We boarded a boat on the Mekong Delta for a cruise to our home stay. We then swapped to sampans and sailed down the river let whilst drinking coconuts and soaking up the bliss. We arrived at the homestay where we were prompted to jump in a knee deep water filled mud pit to
Catch our own fish for dinner. Squirming through the fish and people filled muck I managed to successfully catch two fish in my basket. Lunch and Dinner was a feast where we tested the flavours of our freshly salvaged fish, and the unique mix of rat and snake. The rooms were rather stuffy with geckos running along the walls and the bathroom had practically a non pressurized shower . It was a rather rough night sleep so it was much to my relief to be heading back to Ho Chi Minh the next day.
On the return we made a detour to the Cu Chi tunnels. I concurred my claustrophobia by entering the Cu Chi Viet Kong underground tunnels. Seeing the booby traps used on the American soldiers were brutal and sneaky. I was rather proud of myself for concurring 20m of Underground tunnels, despite my original refusal. Once back to the hotel we joined forces to do a scavenger hunt through Ho Chi Minh. We ate and drank our way to the rooftop bar.
The morning began with a visit to the Vietnam war historical museum as well as the Notre dame cathedral and a post office designed by Mr Eiffel Tower. A magical flight sent us to our next destination of Nha Trang where we bused our way to the seaside hotel followed by beach side dinner celebrations for Erin’s 26th birthday. We were dazzled by a fire twirling dance routine like no other and drank Contiki special alcoholic bucket beverages.
Rise and shine for the day of fun and relaxation ahead! We left the hotel to depart the wharf on board the Funky Monkey booze cruise. We jumped off the roof of the boat and snorkeled the clear waters seeking out colourful fish, starfish and spiky enemies hidden amongst the unique coral beds. I was in a mystical underwater world until I got stung on my arm by a jellyfish. I retreated to the boat for a sugar paste cure on my blotchy arm and a beer to numb the sting. Sunbathing, dancing, floating bar shots and a whole lot of fun made this day one of the best thus far. Us Aussies belted out waltzing Matilda and other countries paid a performance of their own.
Next on the activity list was a visit to relaxing, yet exciting and awe inspiring mineral mud baths and hot pools. Roaming from pool to pool and showering under waterfalls was the perfect way to end the day. It was a day almost impossible to comprehend due to the surreal beauty and complete utter enjoyment.
A 4am rise to get to our flight to Da Nang then bused our way to Hoi An where we set off on a bike ride tour to the ancient town of Hoi An where we explored the Chinese and Japanese influenced architecture of this quaint, touristy town. We spent the remainder of the afternoon getting a custom clothing fitting whilst drenched in sweat from our prior exercise, recouping from travel via massage and Mani Pedi, refreshing pool dips and a dinner personally welcomed and served by the Chef Nando at Green Chilli restaurant.
Today was a rather contemplative day in realization that the trip was drawing to an end. We had a free day to shop and eat to our hearts content. After a laundry pickup, bike drop off and a massage we made our tiered way to a simplified and delectable Vietnamese cooking class. It was the perfect way to top off the day and gave us the energy to explore Hoi An’s colourful lantern lit night markets, finished off with a floating river lantern release to make a wish to.
We fare welled the beautiful city of Hoi An and took the Hai Van pass to Hue were we all were designated Cyclos which were a bike peddled from behind and you sit on the front for a scenic and fun form of transportation to the Imperial Citadel of Thang Long Temple sight. It was a view of intricate arches and designs of the once upon a time residence of the King. We saw his cast gold throne and many other sights to be taken in before a brief stop off to see the 7 story Thien Mu Pagoda where monks chanted behind the echoing zen gardens. Little time to rest as we prepared our appetites for the street food tour. We ate banana fritters, made our own fresh spring rolls and savored a fetus duck egg. We were incredibly satisfied after busing around to multiple food stops around the city and had a chill night in the hotel whilst the maintenance man fixed the leaking air conditioning system in our room.
Seeing as Hue is considered more of a transit city we pushed on and flew to the Capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi. It was slightly reminiscent of Ho Chi Minh as we drove over the bridge with the hazy city in the distance coming into view. We checked out the local sights including the temple of literature and Parliament House.
A satisfying lunch stop with a mocktail and duck dish followed by a free afternoon to sleep, shop and meander around this new unexplored city. Erin, Olivia, Amy and I had sushi for Amy’s birthday dinner and after sat by the mosquito ridden lake, reminiscing on the trip.
I woke to the day of ANZAC day where I listened to a bagpipe version of amazing grace on my iPod in the dark of the hotel room and reflected on the sacrifice of our troops who had fought in all wars but in particular, here in Vietnam. It is quite a special day for me and even more memorable that I got to be in this country for it.
Halong Bay here we come!
We sailed into the awe inspiring, mountainous, lagoon-like bay. We adored the spectacular view from atop our Junk Cruise Boat with cocktails in hand. The excitement was evident with the mass amount of photos taken and resistance to leave the top of the boat to return inside for a seafood lunch with the most amazing view. Afterwards we boarded separate boats with our own personal rowing man who took us through a cave that lead to a surrounding mountain range rising up out of the water. Monkeys jumped between trees and the water glowed aqua green. It was so serene and unbelievable to witness. We then walked to the top of a beach bay to witness a view of boats and green lumps of rock protruding from the glimmering blue below. Once we made our return back to the bottom we refreshed ourselves with a well earned dip in the cold waters whilst others played beach volley ball on the sand.
The night on the boat was drinks all around whilst watching the sunset, eating dinner, singing Karaoke and amusing ourselves with each others fancy dress costumes.
Our final day/night of the tour! Asia you have not let me down with the surprising sights. A final adventure for the trip meant walking through sung sot caves. Initially i felt apprehensive due to claustrophobia however it was a rather wide open and not too deep cave. The stalactite roof and walls made the space look otherworldly. Once we had scrambled our way out a view of the bay welcomed us and many other tourist attempting to get that money shot. A final meal on the boat where we resisted the idea to leave the beauty but ended up sailing our way back to land.
After a 4 hour bus trip back to Hanoi we rested up before heading to our final family dinner at Lanterns restaurant where we sat on floor cushions under a sea of lanterns above us. We reenacted the image of the last supper and marked our memories by writing on the walls of the restaurant. This was totally allowed for reassurance purposes! After fare-welling a few friends before their early morning departure, we checked out hangover bar where we drank from piggy bank buckets and puffed on Shisha’s
An early rise to farewell some more of the crew flying out, was followed by a much needed nap until midday. It was blissful to not have to rush anywhere after breakfast and meander our way through the city streets, eating Banh Mi, drinking weasel coffee and having an hour hand a half massage with Sarah! We wrote a letter to the best tour manager I could have hoped for; Rachel, and met the remaining travelers for dinner at a well recommended restaurant called Cau Go.
That was it. The end of the most amazing trip rolled into a month. I made some incredible new friends, had unbelievable experiences, ate strange and delicious foods, faced fears and pushed myself far outside of my comfort zone. I came to Asia to learn to not take things for granted, but somehow on this last day in this generous, kind hearted and friendly country of Vietnam, I find myself feeling like I’m taking the experience for granted. I’m feeling rather undeserving of such a special experience and of all I have received, kind of like I’m not really worthy to be treated as well as I have been. I never aimed to be complacent by the end of this trip but that’s pretty much how I feel. I’m ready to go home. As I’m laying in my darkened hotel room at the Hong Ngoc Dynasty Hotel I’m thinking that I don’t have the importance to have doors opened for me as my presence approaches, or smiles from poor children in the marketplace, or to be reviewing a peaceful massage, or to be allowed to take selfies with such precious wild creatures that are the Asian Elephants, or be rowed along in the heat by a frail Asian woman whilst I drink coconuts, or viewing moon bears in an enclosure, or contributing to wastefulness, tourism, and sweat shop workers. Asia, you have been the most beautiful continent but at the very same time, incredibly concerning at the amount of poverty I’ve witnessed and how westerners have practically taken over the culture of this land. It’s a sad truth but in ten years down the track, Asia may no longer be what it is today. I mean I hope it can be even more beautiful than what I’ve witnessed, because it’s been the most astounding and eye opening trip of my life. I appreciate the time spent here more than I can currently comprehend, I just wonder if I deserved it.