and they have the flight suit he was captured in on display. But don’t worry- I was assured over and over again that they treated the American prisoners very well… I can’t help but feel more than a little suspicious about that claim. The last stop of the day was the army museum. Home to a fleet of captured artilery and aircraft. There is even a monument made out of pieces of shot down American planes. Its a huge museum, and has some very interesting displays. One of which was a helemt that is riddeled with bullet holes and a caption that read, “Evidence of the failures of the French”.
John McCain's flight suitArmy Museum
From Hanoi, we booked a three day, two night, cruise on Halong Bay. Just over a month ago, Halong Bay was awarded the title as one of the modern natural wonders of the world. We opted for a more expensive cruise, as we had heard some horror stories about cheaper ones. The boat itself was very nice, and actually was what we were told. I was prepared to be sold one thing, and get another. Halong Bay is an amazing place, but unfortunately I had a hard time enjoying it. We had terrible weather, and I got very sick. Having a fever on a boat is never much fun. I’m glad we did the cruise, but I would like the chance to go back someday and enjoy it the way it should be.
Trying to ignore the fever.
Alanna made me go kayaking despite feeling like death, for which I am grateful. It was probably the highlight from the trip
After our three days on the cruise, we came back to Hanoi and I spent the following three days in bed watching stupid movies on HBO. So I dont have much to report from my second time in Hanoi. Unless you want a summary of Edie Murphy’s “Daddy Day Care”? … I didnt think so. But Alanna was feeling well enough to go and do things in and around Hanoi, so she’ll have more to say about it.
I finally felt well enough to get out of bed, and move on. So we went down to Hoi An. Vietnam tour agencies offer these open ended tickets that allow you to go from the North to the South (or the other way around) while getting on and off at different cities for as long as you want, all on one ticket. It sounds like the perfect way to see everything in between Hanoi and Saigon. So far, its been nothing but a headache. We took the bus from Hanoi to Hue where we were supposed to catch another bus to Hoi An. But of course, our first bus was late, so we missed the connecting bus. We were told this wasnt a problem and that we could take the next bus in 4 hours. That’s not so bad, we thought. So we hired some motorcycle taxis to show us some sights in the few hours we had. So we did, and saw some really interesting things, and went back to the bus only to find there were no seats for us. Luckily for us, the tour operator was kind enough to let us sit in the isle of the bus for the 3.5 hours it took to get to Hoi An. Not exactly the relaxing chance to recover from my sickness I had in mind…
On our quick visit to Hue.
If you look closely, you can actually see Alanna in the process of slipping. Ps- Sorry for posting this, Alanna. Its just too perfect...
Our driver insisted on taking our picture everywhere we went.
But Hoi An is beautiful, and I managed to do some serious relaxing there. Eating seemed to be my biggest pass-time. A few relaxing days there was nice, but by this point, it had been almost two weeks since I had seen the sun, so I was craving a beach. So after an anti climactic Christmas (apparently it’s already come and gone?!) Alanna and I parted ways for a little while. I went down to Mui Ne, and she stuck around Hoi An a little longer and got a custom coat made.
So that brings me to where I am now. A beach, with SUN. I saw the sun! I even got a sunburn! Ive been here two days, and have spent it laying on the beach, body boarding, and visiting the sand dunes of Mui Ne with another guy named Kevin from Argentina. Its a beautiful place, and it’s exactly what I needed. I feel recharged, and ready to keep going. Which is good, because tomorrow Im off to Cambodia!
First sunset in Mui Ne
Red Sand Dunes at Sunset
All I could think of was the scene from "Troy" where the Greeks are landing on the beaches of Troy
Im aiming to be back in Bangkok by Jan 10th, so I can spend a week hanging out with Galen, and relaxing before I jet off to Nepal. So Im going to have to motor through Cambodia in the next week and a half to make it, but Im excited to be on the move again.
So thats my version of Vietnam. Throw in some very pushy street vendors, and thats my experience of it.
Hope everyone has had a good Christmas and holiday back home! I’ve been thinking about everyone lots, and missing Christmas with the family.