I have to say, one of the perks in living in such a centrally located country is that it's very easy to travel. Want to head over to Thailand? Easy 5 hour drive. Craving some Singapore laksa? Only 9 hours by bus. Crazy desire to see the beautifully historic country of Vietnam? 2 hour flight on a relatively cheap airline. And that's exactly what me, 2 other exchange students, and 3 Malaysians did this past weekend.
After a night bus and a very early morning flight, we arrived barely conscious at the Ho Chi Minh Airport. Our tour guide Terry (T-E-DOUBLE-R-Y) drove us to our first destination. The day was a very historical one, with visits to the Vietnam war museum and the Independence Palace. With members of my families who are veterans of this war, it really meant a lot to see the place where it happened. It was also interesting to see it from a Vietnamese perspective. In the US, we breezed through the Vietnam War chapter, mostly because it wasn't supposed to show up on our US History Regents. Which is sad. The Vietnam War was a really interesting time in US History and I wish I could have learned more about it before actually going to the country where it happened.
Our meals that night, and over the 3 days we were there were all traditional Vietnamese foods. A lot of spring rolls, seafood, and noodle soup. I tried local dishes such as beef pho, elephant ear fish, popped rice, and coconut toffee. It had more of a light and fresh flavor than Malaysian food, although I did miss my nasi goreng usa when I was there!
That night, after a tour of the shopping district, we were off to Ben Thanh Market. For Malaysians, picture Central Market. Now picture it 3 times as big, with lower prices. Voila. Ben Thanh Market. It had everything you could ever want- from colanders to clothing. We went there or to the night market that opened beside it, or both, every day in Vietnam. The prices were incredible first off. 1 USD (3 RM) was equal to 20,000 Vietnamese Dong, and the most expensive item I bought (a handmade traditional Vietnamese dress) cost me only 25 USD. It was really easy to bargain with the shopkeepers. They told me I got discounts for being fair and beautiful but I probably still paid ridiculously high amounts as compared to what real Vietnamese people pay... ah, such is life. Over 3 days I bought two traditional Vietnamese dresses, three kimonos, a silk dress, a pair of pants, two t-shirts, two scarves, and one handbag and I probably spent less than $150. Shopping in Vietnam rocks.
Our second day was spent mostly on the river in a river taxi boat type thing. We sailed to an island where family owned workshops made candy, popped rice, and snake venom alcohol. It was really neat to experience everything firsthand: feel the heat of the cooking candy, smell the durian being mixed into the rice mixture, taste the freshly brewed tea. After the workshops, we were treated to traditional Vietnamese folk performances which were like a mixture of song, dance, and speech. Really unique. To conclude our day on the river, we took a low sitting row boat back to the mainland. The boat ride was relaxing, but it sure was hot!
My final day in Vietnam was spent at this historical site, the Chu Chi tunnels. But the tour guide's accent made it seem like the Gucci tunnels.. These were tunnels built by Vietnamese villagers turned guerilla fighters. It was amazing that they managed to build what is essentially an underground city with only a shovel and a basket. After one very rainy drive to the airport, and one last (5 last) group photos, we said goodbye and set off on an airport quest to use up the rest of our Vietnamese Dong on sushi and Big Macs.
|Vietnam War relics|
|Women making rice paper|
|Terry gets feisty|
|cute group photo in which a guy pretends to shoot my head and hikaru is being perfect as always|