16 July 2017

VIETNAM TRAVEL JOURNEY: HO-CHI-MINH AND MEKONG DELTA

   

When my boyfriend and I picked Vietnam for our next travel destination, I was excited and also not sure what to expect. We decided to cut winter short and to go in December for two weeks. My personal missions were to explore the asian beauty products and the food! I will cover the results of the two missions in upcoming posts. I tried to do some research upfront and read some experiences of other travellers, but my own experience turned out to be quiet different...


We tried to travel as light as possible so we shared one suitcase and one carry-on baggage and it worked fine. I usually take my beloved Belle (my Canon Camera) everywhere I travel, but my boyfriend suggested it might not be safe enough, so I left Belle at home. Which I did regret the entire trip, since it was perfectly safe and I didn't feel unsafe at any point of the trip. So all the pictures were just taken with our old cell phones:( 

THE FLIGHT AND TRANSIT IN BEIJING
We traveled from Frankfurt to Ho-Chi-Minh City with a stopover in Beijing. Since we had a layover of 9hrs we thought about visiting the Forbidden City. We never made it to the Forbidden City...

Unfortunately our flight was 2hrs delayed. At arrival we talked to some locals and they said it takes like 2hrs to get to the Forbidden City. Taking a taxi or going by public transportation doesn't really make a difference due to rush hours. Depending on your passport getting a Transit Visa is easy, but waiting time can be like an hour. After having been there, I would say a layover of 12hrs or more is the best way to visit the Forbidden City. I think one could make it also in less than 12hrs, but considering one has to walk through the airport, through controls, get a Visa, exchange money, find the right way, wait for transport and being back on time to make it to your connecting flight... It really can turn out to be stressful. 


Having had enough time to explore the Beijing airport, it is quite impressive. It accommodates a huge fountain and a chinese pavillon with a pond. You have plenty of options to buy traditional chinese souvenirs like tea, ornaments, food and little fun gadgets.


HO-CHI-MINH CITY
After our arrival in Ho-Chi-Minh City we started to explore the city by foot. Since I am fond of walking it didn't bother me at all. Honestly, I wouldn't know any other way to explore the city. I didn't see any public transportation, only millions and millions of scooters. You can rent a scooter if you like, but driving in that traffic between all the other scooters is certainly a challenge, for me just crossing a regular street was adventurous enough. Naturally we did see most of the sights that lonely planet or other guides will tell you about, but what I loved most is to walk around, get lost and just get the vibe of the city. 

A summer essential: my fan! I took my favourite one with me and of course forgot it in the park. I bought a new one shortly after, there are plenty to find in the market. The market is certainly one of the places to see and buy a coconut from.


Having a Khalessi Game of Thrones moment. I always wished for a Dragon. 

           





MEKONG DELTA


After a day in Hoh-Chi-Minh City and beeing well enough rested from the flight. I was eager to see more of the country and the culture. We decided to make a day trip to Mekong Delta and Mekong Delta River. The brochure we got sounded very nice and so did the things we googled about it. The Mekong Delta area is an important one and has a lot of history. 

Misguided by the reviews and the beautiful instagram pictures, I thought it would be the perfect chance to see a less crowded and quiet side of the country. See how locals live and work, see the swimming markets, see the nature of the country. I have to admit that I had a lot of expectations and I was super excited. 

We thought it is nice to have an organised trip and you don't have to worry about getting lost, especially in a region where they barely speak any English. If you have enough time, patience and you are in an adventurous mood, you should try to visit the Mekong Delta without a group. I think this is when you make the real Mekong Delta experience.

We were picked up at our Hotel in the morning. Eventhough our guide was nice, his english was not so good and I barely understood a word he was sayingAfter an hour drive we took a break at what I would call "Souvenir Central". While the others of our group spent the time souvenir shopping, I spent the break exploring the surroundings (as you can see on the left).










Our next stop was the Vinh Trang Temple. The Bố Đại statue is one of the biggest I have seen so far. The garden of the temple is very beautiful and one of the few highlights of this trip. 



     I loved the temple and all the vivid colours. There are still monks living in the temple. Driving through Mekong Delta our guide didn't really tell us much about the region, or the temple we visited, which was a shame. It would have been nice to hear the history or local storys while beeing there, instead of: here is a temple... I had to research about what I had seen afterwards. 


2 hours later we had arrived. We took a boat to get to the island where the coconut candy was made. It was already very crowded and a lot of tourist were gathered around women packing the coconut candy. I had been excited to see how the coconut candy was made, but watching tired women pack the coconut candy, as fast as they can so the tourists could buy it, was somehow just sad. 

Next we went to do the famous boat trip of Mekong Delta River. I had seen the cute and romantic pictures on instagram and that's what I had in mind, but reality looked quite different. Honestly, I was shocked! There were hundreds and hundreds of boats, it was so crowded that you could barely see any water. Looking around I saw tourists with disbelieve and shock on their faces. I was glad when the boat tour was over.

After tipping our "Captain" we went to see some local women sing their folk music and had some fruits. After also tipping the singers, we went on a carriage ride for like 400m (I could have also walked that distance). At arrival we were shown the bee farm and were offered the honey tee. The honey tee was very nice and of course there were ambitious sales women, ready to sell the honey. We had to drink up, since the next tourist group was already waiting. 

Due to bad organisation and no communication some of us got lunch, some of us didn't. Well, of course I would have loved to have tried the local food, but having been very fortunate in my life, I was fine by missing meal and obviously I survived.

Looking back at the trip, I wonder if it would have been better to do a two day trip. This way it was a packed schedule and it left me puzzled in the end of the day. 




 


                    

At the end of the tour we were dropped of at Phung Island for 2hrs. The island was actually pretty cute, but there is not much to do besides souvenir shopping. So after we had explored the island, we got ourselves a coconut and just relaxed.


One of the things I loved: the Orchids hanging everywhere


We tried to make the most of the day and tried to enjoy ourselves anyway. Would I do it again? No! Would I recommend it? Depends. If you don't expect too much, it can be ok. Make sure to take enough cash with you, there is a lot of tipping and selling along the way. Many in our group complained about this and how they take advantage of the tourists. However in the end of the day these day trips and selling the local products to the tourists, is how the locals earn their living.


NIGHTLIFE

There are plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs in the city depending on what you want to do. One thing that I most certainly would recommend: A Sky bar! 
We went to the Air 360 Sky Bar. There was no entrance fee, but the beer was like 10€, but totally worth it since the view was just breathtaking and the party was pretty fun too. We  didn't research any bars, we just stepped out, looked up and chose a Sky Bar. What I loved in the middle of the winter: you could still walk around in light clothes and party like it is still summer. 


Upcoming posts: Phu Quoc and Hanoi