Vietnam: Mui Ne & HCMC

We spent a few days in Mui Ne before heading to the city of Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City. In Saigon, we learned about the Vietnam/American war and got to explore the southern part of the Mekong River.

In Mui Ne Elizabeth and I spent the majority of our time relaxing by the two pools of our hostel. The weather was hot and sunny again so it was a pretty good use of our time. One day we had booked a early morning tour but Elizabeth felt ill so it was just me. I got to see the sunrise on top of the White Sand Dunes. Although there were a lot of tourists it was a lovely start to the day. After I got to see the Red Sand Dunes which were a lot smaller than the white ones. But here there were lots of Asian tourists using little plastic slides to slide down the sand which was pretty funny. I went to the fairy stream which was super relaxing to walk though. Initially there were so many Asian tourists taking selfies but the further you walk they seem to disappear. The fairy stream is a little stream of water that is about as deep as your ankles which you can easily walk though. On one side there’s big red and white cliffs and the other is covered by trees and plants. It’s a very nice walk, when you reach the end there was a little waterfall. In a way this tour was very relaxing although it was super early in the morning, surrounded by Asian tourists, and I only had a couple hours of sleep.

In Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon we took a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels where we learned about the guerrilla soldiers who built them and the roles of the women and children who hid in the tunnels. The tunnels are in a forest because this hid the people from the American planes flying above. We got to go inside the tunnels for 100 meters and they are such tiny little spaces. They lived and cooked in these tunnels and it’s hard to imagine that in this tiny space. We didn’t really understand what was happening with this was as everyone we talk to seems to have a different opinion of it. Later in the week we ended up going to the War Museum and actually learned what was happening in Vietnam.

After the tunnels we headed to the Cafe Apartments which is an old apartment building filled with cute cafés. We ended up having a tea party at the Cafe we chose. After dinner we sat in the park and 3 school girls came up to us and asked us if they could practice their English with us so we said okay and talked to the girls about school, life, and movies. They are like completely normal kids, they go to school then come home and do masses of homework and repeat the process. It was really unexpected but really nice. The girls parents and teachers encourage them to go up to tourists and talk to them to practice their English. One of the girls dads ended up giving us some water and of course at the end of it they all wanted some pictures of us together. Some days were lazy and tired of life so we went to the minimart bought some juice, candy, and face masks to bring back to our hostel room And watch a movie on Elizabeth’s phone like we like to do.

Our next day was a full day in Ho Chi Minh City. I decided it was Elizabeth’s birthday which doesn’t actually mean to much because we’re always doing random special things every day. On her real birthday she’ll be flying home to America which is no fun at all! Everyone deserves a birthday day! So we went to the War Remnants Museum which was really cool and scary. The museum is filled with beautiful and horrifying pictures from the Vietnam/American War. Some of them are hard to look at and it’s difficult to imagine living in a war. We learned a bit about the Vietnam war and what life was like. To summarize the War in my perspective, In the Vietnam war the communist north was fighting against the south. America came to help the south because there was a fear of communism in the US and they feared that if Vietnam became communist all the other Asian countries would follow. From what it sounds like is that there are so many mixed signals about who’s the enemy so the American soldiers were scared and killed whoever and the Vietnamese people always had a fear of US planes and soldiers. The US is responsible for making the war as violent as it was. The US used a chemical called Agent Orange to spray the country of Vietnam, this chemical causes death, deformations, mental disability, and is continued on through generations. There are still people today born with disabilities due to Agent Orange. The War went on for about 20 years. Im not sure why but the US left Vietnam but when they left the communists took over the country but everyone was happy the War was over.

After the tragic museum we decided to go to the zoo and botanical gardens to cheer us up. The zoo was so big, after a while we got tired of the sad animals. On our way out we saw a show starting so we watched a show with dance, acrobatics, and other tricks.

We took a quick stop at the Cafe Apartments then headed to the Bitexo Financial Tower, the tallest tower in Ho Chi Minh City, to go see a view of the city at sunset. The city seems to go on for ages, there’s no end. In the tower there’s also a bar on the 52nd floor so we got a little birthday drink for Elizabeth.

Everyone told us that Ho Chi Minh City is crazy and intense especially with the traffic. However, we actually really enjoy this city, there’s tall trees everywhere, lots of parks, a mix of shacks and skyscrapers, lots of people but they are nice or don’t other us. For the traffic, it’s really not that bad because there’s cross walks and traffic lights which make it easy to cross the street. I’m not sure why everyone has this idea that Ho Chi Minh City is crazy, it seems pretty normal and isn’t scary.

We spent 1 day on the Mekong Delta with a tour. We already traveled along the Mekong in northern Laos but we wanted to see it in the south also. This tour was very mellow but we enjoyed it none the less. On this tour we took a bus ride to the Mekong from Ho Chi Minh City then hopped on a little boat to take us around the islands. Our guide pointed out several of the small islands along the way. We stopped to learn how coconut candy was made and got to taste the candy and some ice cream! After lunch we were on a little island that seemed like an adult playground. There were swing, ropes to climb, bikes to ride across a thin platform over water (everyone who did this plopped right into the water but it was so entertaining to watch!), and people feeding scary crocodiles. I didn’t realize how scary crocodiles actually are but they are terrifying! On this island there were also bikes that we could use to see more of the island. We attempted to use the bikes however both had broken brakes, one had a broken kickstand, and both felt pretty unstable. Nonetheless we gave it a go and went for a little bike ride between the homes of the people who lived on the island. The next island we visited was called Unicorn Island and the specialty here was its bees. We tried the local honey tea which was delicious. After the honey it was time to hold a big snake, I took a pass on this since I felt bad for the snake who’s life seemed to be living in a little cafe then being thrown around by tourists. Elizabeth however did hold the snake. After the snake we got on these little boats with two Vietnamese people steering/paddling us around a little stream. The stream/river area was very beautiful. At the end of our ‘romantic’ boat ride it was time for another tasting. We tried more tea, and lots of local fruits. With our tea we also had a performance with some traditional Mekong songs. This tour was more of a tasting tour than anything else. Although the Mekong river is very polluted and touristic we’re glad that we took this day to go see it.

Our time in Ho Chi Minh City has been a great way to end Vietnam. I’ve probably mentioned it before but honestly Vietnam is my favorite Asian country! I love it! 3 weeks was not enough time and i would gladly come back here 🙂

Ida and Elizabeth on the Mekong
Boat ride on the Mekong