We’re in hot and honking Vietnam

by Kim on December 20, 2013 · 44 comments

Welcome to Vietnam

We’ve arrived in Vietnam and oh what a change from bitter cold and buttoned up Europe! We landed in Ho Chi Minh City a few days ago and promptly got pummeled by a hardcore case of jet lag. It had us up at all hours of the night and then crashing around 1 in the afternoon for three days straight.

But it’s a small price to pay, really.

Everyone has their place in the world and Asia is mine. I just love this part of the globe. I love the foreign-ness of the culture, how it forces me to stay on my toes and in the moment. I love taking my shoes off at the door and walking barefoot most of the day. I love the men that sleep on their motorcycles to escape the mid-day heat. I love the street food. I love the dirt. I even love the people who ask me 3,000 times while I’m eating lunch if I’d like to buy a book or a hammock or a lighter or a pair of sunglasses. No, I would not. Yes, I still love you.

I love crossing the insane roads with hundreds of scooters zooming by. It’s like walking meditation to me. Pay attention. Breathe. Move with intention. Brian says crossing the street here is like a human game of Frogger but I think it’s more like Tai Chi. Well, Tai Chi with  the added risk of getting run over.

Vietnam scooter traffic

Scooter traffic

And the food!!! I love the food. I’m a vegetarian and I connect best with the countries where I can eat well. I didn’t think that anything could rival the joy I found eating in India but Vietnam is giving India a run for her money (I can’t wait to see how Thailand fairs in this food showdown).

Vietnam beer

Tiger beer $1. Saigon beer $0.50.

Spicy soy sauce and chilis

Spicy soy sauce and chilies.

Meal in Vietnam

A meal from heaven. Fried noodles with vegetables, fried tofu and garlic fried rice.

Admittedly, Brian and I haven’t explored much of Ho Chi Minh City. We’ve been enjoying some downtime recovering from our five week whirlwind tour of Europe. And we’re focusing on getting work done (I finished my Camino de Santiago guide) before we drop out of contact during our bike tour which begins on 12/22.

Our friends Glenn and Michele (of Yellow Envelope fame) will be arriving in Vietnam shortly and we’ll be biking around the country with them and a group from REI. I’ll try to blog as often as possible during this bike tour but like always I’m not sure what sort of access I’ll have to the Internet. And I might have to spend most of my free time icing my butt.

Hotel ally

The alley of our hotel where we’ve been spending much of our time.

We did manage to get out and go to the War Remnants Museum (formerly called the Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression) which was a horrifying thing to see that left me feeling physically sick. The museum displays military equipment outside and photos of corpses, reports of war atrocities like the My Lai Massacre and pictures of those affected with severe deformities because of agent orange, napalm and phosphorous bombs.

It’s a terrible and shameful piece of history that I would care to just as soon forget, though it is crucial that we never do. It’s amazing that 40 years ago there was a war raging on this soil and Americans were here with guns and bombs and now Brian and I are here instead with our passports. I suppose it says something about the resilency of the human spirit and, perhaps, forgiveness.

Vietnam War plane

An American plane left behind after the Vietnam War.

Coconut scam

This guy scammed us into paying way too much for coconuts. At least Brian got to hold the bamboo coconut carrier.

I am thrilled to be in SE Asia and I can’t wait to get out of the big city and explore the villages and countryside of beautiful Vietnam.

Vietnam bicycle

Like this but without the bananas.

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

ChinaMatt December 20, 2013 at 6:48 am

50 cents for a beer in Saigon? But I’m paying 34 cents in Hanoi. Anyway, I think Thai food is better than Vietnamese (actually, I think Thai food is better than most food in the world). I’ll have to head out to the fancier restaurants here soon to find some of the really good food.
ChinaMatt recently posted..Good for the Night

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:43 am

Well, you can get it for less than 50 cents… I sprang for the expensive stuff.

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Vicky December 20, 2013 at 7:19 am

You are going to have a fabulous time in Vietnam which is one of our favourite countries. Like you I found the WR Museum to be quite distressing and would suggest you give the Cu Chi tunnels a miss for the same reason. I don’t think in this day and age any of us can ignore the horrors of war. If you like HCM wait until you get out of town. Hoi Ahn is our favourite place. Love the pace of life where people take their time to smell the roses. Hmm problem is now you make me want to get out of the cold to Europe and head to Asia asap. Am off to check out your Camino Guide.

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:44 am

Everyone has great things to say about Hoi Ahn so I can’t wait to see it. I’m not really a city person so I can’t wait to get out of town and see what the rest of Vietnam has to offer.

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Rhonda December 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

oh boy… brings back such amazing memories of our time there! I love the food, the vibrancy of street life, the narrow alleyways and, yes, even the insane street traffic! Looking forward to hearing about your bike. Like Vicky, Hoi An is certainly a favorite but we enjoyed so many place throughout the country.
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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:44 am

You just described it all perfectly :) We’ve really enjoyed our time in HCMC and I can’t wait to see the rest of the country.

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Sarah Somewhere December 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

Yay! I can feel your energy and excitement returning as you defrost from the European winter. I love Asia too, something about it. I haven’t been to Vietnam so I’m really looking forward to following your adventure. That food looks so. Good. I miss Asian food!
Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Write your heart out

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:45 am

The food is so so good. You’re not doing too bad with Mexican food though :)

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Patti December 20, 2013 at 8:48 am

Looking forward to reading about this next adventure. You’re going to have some tight butt muscles by the time you’re done!
Patti recently posted..See the U.S.A. – 6: 3,000 Miles & Counting ~

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:45 am

Ha, I’ve never had tight butt muscles in my life… but that would be nice!

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Candace December 20, 2013 at 9:26 am

This makes my heart so happy!!!! And are you staying at My My Art House?? That’s totally where I stayed! And Tony and Steph – it must be the unofficial travel bloggers’ residence in Saigon ;) Enjoy your last few days in Saigon, and have an amazing two-wheeled journey through Vietnam!!! I’ll be thinking of you guys over the next couple of weeks. xo
Candace recently posted..The Great Affair’s Guide to: Traveling alone as a woman in India.

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:46 am

Yes, we are. Tony and Steph recommended it… such a great little place :)

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Quyen December 20, 2013 at 9:34 am

Gosh, I love Vietnam so much and I miss it so! You will have a fabulous time with lots of good food! My brother and his family are there right now and I’m traveling along with them too. Can’t wait for more photos.
Quyen recently posted..live your life the best that you can

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:46 am

Thanks Quyen, I’ll try to post as many photos as I possible can :)

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shalini December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm

If you are in love in HCM City, you’ll be more so once you get to see the country side. Incredibly gorgeous, green & lush. Maybe it’s better you started in a crazy city… it will just get better! Have so much fun.

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:47 am

I can’t wait!!! I love the lush green of the countryside.

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Jessica December 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

So excited to read about your adventures in Vietnam! This is near the top of my very long list of places to visit. :)
Jessica recently posted..Make Your Introversion Work For You

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:47 am

Thanks Jessica. I’m really excited to see and write about Vietnam.

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Fran December 21, 2013 at 6:36 am

I loved Vietnam, esp the food. I found people to be so warm (yes, many do try to charge more for stuff, but such is life!). Can’t wait to hear about your adventures here.

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:48 am

So far I have absolutely found that the people are warm and amazing. And you’re right, there have been plenty of countries when I’ve had to make sure I wasn’t getting overcharged. It happens.

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Jeff December 21, 2013 at 6:47 am

Hehe, I love that your meal from heaven caption involves a sentence with the word “fried” in it 3 times. That’s my kind of meal from heaven too ;) I love Vietnamese food.
Jeff recently posted..The 30 Most Essential Words to Know in a Foreign Language

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Kim December 21, 2013 at 6:49 am

Ha, I know. When I was writing that I thought, oh, God, it’s all fried. And then I was like, OH WELL!!! Soooo good.

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Jimmy Dau December 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I can’t wait to get there! Trying any cooking classes while you’re there?
Jimmy Dau recently posted..Patagonia Series: Hopping around on one leg at the Perito Moreno Glacier

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Kim December 22, 2013 at 3:03 am

No plans for cooking classes at the moment but that could change. The food is SO good, I’d love to learn to make it myself.

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) December 21, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I am so happy that you guys are back in Asia, too! Whenever Tony & I think about heading somewhere else, we always have that “come to Jesus” (come to Asia?) moment where we realize, nope, we couldn’t be happier anywhere else on the planet than we are right here. It’s taken me a loooong time to get to such a place, so I’m going to ride the wave for as long as I can!

It was so great meeting up with you & Brian in HCMC; I can’t imagine a better way to kick off our return to our favorite country in SEA. You will have an incredible time seeing the rest of the country, I just know it. And whenever your butt gets sore, just remember that it could be worse: you could have shingles! (Poor Michelle!)
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..A Wild Ride on the Kinabatangan River

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Kim December 22, 2013 at 3:04 am

Agreed, it was so fun meeting you and Tony in real life finally! And, my butt is sore already but you are right… I could also have shingles :( She seems to be handling it pretty well though. Enjoy Saigon guys!

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Amanda December 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Exciting! How long will you guys be in Vietnam for?
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Kim December 22, 2013 at 3:04 am

I don’t know yet… at least a month!

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Trish Moratto December 22, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Love reading about your bike trip. I’ve looked into that REI trip so let me know how your friends like it. I learned so much more about what we call the Vietnam War (they call the American war) when I spent time in Laos. I wrote this interview that you may want to check out. This young man was really inspirational and I wish we were taught more about this side of the conflict in school. http://www.eternalwandering.com/local-voices-peter-kim/

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Kim December 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Thanks Trish for the link. I’m about half way through with the bike trip now and I’ve got to say that it is great. Our guide, Vu, is fantastic and has really given us such a great glimpse into life in Vietnam.

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Turf to Surf December 23, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I completely identify with your connections to Asia! We just landed in Bali (my first time in Indonesia, but not my husband’s) and I’m like a kid gone wild – everything is delicious and noisy and gritty and wonderful. I’m really looking forward to getting to know this place. I am dying to get to Vietnam next – perhaps in a few months. How long are you looking to spend there?
– Tasha
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Kim December 27, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Hi Tasha, I’m not sure how long we’ll be in Vietnam but hope to spend about 4 months in SE Asia (I’d like to spend more but we might have to head home again for the summer). Enjoy Indonesia. I really loved Gili Meno Island if you can make it there.

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Dustin@WeGoRTW December 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

So jealous, I want to go to Vietnam!

Did y’all book your ride through REI?
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Kim December 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Hi Dustin, yep, it is an REI trip. It’s been great!

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Carmel December 26, 2013 at 11:11 pm

As we were exploring our options for the upcoming months and figuring out when to leave for Australia and Europe the thought crossed my mind: if we leave straight for Europe after Australia, that means we only have a couple months left of cheap, delicious Asian food. Nooooo!!!! So we’re heading to Singapore and Malaysia in between. Yep. Food helped make that decision. Well, that and a ridiculously cheap, direct flight to Paris…

Can’t wait for Vietnam! And Thailand will NOT disappoint in the food arena.
Carmel recently posted..WAT TOOK YOU SO LONG

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Kim December 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm

We all have the things we love :) I can’t wait to eat in Thailand!!!

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) January 6, 2014 at 9:24 am

As one of the few countries in that corner of the planet that does not quarantine healthy pets with all their required shots – I await your blog posts eagerly!! Always been very curious about that part of the world but have shied away – I hate crowds and I am claustrophobic, so I fear (I think justified) I may just have multiple nervous breakdowns. But I want to go … I want to let those fears go and face those demons and not let them stop me. So … I stay tuned to see how you do!!

AS for the museum … I hear you. I went to the War museum in Sofia (Bulgaria) and of course they were on the other side during WWII. It was very strange to see it all presented from the non-allied perspective. The horror of what was done. War is ugly … no matter what side you are on. It is an important lesson we as humans seem to forget all too easily as we jump back into that hell all to easily. *sigh*

I cannot WAIT to read about your bike experience!! OH my!!! Sounds awesome and … terrifying! LOL!! If you know the show Top Gear (UK) they did a similar journey but on scooters … was hilarious (although not sure it was Vietnam).

Kudos and have fun!

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Kim January 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Well, it is definitely crowded and a bit chaotic, but maybe you’d surprise yourself?

I’ll get some bike posts up soon!

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Jane January 6, 2014 at 8:53 pm

We extended our stay in Hoi An a few days, but I wish I could have extended a few weeks! What a magical little town!

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Kim January 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Agreed, it’s very touristy but also very lovely.

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Lela Bonchjela January 10, 2014 at 8:10 am

Whoah! Singapore’s Tiger beer at only $1 there? They cost a bomb here! And it’s OUR beer!
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Kim January 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Actually, in some places it only cost $0.50. Crazy huh?!

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Jen April 21, 2014 at 9:36 am

Bwahahaha that coconut guy got Patrick too…!! https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/slowlyglobal/13354011124/in/set-72157642790768983/

Sorry you couldn’t stay here longer (we are on week #6 and loving everywhere we’ve been) but so glad you guys are enjoying the new gig.

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Kim April 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

HAHAHA, hilarious. I bet that guy makes a killing.

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