I know it's a cliche title but I just couldn't help myself
12.03.2017 - 25.03.2017
Travel is fun. Travel is amazing, liberating, beautiful. It takes you to places that almost don't appear real, even when you're standing right there. It reveals new cultures and ways of life. It is series of adventures, joys and wonders. But it isn't always a series of happy days. There are down days. Sometimes it's hard to talk about. Off on big adventures there is this pressure to always feel happy. This idea that you are free from work and responsibilities and should always be loving life. But I woke up in Vietnam and I felt sad. I slumped. I missed home, I missed family, I missed friends (finally hit the post-India slump), and I just felt sorry for myself. I remembered a quote from a great travel book I read: "most days travel is thrilling: it's new and exciting and challenging, and you want to take it all on. But some days, as in any place you happen to be, you're tired and blue." (Rachel Friedman- The Good Girls Guide to Getting Lost). I talked to other travelers who had similar experiences. I talked to the supportive people in my life. And I stopped feeling guilty for my negative emotions and kept on trucking one day at a time. Vietnam had a slow start and it also had some shit experiences.. but the thrilling travel days eventually made their return!!
First stop: Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, where I explored so much of the city on the back of a motorbike for a street food tour. Warning: many food pictures to come in this post!!
We made stops for green papaya salad, shrimp lettuce wraps, pho, baguettes (an amazing Vietnamese specialty) and quail, and 5 (count em, 5!) desserts. There isn't just amazing street food in this country, there's also fruit and sweets that are making my life complete!. We also enjoyed Vietnamese coffee (seriously strong, seriously sweet, seriously delicious), jasmine tea and sugarcane juice.
Just posting the pictures gives me another food coma.
Getting to drive around on the back of the bike for the tour was also a nice way to see the (crazy, hot, busy) city.
I also visited the War Remnants Museum, well recommended for an intense and informative museum about the Vietnam/American war.
Next up was Nha Trang. Where my Vietnam adventures hit an all time low. Anyone looking for my recommendation... do not go here. Everything they say about it being full of Russian tourists, unfriendly and boring.. it's true. Don't let the beach entice you like it did for me. It's not even a great beach. I did spend a good chunk of time soaking up the rays though!..
And then I attempted to join a 'booze cruise boat trip'. Which I put into quotations because I don't know how it would have ended up being boozy as my boat was full of old Vietnamese and Chinese tourists. Needless to say I did not stay on the trip. So who knows? The old guys could have ended up booze cruising after all. My hostel felt horrible for recommending the ride as a backpacker trip and gave me free entry for 2 people to the mud baths. My Australian friends Ari and Mark joined me for the weirdest adventure so far. An egg themed mud bath park...
This is where we bathed...
Sitting in an egg full of hot mud on a hot day I couldn't help laughing at the crazy events that had brought us there. Despite hating the place.. I met a couple awesome friends (that I would also meet up with again later) and now I have a great and weird travel story.
After this, things were looking up. I had an amazing time wandering the lantern filled streets of Hoi An..
Beautiful by day and by night..
Had amazing street food and joined a cooking class...
(Duck pho, sesame beef spring rolls, eggplant salad, and prawn and pork mousse on sugarcane)
With 'beautiful' banana fritters for dessert
(Hey... turns out not all the food photos can be pretty).
The amazing activities continued with a motorbike ride through the Hai Van pass from Hoi An to Hue...
The coast was breathtaking...
Not bad views for the day...
In Hue I took a quick trip to the imperial city...
And then I continued to Phong Na Ke Bang National Park. First activity was a jungle trek through the Abandoned Valley, along parts of the Ho Chi Minh trail used by the Vietnamese in the Vietnam/American war..
The jungle was so humid, muddy, challenging, and fun. We stopped along the way to swim in one cave..
Then climbing and exploring in another..
And an amazing barbecue lunch..
The climb out at the end was so sweaty. Seriously, so sweaty. But it gave us one final, beautiful view...
The park was amazing, and one of the film sets for the new King Kong movie. The highlight of this being that our guide had met Tom Hiddleston. He showed us pictures. Pretty sure I was more excited than he was. Unfortunately my second day was a rainy day, but I managed to finish off my time with a boat ride down the river and through Phong Na cave...
My next journey brought me to Hanoi. I spent one day in the city on another food crawl. Can't get enough of that Vietnamese goodness (such as banh mi, basically anything that starts with bun... And egg coffee). This food was less photogenic so I'll skip to the last beautiful event. I ended my time in Vietnam with a 3 day tour in Ha Long Bay. After feeling down about bad weather and a stolen GoPro (not even go into detail about it. The whole situation was weird and frustrating), I am happy to report that Halong Bay ended Vietnam on a high note. The initial boat ride was so beautiful..
The beer was delicious..
And the sun even came out!
We explored some beautiful viewpoints...
Had a great kayaking spot and overnight sleep on the boat. The wine was also delicious..
Something about being out on a boat in that beauty made the average wine taste amazing.
We spent the second night on Cat Ba Island where we got to do some of my favourite... hiking!
The island was quiet and beautiful, with a perfect beach to check out..
And place to rent scooters with my two fellow Canadian girls...
Vietnam ended with a great group!
I've never traveled to a country that had more ups and downs. I've never felt more challenged on this travel journey. And I've also never been more proud to look back and still say I had a good time, and everything was worth it.