“You’re going to Viet Nam? I heard it’s so much like the Philippines, why would you even want to go there?” — This, folks, was my mother’s reaction when I told her that I will be going to Viet Nam.
True enough, it really does look like the Philippines. Everywhere I look, I see Manila. Manila here, Manila there, Manila everywhere! However, they beat Manila in terms of heavy traffic and volume of vehicles. There were a LOT of motorcycles all over the place, even in sidewalks. There were pedestrian crossings but not much, even traffic lights. For some reason, they do not follow traffic rules.
It took a lot of courage to cross those streets, seriously.
Our first stop was the War Remnants Museum. Just a friendly advise: Do not go there first thing in the morning. It was quite a learning experience, but depressing. There was a point where I couldn’t go on anymore, I didn’t want to go inside one of the halls. Photo after photo of brutality during the Vietnam war. Photo after photo of those affected by Agent Orange and other chemicals that were sprayed by the enemies across their land. What broke my heart most were the children affected by this war. To some, the war may be over, but for most of them, they are still fighting a different battle. Because they are not the only victims, even their children will inherit the side effects, even these innocent children are already contaminated even before they were even born.
Before we left for our trip, my friends and I made a deal not to eat in Fast Food joints. We were after native and genuine cuisine, which we actually achieved by eating in hole-in-the-wall restaurants and buying random food from sidewalk vendors. It was a new experience for me— I don’t usually eat street food.
We ate our lunch at Lunch Lady (pardon the redundancy), a hole-in-the-wall restaurant featured by Anthony Bourdain in No Reservations. My boyfriend and my friend wanted to try the food so we decided to forgo our trip to Cu Chi Tunnels just to experience the wonder that is Lunch Lady. I didn’t expect that the seats were on the street, or that it’s actually just a food stall. She serves a different kind of soup everyday, and lucky me (sarcastic), the specialty of the day was…CURRY!
I hate curry, especially its smell. But you know what? I actually ate it. Not too much, but it was a different kind of curry. Almost sweet, not spicy at all. So I guess, the Lunch Lady is that good— too good that she was able to make me eat curry.
My most favorite part was our trip to Mui Ne. Not the bus ride, specifically, but the destination itself. I can’t get over how beautiful Mui Ne is. I love the fact that the color of the water changes depending on what time of day it is. The view from our hotel reminds me of Santorini (not that I’ve already been there), and it’s just so…peaceful. Relaxed. Plus, we had the hotel for ourselves. Yay!
We woke up early the next day for our tour to the White Sand Dunes, Red Sand Dunes, Fishing Village, and Fairy Stream. We hired a Jeepney for USD30, so we paid USD10/pax. Unfortunately, our friend woke up not feeling well so it was just me and the boyfriend who went. It was quite a long drive, but we arrived at the White Sand Dunes just in time to witness the sunrise. It was amazing, majestic, wonderful (I ran out of adjectives to describe the place!)— the sand was very fine, and the desert was clean.
We rented an ATV because it was a very long climb going to the dunes, and frankly, we don’t have the stamina to subject ourselves to such intense activity. It was pricey, but my boyfriend has mad bargaining skills, so we paid USD20 for the ride. Still quite expensive, if you ask me, but our tour guide was good in taking photos so it was worth it. :)
Next stop was the Red Sand Dunes. Unlike the White Sand Dunes, this one is not very clean anymore. There were lots of children badgering you to rent their slides, but they would charge you at a high price. We stayed away from them, the dunes aren’t very steep anyway so there’s no fun in sliding. Despite the trash, I was still captivated by the bright color of the sand. It was also fine, but different from that of the White Sand Dunes.
Next stop was the Fishing Village. I was fascinated with the boats that they use, they look like basins and baskets.
Unfortunately, it rained so hard on our way to the Fairy Stream. We didn’t have an umbrella, and well…holy mother of all wrong timings, my tummy had to go berserk. The rest, as they say, is history. *wink wink*
*** By the way, if you are interested in visiting Ho Chi Minh City, I recommend the guesthouse Townhouse 50. They didn’t pay me for this, I swear. Whatever I write here, it’s just based on my personal experience. Among all the hotels/hostels/guesthouses that we stayed in during our trip, they were the most proactive and helpful. Even before our trip, they kept on sending e-mails, asking us what we would like to do, and that if we have questions then we can just ask them. They handled our pick-up service from the airport, they assisted us in purchasing the bus tickets to Mui Ne and from Mui Ne, as well as our bus tickets going to Siem Reap, as well as the pick-up from the hotel going to the bus station— even though we already stayed in a different hotel. :)