Vietnam part 1: Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh from the quiet beaches of Otres in Cambodia caused a shock to our systems, and maybe one we needed. We’d been in holiday mode on the beach, and in Ho Chi Minh couldn’t be further from relaxation and peacefulness…

We took the bus from the airport and hoped it would stop close to our hostel, and it was close enough, but the journey with our huge backpacks in the humidity of the night and the thousands of a motorbikes and scooters was a little overwhelming.

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What’s more, after walking around HCMC’s tiny alleyways for around 15 minutes we realised we were a little lost, and eventually found our tiny little hostel T&T located on an even smaller alley tucked away from the crowds.

Staying in District 1, the tourist centre of the city, we were surrounded by bars, restaurants and street food, and opted for a Pho from Pho King on the first night by chance – which happened to be the best Pho we’ve had so far in Vietnam.

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Every day in the city was hectic, as we navigated the streets on independence day… and tucked in and out of bars for a bottle of Saigon, Pho and spring rolls.

We visited the War Remnants Museum, which depicted the catastrophic events that took place before, during and after the Vietnam War and came away with a profound sadness, but also a determination for peace.

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We had an even stronger feeling at the Chu Chi tunnels, particularly after travelling for just 20 metres through one of the tunnels and finding paranoia and claustrophobia take over our bodies very quickly. They’d even enlarged the tunnels for us – we couldn’t comprehend living like this for three years and left feeling completely overawed.

We left the hustle and bustle of the city to see the surrounding Mekong Delta region on an “off-the-beaten-track” tour with Innoviet. Our guide, Tung, was extremely informative and we had some great conversation with him and our fellow travellers, a lovely Dutch couple.

The tour really was away from the crowds of tourists you get in the city, and we travelled by boat to villages on small islands all along the Mekong. Inspired by Sue Perkins, we felt closer to nature and to the people, with homecooked meals (of which we sometimes got to help cook) at our homestays and lots of great conversations with local people.

On our second day we had breakfast at the floating market, and were entirely enamoured by the tenacity of one particular coffee seller, who rammed her boat into ours to make a sale. What a woman. She steered using her legs in order to multi-task and sadly in order to maximise the dwindling numbers of customers now visiting the market.

We finished the day with a 2 hour cycle around a village followed by the most delicious home-cooked meal of curries, fish, fried tofu, greens and so much more, as well as the infamous local “happy juice”. We definitely finished the tour feeling altogether happier.

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