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Monday, October 12, 2015


Vietnam is a country full of food, scenery, and unfortunate history. It has some of the most diverse landscapes to explore ranging from the largest caves in the world to dense jungle, to acres and acres of rice paddies chisled in the mountainside. Our time here was limited, however we put together a plan that consisted of starting in the Southern part of the country (Ho Chi Min) and working our way North into trekking territory. It's been a mear two weeks and we already have been able to see so much of the country and eat many of its delicious foods.

Arriving in Ho Chi Min City, where we were greeted with an endless amount of new food. After being in Indonesia for nearly two months, and eating the same thing every day, we were more than ready for a change. All of the Vietnamese food is fresh. They use a plethora of colorful veggies, homemade rice noodles, freshly baked baguettes, and mounds of spicy chilis, we even tried escargot for the first time - a plate full of snails cooked in sweet lemongrass with fresh chilies chopped on top for a delicious kick. Another favorite staple for us has been the Bahn Mi, a sandwich wrapped in a crispy baguette, with carrots, cucumbers, and chilies, pate, and a grab bag of meats and other ingredients - always delicious, but always a mystery. This turned out to be one of our favorite on the go meals.

Knowing that if we wanted to see all of Vietnam we would have to move fast, so we woke up early our first morning in Vietnam and took a walk to the local market, through the park. What we saw was a sight to see; locals all over the park getting their workout in before the heat of the day set in. But this wasn't your average jog in the park... watch the video below to see what I mean! Brandon and I videoed as discreetly as possible, but were laughing so hard we were crying. This video would later entertain us for the entirety of our upcoming 15 hour bus ride.

With the Cu Ci Tunnels near HCMC we rented a motorbike and took a day trip to visit the Viet Cong's underground tunnel system that was used during the French and Vietnam war (called the American War, to Vietnam natives). A tour brought us around and explained how the tunnels were used and other tactics that were implemented during the war. I felt extremely undereducated not fully knowing the United States side of the war. The tunnels were interesting to see but completely loaded with propaganda and I wasn't sure what I could actually believe. We ended up leaving with an unsettling feeling in our guts that made us want to learn more about the war.

The next stop on our tour of Vietnam was Mui Ne, a sleepy little town that has little to offer with the exception of some beautiful sand dunes, and a lovely stream that we hiked through. Our day started at 4am when we rolled out of bed to ensure we made it to the dunes before anyone else did. Anytime a overcrowded tourist spot is on our agenda it involves Brandon and I getting up before dawn to get a glimpse of the attraction without the hoards of touts trying to sell to us and tourists ruining the experience. We arrived at the white sand dunes first and proceeded to hike in about 30 minutes to the top of one of the peaks. Channeling our inner child, we spent the next hour or so racing each other down the dunes, staggering our way back up, jumping off the peaks into the pillow soft sand, and spitting sand out of our mouths from face planting.

After the white dunes we made our way to the red dunes where it was now almost 8 am and the area was already bustling for the day. We took a glance stayed for only 20 minutes or so and headed off to find Fairy Stream, which happened to be the most beautiful spot of the day. Tucked away from the city and hard to find, we climbed down some dirty stairs into a muddy stream that at first looked like it was a waste of time. We walked another 20 meters or so until the trash subsided and a pristine river opened up cutting through a steep red canyon on one side and lush green trees on the other.

From Mui Ne we hopped on our first overnight bus of our travels. After reading horror stories I said a little prayer, took a sleeping pill, and passed out, the entire way. To my surprise, I loved this way of traveling. A sleeper bus, which is what all the long distance busses in Vietnam are, is not your typical bus, the seats have all been stripped and two levels of small beds have been built in to accommodate only the smallest Vietnamese person. With my 5'5" frame, I just barely fit, completely able to stretch my legs out and sleep comfortably, however for Brandon it's a different story - in order for him to fit, his knees are bent high in the sky, for the entirety of the 15 hours.

Rested and feeling fresh (thanks to that sleeping pill), we arrive in Hoi An at 5am, one of Vietnam's biggest tourist destinations, and rightfully so, it is absolutely beautiful with silk lanterns of all shapes and sizes lining the streets, old french colonial buildings with colorful flowers in potted plants, and a winding river that cuts through the edge of town.

Hoi An is a place you may only intend on staying a few nights, but it can easily suck you in for more. There is shopping galore of intricately handcrafted items and loads of tailors ready to create a one of a kind item designed just for you. Of course I had to get a little black dress made and get the full tailor experience of picking out my material, design, getting measured and fitted. The four seamstresses, who spoke only Vietnamese, pulled and pinned every inch of the dress each fitting I had, as if no input from me was necessary, they knew exactly what they were doing. Only three visits and two days later I had a new dress that fit me like a glove.

The rest of our time in Hoi An was spent biking around the town, admiring the beautiful crafts, walking around the markets, and drinking copious amounts of ice coffee with condensed milk. When night fell we would walk the streets filled with glowing lanterns and local music playing from inside the restaurants. Our last night we hired a women to row us down the river. We drank some local beer, listened to the buzz of the town, and made a wish as we each released a candle into the river.

From Hoi An we would have another overnight bus to bring us to Phong Nha, home to the largest caves in the world.

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