Adventures in Vietnam(VIII): Ben Tre (Mekong Delta)

First stop in Mekong Delta was supposed to be My Tho, but once we got there the town looked so dark, ugly and depressing (also the people was super weird), that we decided to go directly to the next town, Ben Tre. And it was a nice decision; Ben Tre was much nicer and quiet.

The sunset was so beautiful.

One of the churches of the town.

The second day we did a tour around Ben Tre’s surroundings.

We visited a bricks factory.

Then we went to a honey farm.

I overcame my fear of bees.

After the honey farm we headed to a dried coconut factory.

Rain started pouring for around 15 minutes.

Having a break.

Sun is back!

Our tour guide.

We also did some trekking around the forest.

I read on Wikipedia that Ben Tre was hard bombed during the war, one of the most famous quotes of that time refers to the city: “‘It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”.  So, no surprise the forest was full of tombs.

Having a rest before lunch.

Our lunch!

Spring rolls. Super yummy!

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Adventures in Vietnam(VII): Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

Saigon is a cool city, I personally liked it more than Hanoi. I just stayed there for a day and a half, but I found it has the perfect mix of traditional-old style neighborhoods and modern ones, with all kind of restaurants and shops, and also has a lot of new and cheap taxis. In other words, I could live there perfectly.

We found a hotel at Pham Ngu Lao (where most of the cheap hotels and restaurants for tourists are), and right after we went to visit the War Remnants Museum. The Museum has several rooms displaying pictures of the American phase of the Vietnam war, also has some weapons, and a lot of information and pictures about Agent Orange and other toxic weapons used during the war. Visiting the museum it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but it makes you understand better all the craziness that went on during the war, and how much Vietnam people have suffered.

Next stop was the Reunification Palace. That place is amazing, it’s like being in a James Bond movie from the 70s.

Uncle Ho.

Don’t know what use can one make of some elephants’ feet.

How 70s is that?

The view from the roof.

The basement, with the telecommunications centre, war room, bunkers, etc.

The kitchen, everything was giant size.

Notre Dame Cathedral.

How kitsch is that?

LOVE IT.

The Main Post Office.

The second day I woke up really early to have a walk around the city before departing to Mekong Delta.

Tran Nguyen Hai Square.

Mariamman Hindu Temple.

Ben Thanh Market.

Intestines, anyone?

The street market.

A weirdo bird.

Rice.

The People’s Committee Building (Hotel de Ville).

The Opera House.

History Museum.

A bunch of Lingas.

The temple in front of the Museum.

A street vendor.

The Jade Emperor Pagoda.

At the entrance of the temple there was a pond full of turtles. People was there, staring at them, watching how the turtles were fighting to get out of the water, most of them falling again in the pond. It was kind of hypnotizing looking at them.

I recorded a video.

Inside the temple.

Last thing I wanted to visit was the Saigon river. I crossed the city to see it, but when I arrived there, it was kind of deceiving. The river is super dirty and full of merchant ships.

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Dreams

Last night I dreamt I was pregnant, and when I had the baby, it was not a baby, it was a dog… it was Pepe. I decided to name him Malcolm, but after a while I wasn’t sure that name was good enough. I had a talk with my friend Mònica and she also thought Malcolm was quite an ugly name. After some thought I decided to change his name for Leonides, Mònica agreed Leonides was a much beautiful name, and she told me if she ever had another baby she was gonna name him Leonides too.

The dream finished with me, Mònica and a bunch of my ex-classmate from school (that I haven’t seen for more than 10 years) sitting in a 70s style living room watching tv. Leonides was sleeping, and I forgot to put the diaper on him, suddenly he started to pee all over the walls of the living room and the people who was also in the room got mad angry at me, starting to tell me that I was the worst mother in the world and how could I have forgotten to put the diaper on my son…

I guess my friends pregnancies are really affecting me.

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Adventures in Vietnam(VI): Quy Nhon

Our original plan was, after visiting Hoi An, to visit Nha Trang and spend there a few days sunbathing at the beach.  But since it was raining cats and dogs everywhere, and we were tired of tourist destinations, we decided to go somewhere not that popular, such as Quy Nhon. We headed there with the hope of enjoying at least a day of sunshine.

The journey from Hoi An to Quy Nhon was a nightmare. Eight hours inside a van driven by a fucking kamikaze that kept me praying for my life during the 8 hours of the journey. It was heavily raining the whole time and I couldn’t see any of the landscape from the side window, also I didn’t dare to look through the windshield, because the kamikaze driver kept driving in the opposite direction and I was almost having a heart attack every time i saw a car coming toward us. The van had 15 seats, but at times we were up to 22 people inside… Also the driver had the volume of the radio at maximum, 8 hours with bad Vietnamese techno music bursting my eardrums. I really thought we were never going to make it to Quy Nhon…

But we arrived safely, and it was also pouring rain. The next morning the weather didn’t seem to get any better and we decided to go directly to Saigon and from there jump to the Mekong Delta.

So, all I got to do in Quy Nhon was to have a walk around the Municipal Beach and the streets around our hotel. Below are some of the pics I took.

The Municipal Beach

How cute is that baby? He was having a lot of fun with his grandpa.

Happy tailor.

An abandoned school.

The Catholic Cathedral.


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Adventures in Vietnam(V): Hoi An

Hoi An is a beautiful town, and I guess it was an amazing place to spend your holidays ten years ago. Nowadays, the town has become a huge souvenir shop, crowded with tourist groups, tailors, shoemakers and lanterns shops. The town is the perfect example of how mass tourism can destroy a place. I guess the surroundings of the city must be beautiful, but since we were caught in the heavy rain, we couldn’t check it out.

The Cam Nam Bridge over the Thu Bon River.

Doing the laundry.

The view from our hotel.  When we arrived to Hoi  An there was a riverfront.

The second day the rain gave us a truce in the afternoon, and I took the opportunity to take a walk around the town, visiting the market and some of the houses and assembly halls.

The market.

Waiting for the motorbikes.

The town starting to get flooded…

Tran Family Chapel

The altar.

This wooden boxes contain the Tran’s ancestors’ stone tablets, with their births and death dates and some personal effects inside.

The garden of the house. Here is where Tran family used to bury the placentas of the newborn babies, with this practice they wanted to prevent fighting between the children.

A kindergarten.


I visited three or four assembly halls. The Chinese who settled in Hoi An identified themselves according to their province of origin and each community built its own assembly hall, it was their place to hang out.

The Assembly Halls you can visit in Hoi An are: the Assembly Hall of Fujian Congregation, the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, the Assembly Hall of the Chaozhou Chinese Congregation, the Chinese All-Community Assembly Hall and the Assembly Hall of the Hainan Chinese Congregation.

The Assembly Hall of Fujian Congregation

The market of the city.

Another Assembly Hall. I don’t remember which one…

Tran Duong House.

I went to visit this house because it was the only one inside a French colonial building. Almost all the other houses have become tourist attractions and nobody lives there anymore, but this one is still a private house and the granddaughters of the founders still live there. You enter the house through a small souvenir shop, I found it cause they had this ad hanging on the entrance of the shop: “Tran Duong House, in Lonely Planet”. I went inside, and there were two girls in their pyjamas watching tv. I thought I was in the wrong place and I was about to leave when one of the girls told me in a very weird English (I never got to get used to Vietnamese English…)”You want to see house?” I agreed and she guided me inside her house. She was talking and talking and I was nodding all the time and saying “aha, aha”, until the girl realized I didn’t get a word of what was she saying and told me a little annoyed “You don’t like my English?”, I replied her “Oh no, your English is amazing,  I’m  just tired” and she continued showing me the house, explaining to me I guess the history of the house, showing me their humble kitchen, mini garden, micro shower full of spider nets… I was feeling so intrusive that I didn’t dare to take any picture, until she told me “What happens? You don’t like my house? Why you don’t take pictures?” So, I immediately started to take pictures of everything. Below are some of them.

Hoi An food is delicious, even the snacks you buy at the street are yummy.

Ho Chi Minh in the garbage.

The Japanese Covered Bridge.

The monkey guarding the bridge.

The flood waters getting higher.

Tan Ky House.

 Diep Dong Nguyen House. 

This was my favorite house. Still a private house, it was a relief finally visiting a house without a souvenir section. It used to be a dispensary for Chinese medicines, and they still keep all the ceramics glasses with them lining the walls.

The family of the house was sitting at the entrance, getting some fresh air.

The antique dispensary.

Hi!

Hugest dead cockroach ever.

Quan Thang House.

I’ll never ever again will feel embarrassed about my protruding ears.

Lanterns everywhere.

Third day.

No riverfront anymore.

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Adventures in Vietnam(IV): Hue, day 2

Our second day in Hue we rent a motorbike and explored the surroundings.

First stop, the Thien Mu Pagoda.

This is the Austin car that transported the monk Thich Quang Duc to Saigon, where he burned himself to death to protest against the government. The pic of the wall shows the monk on fire.

The back of the temple is full of tombs. Well, actually the whole country is full of tombs. Traveling across the countryside it’s common to see tombs scattered everywhere.

After Thien Mu pagoda we tried to go to the Tomb of Minh Mang. I was the one leading the way with the mini map I had on my Lonely Planet, of course we got lost. My sense of direction is disastrous and also the map wasn’t very accurate, after one hour driving through the jungle we reached the end of a road and realized we were totally lost… so, we headed back to the pagoda and came back to the city to visit the other side of the river.

We found this ruined temple near Ho Quyen.

After Ho Quyen we drove to the Tomb of Tu Duc.

That place is magic, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. I spent 2 hours wandering around the complex, amazed by the environment.

Last tomb we tried to visit was the Tomb of Khai Dinh, but we were late and when we got there it was already closed  :-(

I really hope I can come back to Hue someday and spend longer time there.

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Adventures in Vietnam(III): Hue, day 1

I totally felt in love with Hue. The two days we spent there were just perfect. The city and the surroundings are so beautiful, the weather was amazing, the staff from the hotel were super nice to us, and it was probably the cheapest place we visited.

We took the overnight train from Hanoi to Hue, and arrived there around noon. After a quick lunch in a restaurant next to the Perfume River, we went to visit the Citadel, starting with the Forbidden City.

Flagtower of the Imperial City.

The moat around the wall.

Outdoors gym class.

Nowadays, little of the Forbidden City remains, since it was heavily bombed during the war. But anyways, it’s worth visiting. Some of the buildings have been totally restored, but for me, it was the ruins left what gaves to the place a magic environment.

Ngo Mon – Midday Gate.

Dien Thai Hoa – Palace of Supreme Harmony

After visiting the Forbidden City we had a refreshment in this super old bar run by an adorable grandpa.

And we continued exploring the Citadel for the rest of the afternoon.


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