Part of the reason why I went to Vietnam was the fact that I found a super cheap flight, and one that just so happened to have a short layover in Japan. This was basically an open-ended trip with the only obligatory destination being in India in a couple weeks.
But instead of just heading there, and paying for a more expensive flight, I decided to purchase several cheap flights through Southeast Asia so I could see this part of the world, and then eventually end up in India. And that I did! (After India I would find myself in Ethiopia briefly for another layover and then Israel, all while being horrifically sick from something I ate in India, and would eventually decide to go back to the states because I was scared). But I digress. Those stories are all for other blog posts!
While I didn’t stay in Vietnam very long, I had mostly good experiences, including meeting with and having a night on the town with some really cool Westerners, one of whom was attempting to do the very same thing I was: travel around the world until he found a different place to live. His name is A, and we are still in communication via email. The last time we chatted he was in Italy.
A few of us, including A and I, (the Americans) ended up banding together with a really cool Australian girl and a Japanese chick, a German guy, and at some point a guy from Dubai who I referred to as Mr. Dubai. He was the epitome of a dapper, wealthy Arab, complete with protruding chest hair. We all hung out together and even managed to get away with smoking hashish, which is risky as it is illegal in southeast Asia. But I smoked hashish in India and didn’t get in trouble either. I’m just not sure I would recommend doing it again.
We all were having fun until this scrawny white American boy who I could tell automatically was in Vietnam just for the widespread prostitution showed up. He bragged that he had slept with “three different women that day” and I, disgusted, asked him if he had payed for it. He looked sideways, stuttered, and then semi-admitted that he had. Eventually he got up and left, saying that “I judged him”. My friend A responded “That’s cuz she’s woke.”
My very, very first night in Vietnam though was rough, and it almost ended with me being stranded AGAIN. I had messed up the time to check into my hotel, I believe I got 12am mixed up with 12pm, thus I had to wait a whole other day to check in, so I had no hotel to go to for that evening. I had to walk around at night by myself to find a hotel, and this guy shows up with a motorcycle and says “hotel?” so I believe he is going to show me to a hotel. I know it was rather dangerous what I did, but it turns out that this is one way you get around in Vietnam. I figured that this was just more of my traveling luck, but these motorcycle guys technically function as taxis.
He takes me to a hotel where upon I get a bad feeling. I think it’s partly because I’ve never taken a motorcycle taxi before and also because there is something a bit skeevy about the hotel. My instincts prove correct when, as I am attempting to chat with the hotel owner about a room (not very well, as his English was poor), three women come walking into the hotel and just stand there in front of two men seated on a bench. I realize immediately that they are prostitutes, and that one or both of the men are picking out who they want to sleep with. I feel very uncomfortable and I think I even looked at one of the men and said “Is that a prostitute? That’s terrible!” I walked out immediately, and managed to run into some other western girls who kindly walked with me back to an alleyway where their hostel was, and where I eventually managed to find one myself. I am lucky. I got my own room in the hostel, and the next day I went to the one where I originally had a reservation, which was shared, and it turns out to be nice as well.
Anyways, once the fiasco of finding a place to stay was settled that first evening, I was starving and decided to go have a walkabout in the area. Along the way I met a man who showed me to this small street food stall where I decided to sit down and have some chow. I didn’t really feel like diving into too much conversation with him but he had helped me find something to eat so I chat with him for a bit, telling him where I was from. The whole set-up was pretty dingy, with small little kiddie chairs and a table (it looked like a preschool setting tbh), but this seemed to be the standard for all street food stalls in Vietnam I would find.
None of that mattered as when I got my meal it turned out to be one of the best I have ever had in my life. It was some kind of concoction of those cheap ramen noodles you buy by the package, a vegetable, egg and hot sauce, and man was it scrumptious. I have since tried to replicate it to no avail.
My hostel location (the one I originally booked and would stay at for the rest of my time in Vietnam) was pretty hard to find, as it was down a narrow alleyway behind an open market. This ended up causing some problems including angering a motorcycle taxi who spent over twenty minutes trying to find my hostel and accidently hurt my finger while pointing to the map during a heated argument with a local. Eventually we found it, and I was so pissed off I paid the guy and immediately hopped off his bike, forgetting I was still wearing his helmet. He came after me to retrieve it and luckily there was no confrontation.
I ended up meeting a very kind, cool Dutch-Tunisian filmmaker at my hostel (who I am still friends with on FB) and we hung out, did laundry together, and decided to take a little tour. I forget its exact name, but at one point we toured various coconut plants where they made everything from coconut ice- cream (delicious) to coconut lip balm. I drank coconut juice from a straw right out of a coconut and it was the best I ever had.
Part of the tour involved taking canoe rides (I think they were canoes)? Through these little canals shrouded by trees and it was really, really cool. It almost felt like you were in the jungle but not quite.
And speaking of the jungle, I actually ended up getting ripped off, which I hear is a common occurrence here for Westerners, especially Americans given the history. I had seen some photos of the Vietnamese jungle near a port where I took a motor taxi too, and I believe I pointed to the taxi. I should’ve known that I was nowhere near the jungle, but the guy nodded and made it seem like he knew what I wanted.
So he led me to the bank of the river and here I am, this ignorant westerner, getting in a boat thinking that I am about to go sailing into the jungle……No. It turned out to be nothing but a lousy boat ride in the river that lasted for thirty minutes. I promptly asked the guy to turn around, angry that I had essentially been ripped off.
I wish I had taken more pictures of Vietnam, but I didn’t spend that much time there. I wish I had explored more of the islands, but maybe someday I will. But was quite a lengthy, annoying hassle just to get a visa and to get into Vietnam as an American, so I don’t think I’ll be heading back anytime soon. But Vietnam is quite interesting in that it uses the Roman alphabet and has lots of cool temples. I didn’t know this until recently, but Vietnam is made up of Buddhists as well as the Vietnamese folk religions, which is based on the doctrines of Taoism and Confuciansim. I can’t tell the difference between the temples below. Maybe you can?