November 25th, 2011
25 notes ·

Notes from Vietnam.

To me, Vietnam was always the epitome of a country another world away.  A country I didn’t know much about, except through snapshots of what I saw on tv or in movies - which pretty much meant I knew it was another world from where I lived, and there was once a war there (Canadian history books didn’t cover the war), which caused a lot of protests and deaths. And so Vietnam, for some reason or other, always fascinated me… always intrigued me.

I remember watching Forest Gump when I was little, and watching Forest go fight in the Vietnam War, "wow, it’s so different there, so far away… one day, I’m going to go to Vietnam!"

And, so I did.

Fun Facts

Where is Vietnam? It’s the easternmost country of Indochina. It borders China, Laos, and Cambodia. It’s about the size of Germany, but is long and narrow.

People Deets? 90.5 million people (whoa!!). It’s actually the world’s 13th most populous country.

Cities Visited? Hanoi (Capital), Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Min (route found here) Total distance covered 1,913km.

Transportation? Buses and trains and trains and buses! There is a train that runs from Hanoi to Ho Chi Min, which is super popular.  I spent two lovely nights on that train, one night even sharing it with a lovely, little, mouse. That train is the main way to get from city to city - if you go, you must book ahead.

I didn’t have the initial shock factor I think most Westerners, straight off the plane would have, as I had just arrived from Kathmandu, Nepal, which made Hanoi, Vietnam (the capital) seem like the modern world.  But still, it was incredibly different from the streets and cities I’ve grown up with.

In international business class at University we’re all taught the usual – how customs vary around the world, and how the way people deal with each other differs. Well, in Vietnam, I got my first real taste of this.

My first impression of Vietnam, which was a bit of a shock, was the sense that it was an every-man-for-himself type of society.  If you bumped into somebody, no apologies were needed, you just kept on walking. I found the one-man mindset a little hard to get accustomed to, but within a few days I found my move-aside-folks-I’m-coming-through wisdom, and was rolling in Vietnam’s game of life.

Hanoi


I really liked the city of Hanoi.  It’s Vietnam’s second largest city, and the hustle, bustle and insanity of the roads greatly kept me entertained.  It was also the city where my naive self realized that communism was still in full swing there.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to Cuba, which is 110% communist (and awfully sad, at that), but Vietnam is a somewhat secret communist society - pretending to the rest of the world they’ve changed, are better, are democratic, but they’re not. At all. But luckily, I think the local people are aware of this.

They’re fed the usual communist propaganda, but seem to realize, it’s just that, government propaganda (which I would credit to the Internet!).  I went to where Ho Chi Minh (communist-governed leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) used to live (and is now buried) and couldn’t believe the praise he got.  I raised my hand and asked if he ever got married, married? No. Ho Chi Min was too busy doing good things for his country to have any time for women. He never had lady friend. I somehow highly doubt that.  They made him out to be a god in the north, praising him for all he’s done, yet after a little research, I think it’s highly debatable whether the man was good or bad - personally, I think he  was very communist, and used getting Vietnam unified from France to pretend he wasn’t). 

After Hanoi I headed to Hue, Vietnam. For people heading to Vietnam for a limited time, I think Hue’s a town one can easily skip, so I’ll skip along too, as it rained while I was there, and besides a few mausoleums (where dead people are buried) of people I had never heard of, not much is there, except for a small town, similar to the one found in the next city, Hoi An.

Hoi An

Oh Hoi An! Granted, it was a little piece of Europe completely set up to lure tourists in, but nonetheless, the city is super cute and worth the visit. It’s also the tailoring city of the world. Oh how exciting! You can just walk into one of hundreds of stores, tell the ladies what you want and voila, the very next day pick up your personalized article of clothing (made to fit).  But-but-but, I’m sad to report it was a little disappointing.

I ended up buying three dresses, and two winter coats for US$220. A good price, right? Right… if the clothes were constructed well and actually fit.  I didn’t think it was worth it.  I think if you’re a peculiar shape (super tall, short, fat, thin, etc) then yes! It’s a good place for you. But generally  generic sizes in stores fit me, so I should have saved my money.  I also found the women very rude. I was super polite, but found it was hard to explain to them that I wanted a shorter hem, or higher neckline, without them getting defensive and thus having an argument with them.  I got each item at a different store; 4 were bad. 1 I liked. So… if you go, do your research first.

Nha Trang


Next up? Ng Trang, the partying city of Vietnam with one of the most beautiful stretches of beach Vietnam has to offer.  The locals there have also recently figured out the beach is worth a lot of money because left, right and centre, massive hotel chains were building sea side villas for the super-rich.  Unfortunately, I got poor weather in Nha Trang, but still enjoyed the little town.  Nha Trang is worth the visit if you’re with friends who like to party (check out Sailing-Club club literally on the beach for a fun night of dancing. But, word from the wise, don’t argue with the bartender when you pay him for a drink, he takes your money, then you politely wait, but never gives it to you.  Just let it be, otherwise you’ll get a guard assigned to you for the entire night. Fun times there).

Saigon


The final city I went to was Saigon (or, Ho Chi Minh City). And as you know, I really didn’t like it, but-but-but, nonetheless, I feel it’s a must-go-to city when in Vietnam.  I found it wasn’t a tourist city, but a true, real-life-this-is-how-the-people-live city.  It also has the Vietnam War (or what the Vietnamese call “The American War”) museum, and the famous war tunnels an hour and a half away.

The tunnels… hmm, what to say about the Vietnam war tunnels? Really, I should have written an entire post on the tunnels as I found them so interesting, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to…. Probably, because I couldn’t think of the best things to say.  I’ve been to a fair number of war memorials, but the truth is that I found this to be the first one where the dead were not respected. On either side.  The guide was very, “look at how we killed and tortured the Americans, lol,” which as you can imagine, didn’t sit well with me. They also had a gun firing range right there, where thousands of people had lost their lives, which was gut wrenching, I found, to stand there and hear the machine guns go off. 

But the actual tunnels were still incredible to see. Genius really.  They are a 3 level, 200km network of underground, small (very small), tunnels constructed by the Vietnamese in order to hide from and fight the Americans. It was actually the tunnels hat allowed the war to go on for so long (19 years).  The Vietnamese were smart, very smart, creating an entire living system underground.

Overall

Vietnam is a beautiful country, which (in my opinion) still has many issues, but is still absolutely worth the visit, especially if you’re from the western world.

I’m so pleased I went to Vietnam and would absolutely recommended it as an experience, but I’m not sure I’ll ever go back (unless I go back in 30 years, to see the changes in their development - which I think would be interesting).

Comments
November 8th, 2011
43 notes ·

~ Saigon, Vietnam. The Market ~ 

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November 7th, 2011
50 notes ·

~ Saigon, Vietnam: A Casual Night Out. ~

And. AND. Big [HUGE] life plans put into place tonight.

I’m so nervous/excited/scared/excited, but most importantly, happy right now. xo

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November 7th, 2011
35 notes ·

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon city) ~

I don’t know what the etiquette is, to be politically correct online when writing about cities, but as of right now, I really don’t like Ho Chi Minh City (although, it must be said, that many of my friends who have been to Vietnam have proclaimed it their “favourite city,” so perhaps it’s just me), but yes, I don’t like it. 

It could be all the puppies/dogs I saw in the smallest-cages-ever waiting to be killed to be eaten (seriously you guys, my heart broke seeing them), nearly being molested at the market (no means no!), or maybe it’s simply the mere size of the city. It’s huge. So huge. I headed up the Bitexco Financial Tower this morning (pics above), and was blown away from Ho Chi Minh’s size. It’s a sprawling city, and I feel like a nobody in this city. Well, I feel like everybody is a nobody in this city. It’s weird. A different vibe. 

I realize I’ve formed a very quick opinion of it, having arrived at 5am this morning, but this is my 9th large city on my trip, and so far, the one I like the least. First impressions usually last, but I’ll let you know if it changes…. 

I’m heading out to dinner soon, and then tomorrow the Vietnam War tunnels, and war museum, which is sure to be a humbling and heartbreaking experience. 

Currently feeling very lucky I get to leave this city at some point. 

Comments
November 7th, 2011
15 notes ·

~ Saigon, Vietnam. Traffic ~

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November 6th, 2011
39 notes ·

AND,

From Vietnam to NYC, congratulations to all the NYC Marathoners!! Nothing like a first marathon, or just a marathon in general!

Bask in your glory.

So proud of you three tumblr ladies and everyone else who ran today!

xoxoxo

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November 6th, 2011
78 notes ·

I woke up this morning (super) hung-over, but somehow managed to drag my butt out the door to meet my friends for a mud bath.  And, it may just be me, but I swear it’s done wonders to my skin!

Moving down the coast tonight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Vietnam war tunnels on Tuesday… which was a huge reason I chose to visit Vietnam.

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November 5th, 2011
67 notes ·
Daily Attempt At Looking Skinny Post - Saturday night in Vietnam Style. 

Woot!

Daily Attempt At Looking Skinny Post - Saturday night in Vietnam Style. 

Woot!

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November 5th, 2011
51 notes ·

It was a busy day snorkeling off the coast of Nha, Trang in Vietnam.  I saw a snake-like fish at one point, which, as you can imagine, lead to quite the scene, but overall it was a lot of fun. 

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Welcome! I'm Liz, the girl relieved the Internet has 0 calories. South African by birth; Canadian on paper. A marathoner. CrossFitter. Paleo (somewhat) eater. Traveler. Cheese lover. And I think you're great!



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