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Ho Chi Minh City and Mui Ne

We arrived in our penultimate country, Vietnam, about a week ago. The border crossing from Phnom Penh was relatively painless as we wisely invested another $3 each on a bus that stopped once as opposed to the obligatory 50 stops on a cheaper bus.

Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). It is a mad, mad place. Definitely the craziest we have encountered thus far. There are 10 million people and 5 million motorbikes. We must have seen 2 million of those motorbikes when we first tried to cross a road. They have zebra crossings but these seem to be just a token gesture and almost like a 'thumbs up' at westerners who seem to be the only pedestrians. It was a mad circus as we hesitantly crossed the roads one step at a time dodging motorbikes, buses and cars. We were high-fiving each other each time we had successfully negotiated a crossing. Also, bizarrely they seem to allow motorbikes to ride on the pavement so you can never really relax as a pedestrian. On our first full day in HCMC we embarked on our own walking tour and the chaotic traffic meant it was as scary as the sky dive we did in New Zealand! You have to enjoy it all though as it does make for the most amazing, busy, bustling atmosphere. Stereotypically, along with the motorbikes, Vietnam is full of people wearing conical hats. I wanted one but we are yet to see a man wearing a cone hat so we think it might be a female thing.

There are 5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh!

There are 5 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh!

HCMC from above

HCMC from above

We saw many sights on that first day including two interesting museums - the War Remnants Museum and the Independence palace. These places tell the story of the Vietnam war somewhat differently with a distinctly anti-American sentiment. On our second day in HCMC we did a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was a place where 16,000 people lived in a network of underground tunnels for the duration of the Vietnam war. It was scary how small some of the tunnels and fox holes were that people squeezed into. We got to go in a couple of the tunnels and fox holes and they were very claustrophobic. If you wanted you could also try your hand at shooting an AK-47 but we turned that opportunity down. It also made squeezing through the tunnels a bit more 'realistic' as the sound of gunfire in the distance went through your ears as you made your way through the tunnels!

Naughty Hannah in the naughty hole

Naughty Hannah in the naughty hole

After a couple of days we moved northwards to the beach town of Mui Ne (yes, that is it's real name). This seemed like the perfect destination for another naked traveller shot entitled 'A Moonie in Mui Ne' but there were always too many people around! When we got to our hostel after a sweaty 4km walk with our big bags {"But it looked so close on the Lonely Planet Map"}, we were surprised and annoyed to find the hotel lady had given our room away because we were half an hour late! She made sure we had a room in the hotel next door that she tried to calm us down by explaining that it had a pool. Angrily we shouted at her "But we didn't order a pool!" and stomped into the hotel next door.

..... 30 minutes later we were very relieved to be in a hotel with a pool! Despite it's description as a beach town, the tide comes in at around 11am each day and goes out again at about 2am so for most of the day the South China sea batters the side of the beachfront hotel and completely covers the beach! Luckily, because of my foresight i had booked us a hotel with a pool. We spent the rest of the day sunbathing before going out for tea with some new friends.

We had a 4:45am alarm call the next day as we were going on a tour of the local attractions. Our 'tour guide' if you can call him that, drove us 20km in a cool little jeep to the white sand dunes. These were bigger and more impressive that we expected and they made for an awesome spectacle when the sun rose. Some people there had hired sand sledges to go down the dunes so we watched in anticipation as somebody took 10 calf-wrenching minutes to clamber up a massive sand dune with sand sledge in tow. He went down with as much pace as a tortoise going up the travelator on Gladiators so we were pleased we hadn't bothered with that particular extreme (extremely slow) sport.

Good Morning Vietnam! Sunrise Mui Ne

Good Morning Vietnam! Sunrise Mui Ne

Our next stop on the tour were the very cool red sand dunes and then a very Vietnamese fishing village. At the village, ladies with conical hats sorted through thousands of fish that men kept bringing in from their soup bowl style boats. It was cool and although the smell was very powerful, the atmosphere was very traditional and un-spoilt.

Vietnamese Fishing Village near Mui Ne

Vietnamese Fishing Village near Mui Ne

Our last stop was the Fairy Stream. This didn't sound very cool but was in fact a brilliant walk up a sandy stream. The stream is enclosed on one side with an impressive red canyon and eventually we reached a large waterfall. We managed to find a broken coconut along the way which Little Phil was able to use as a boat! We also encountered a herd of cows / bulls on the way back so nervously made our way through these. Overall, it was a nice little tour although our guide was more of a driver who simply pointed us in the right direction and grunted at each stop on the tour.

Fairy Stream and Red Canyon

Fairy Stream and Red Canyon

Coconut Boat Little Phil!!!

Coconut Boat Little Phil!!!

Hannah waterfalls Mui Ne

Hannah waterfalls Mui Ne

A lot of people we have met have said they have been disappointed by Vietnam but we are really liking it. It is a lot more expensive than Cambodia but still fairly cheap for us. It is geared up a little more for tourism and everybody is doing the same route either from South - North or vice versa. Annoyingly we seem to be travelling in the midst of the biggest public holiday of the year - Tet. This has meant we have had to be more planned when booking hostels and buses and also makes these more expensive. Thankfully we haven't encountered too many problems so far.

Posted by Phildean7 23:57 Archived in Vietnam

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Penultimate country! You'll be back here in Blighty soon. Don't think about it too much!

We also heard some people say they were disappointed with Vietnam - all of them people who had just come from neighbouring countries. But we absolutely loved it. Amazingly friendly, incredible food, good trains, stunning scenery. Hoi An was our favourite town, HCMC perhaps least favourite actually. A night on Ha Long Bay is worth it. Have a great time!!

by thiskey

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