We had heard horror stories about Saigon, or as it is correctly referred to nowadays, Ho Chi Minh City. Although Ho Chi Minh City has been the city’s official name since 1976, it is still often referred to as Saigon. We had heard that it was dangerous, full of pickpockets, that you would be easily robbed, that it was dirty and that it was a waste of time. We actually really enjoyed it and had no problems whatsoever. Having said that, after 15 months on the road, Alex and I have a small array of combat moves, both physical and verbal, in order to disarm anyone who challenges us. Our recent blogs have most possibly demonstrated this. If Alex is Bruce Lee, I am Madam Lash (as in tongue)! My tongue is quicker than the speed of light. Again, many of my family and friends will attest to this. I can see my Dad nodding his head in agreement!
We woke up bright and early the next morning..upon the insistence of the bus driver! For some reason, we were being subjected to Vietnamese music, up to full boar, at 5.30 in the morning. Go figure! I was not about to psychoanalyse this as well, but I did go and politely ask him to turn it down. On the bright side, it couldn’t possibly get worse than the night before (recall the kung-fu fighting)…..or could it? This is Vietnam.
I had read that Hue boasts some of Vietnam’s most aggressive touts, but I was not really prepared for what was about to happen upon our arrival. It was mid-morning when we arrived, and we were virtually mauled as we stepped off the bus, with a range of people trying to sell us accommodation at their hotel.
Have I previously mentioned how very difficult it is to listen to a multitude of people all at once? One man was tranquilly telling us about his hotel, when another almost bowled him over, wedging himself between us, and then placing himself almost on top of me, as he began to give us his spiel. In no mood at all after last night, I put my hand up to his face and told him that he would have to step back a little and wait, as I was speaking to someone else. He got all hoity-toity and aggressively asserted that, no, I had to speak to him then and there! I don’t think so! I was in no mood after last night! I virtually barked at him, and screamed that I chose who I spoke to, and when, and where! He did not like that at all! As he came towards me, and his hand approached my shoulder and pushed me back, it was again on for young and old. It was like the sequel to the night before! Again, Alex was bellowing at him to lay off me. There was another karate kick on Alex’s behalf, followed by someone hitting him on the back of the neck (luckily, he was not hurt). When I saw Alex hit, it was my turn to see red, and this time it was my turn to go wild. I was like a dog with rabies, and it was with virtual spittle oozing from my mouth that I howled at him. Livid, I bellowed that he was a disgrace to his people. I went on to cry that bullying and being aggressive is not the way to treat people. The piece de resistance, was when I was several inches away from his face, begging him to show all of his friends what a man he was by punching me! Needless to say, that did not occur and he ran away like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs! By this point I was hyperventilating, and needed to sit down and cool off! I was by no means proud of my public display of anger at all. I had had a rather large audience of both Vietnamese as well as foreigners, but I repeat, this behaviour is NOT all right, and I will not let it happen and do nothing about it! I will not be complacent! I am currently well aware that after some 14 months, patience is no longer my best friend! Not that it ever was!
With kung-fu episode number two out of the way, it was on to look for a place to stay. Luckily, we were very close to the bulk of the budget accommodation, and found a decent place to stay, rather quickly. It even came with a computer in our room, at virtually no extra charge! That was a first! But, you will later learn that it was a blessing in disguise! Once settled, we had a relaxing afternoon walking around Hue, and taking in its atmospheric surroundings. This place is all about art and architecture, and it’s packed with palaces, pagodas, temples and tombs. We were hoping for a cultural injection, and the next day provided us with just that.
Hue is justifiably famous for its Imperial City, or Imperial Enclosure, housing the emperor’s residence and the main buildings of the state. As most of Hue’s sights and population reside within the 2 kilometres thick, 10-kilometre walls that surround the city, the Imperial closure really is a citadel within a citadel. We had a wonderful, and very laid back afternoon wandering around and exploring. In true Vietnamese style, peak hours were packed with package tourists, but as they only go and look at the “main” buildings, the rest is wide open for relaxation and exploration. We felt like we had been thrown back in time, as we walked up, around and over parts of buildings that were hundreds of years old. We walked into the Halls of the Mandarins when we were suddenly shaken from our tranquil dream. This building is the one in which the mandarins prepared for the court ceremonies. I could almost imagine the royal splendour…… we walked in to find a cheesy tourist set up in which one can pose….in Imperial costume…on the throne…and…….for a price! Alex and I sat down, observed, and chuckled quietly. I think it was part of the Asian Disneyland theme!
After being couped up for a couple of days, we decided that it was time to move on. It had not stopped raining completely, but at least the elephants and whales seemed to have stopped falling from the sky. So, we booked an overnight bus to Hoi An, which is further down the coast.
Hoi An was once a sleepy riverside village, but now firmly set on the tourist trail, well, the tourists are now busting from its seams! And speaking of seams, this is the place to have anything sewn and made -up, from jackets to shoes! This is definitely one of the town’s claims to fame! The old, or historical centre oozes charm, with its old wooden buildings, many sitting right on the edge of the Thu Bon River. Whilst we did spend a couple of days here, it pretty much rained the entire time, but not as heavily as it had in Hue. Having said that, it was heavy enough to not be able to hire a bicycle, and/or explore properly on foot. Yes, I did attempt to get a couple of pairs of shoes made, which ended up being a small disaster, but I managed to escape without the disastrous shoes, and persuaded the lady to sell me a newly made “sample” pair! I am personally not into having things made up. My theory is if you try it and fits you, buy it! Having things made up especially seems to include too many “unknown” factors and probabilities. Not into that! The street food was also great here. To be honest, it seems to get better as you move down the coast and get further away from China, where it begins to lose that Chinese influence (as it has up north).
When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist.When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew.When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
Thanks, Sam! The poem and your comments simply further aid in highlighting how destructive and damaging complacency and inactivity are. Until we take a stance, we will continue to see history repeating itself!
(Photos:1.- Communist, or is that socialist propaganda? 2.- Hue architecture. 3.- Eaves on a traditional house in Hue. 4.- Inside the Imperial City, Hue. 5.-Inside the Imperial City, Hue. 6.-War memorabilia, Hue. 7.- Trying to keep dry in the alluvial downpours, Hue. 8.- Another day, another alluvial downpour, Hoi An. 9.- Buying some fresh produce at the local market, Hoi An. 10.- Taken from the bus, as we made our way from Hoi An to Nha Trang. 11.- Stilt houses and boats along the canals, Nha Trang. 12.- Soaking up the mud, hot springs, Nha Trang. 13.- Washing “on the line”, Dalat. 14.- Competition for China? What exactly is a long dung? Want our version?)
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Check your visa on arrival here 🙂
Vietnam is surprising “easy” to travel in. Perhaps too easy! There are so many organised tours and buses, that if not careful, your whole time here could potentially turn into one big, extended tour! Tam Coc, although only a couple of hours south of Hanoi, is no exception, and is definitely a popular day trip from Hanoi. Not to be deterred, the aim was to do it ourselves!
After a week or so in the quiet and more tranquil northern part of Vietnam, we found ourselves suddenly being thrust into the buzzing and very loud capital of Hanoi. What a contrast! We arrived at the train station rather early, 5.30am to be exact. We hung around for a while trying to get our bearings, as well as deciding what to do. We knew that looking for a place to stay this early would be a waste of time, so we decided to get ourselves to the Old Quarter, and hang around in a cafe over a slow breakfast. At least that way, by the time we started looking for a place to stay, some others might be checking out, thus giving us the opportunity to check in.
As I mentioned, walking to the border and crossing on the Chinese side was easy, and it looked like the Vietnamese side was going to be too! Wrong! Armed with our passport and Vietnamese visa, which we had obtained in Hong Kong, it was supposed to be a “stamp and walk through”. In theory! In practice, the visa had been issued for a month from the 16th September to the 16th October. We had been told that we would be granted a month from the date of entry. Wrong again! We would only be granted the days that were left from the date stamped on it. Now, I am no genius at maths, but we arrived on the 8th of October, which meant that we would have to leave Vietnam by the 16th of October. That was so not going to happen! Alex was the one to pick up this “discrepancy”, once the visa on our passport had been stamped. We could not believe it! We tried to negotiate, and tell them that there had been a mistake. Several minutes later we were discussing our plight with several others, some of whom spoke English. The bottom line is that they stuffed up in Hong Kong, and that you do not get a month from the date of entry, but rather, a month from the date that is placed on your visa. No use arguing! An error had been made, and we had to rectify it! Despite their friendliness, we were being told that they could organise an “overnight” visa for us for USD$50.00, which we knew was exorbitant. The solution? Make our way down to Hanoi and organise it ourselves!
Siginagi, Georgia. Hi and welcome to veryitchyfeet.com. We are Ombi and Alex an Australian/ Ecuadorian couple who have, between us, visited some 90 countries and speak three languages; English, Italian and Spanish. We are intrepid travellers at heart. Follow us as we passionately share 30 years of travel know-how, adventures, exploration and detours with you. We want to motivate you to experience this amazingly diverse world we live in and show you how to do it!