Vietnam – Scooters, Iced Coffee and the burning sun

Prepared for a post with a looot of text (and even more pictures)? Yes? Here we go!

Right after mid-term exams Ben and I packed our backpacks and flew off to Vietnam for 10 days. I had to leave Taiwan to extend my 90 days Visa and we found some cheap flights to Ho Chi Minh City, so we gave Vietnam a shot. On Wednesday evening the 27th, we took the bus to the airport and spent half of the night in the ice cold waiting area (and got a cold). Our airplane left at 6:30 and we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at around 9 in the morning. I will go through our Vietnam trip city by city: Let’s go! 🙂

Map

Ho Chi Minh City

When we arrived tired after the exhausting night at the airport and at first sight, the city was a shock: thousands of scooters on crowded and small roads, terrible heat and humid air, super chaotic, no traffic regulations and every 10 meters someone approaches you and want to sell you sun glasses, cigarettes or massages. Puhh! We checked into our hostel near the backpacker street and went for the first Vietnamese food that day: we had some beef noodle soup (Pho) which was very delicious. That day we just strolled through the city center over markets to the river, where we did a little boat tour over Saigon river. In the evening we had some really amazing food again, before we went back to the hostel and had some beers on the terrace before falling into bed.

(Actually I didn’t take too many photos that day – I was a little bit afraid for my camera ;))

Oma Sentence: Ben und ich sind nach unseren Halbjahres Examen nach Vietnam geflogen, weil ich mein Visum verlängern musste. Wir sind über Nacht geflogen und unausgeschlafen wie wir waren war Ho CHi Minh City wo wir gelandet sind ein totaler Schock: so chaotisch!! Wir haben den ersten Tag dort damit verbracht die Stadt ein bisschen zu erkunden und super lecker gegessen. 

The next day looked way different: with a good night of sleep the city wasn’t that overwhelming anymore. After some delicious breakfast we headed to the war museum, where we spent most of the morning and noon. It was really interesting, but also a little bit propagandistic ;). After the museum we went to the old and beautiful post office, where we sent some post cards to family back home. In the evening we booked a bus to Mui Ne for the next day. The women at the Travel agency informed us, that the next few days will be national holiday, so hostels will be crowded and we should book soon. When we looked up hostels in Mui Ne for the next day and we literally found nothing…

Oma Sentence: Nach einer Nacht mit viel Schlaf, war die Stadt auch schon garnicht mehr so überwältigend. Wir haben den nächsten Tag in einem Museum über den Vietnamkrieg verbracht und haben die alte und schöne Poststation besucht. Abends haben wir dann einen Bus nach Mui Ne gebucht, aber leider online keine freien Hostels mehr gefunden weil es Nationalfeiertag war. 

Mui Ne

Despite the fact that we did not have a hostel for the night, we still took the bus to Mui Ne the next morning. We met some French people in the bus, who told us that hostels are booked out since a week and that it will be hard to find something. When we sat in the bus, we looked up hostels again and found one, that wasn’t free the day before (someone probably cancelled) and we were quick enough to book it. It wasn’t the cheapest, but we had a place to sleep that night and that was all that counted for us :D. We arrived in Mui Ne in the afternoon and first had some ice coffee and lunch with the group of Frenchies. Vietnamese Ice Coffee is very delicious! They have a little coffee filter on top of the glass, where the coffee runs through and then add some ice cubes and/or some condensed milk. The owner of the cafe also had a cousin or something who rented scooters, so we did that right away and drove off to our hostel. The hostel was actually more a bungalow village surrounded by trees and it felt like sleeping in the jungle (especially because of the massive amount of geckos on the walls). The owners were Günter from Germany and his Vietnamese wife and they were super friendly. Later that day we took a swim in the sunset, had dinner and drove around to find a gas station, which was quite compliacted. In the end we bought two PET bottles of petrol from a parking lot guard of a Beach Resort. We probably paid way too much and it also could have been olive oil, but we really needed some petrol and the scooter survived it. 😀 In the evening we met the French group again for some beers in a Beach Bar.

Oma Sentence: Obwohl wir kein Hostel hatten, sind wir trotzdem in den Bus gestiegen und haben dort eine Gruppe von netten Frnazosen kennengelernt. Im Bus haben wir im Internet nochmal geschaut und eine freie Bungalow Unterkunft in Mui Ne gefunden (wahrscheinlich hatte jemand last minute gecancelt) und die haben wir schnell gebucht. Der Besitzer war deutsch und sehr nett. 🙂 In Mui Ne angekommen haben wir gegessen und einen Scooter gemietet und später dann noch im Meer schwimmen gewesen. Abends haben wir uns mit den Franzosen auf ein Bier getroffen. 

The next day we woke up rather early, packed our bags and went to the resort from the Frenchies, where we stored our bags for the day. Then we did a tour with them and a Vietnamese tourist guide (who could only speak French, but the others translated for us). First we walked the fairy stream, a little river you can hike up for 30 minutes, then we drove to a fishing village to have lunch and coffee. Afterwards we visited a whale museum (where Ben and I refused to pay entrance for one room with a whale sceleton) and a little temple for fishermen. Then we visited a sheltered workshop for disabled people, who did sand-art. The things they produced were really cool, but it was a Sunday and they were still working, while tourists could look at them. Had a little bit of bitter aftertaste.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir mit den Franzosen und einem Vietnamesischen Touristenführer eine Tour gemacht. Als erstes haben wir den Elfenbach erkundet (kleiner Fluss den man hochwandern konnte), dann haben wir in einem kleinen Fischedorf zu Mittag gegessen. Danach haben wir ein Museum und einen kleinen Tempel besucht und dann eine Behindertenwerkstatt besichtigt. Die hat mir allerdings nicht so gut gefallen, weil es ein Sonntag war und die trotzdem arbeiten mussten, während Touristen sich das angucken konnten. 

After the sheltered workshop we visited some old temple, which was really cool! See for yourself:

Oma Sentence: Danach sind wir zu einem total schönen Tempel gefahren:

On our way to some sand dunes we encountered a police incident. They pulled the scooters with the white people over and told us that we have to pay up to 1mil Vietnamese Dong, because we have the wrong driver’s liscence. Luckily Ben was the only one with an international driver’s liscence and we convinced them that in Germany you can drive a scooter with that liscence as well. The others had to pay around 20 euro. This is apparently something normal in Vietnam and this is how the police makes some money on the side.

Oma Sentence: Auf unserem Weg zu einigen Sanddünen wurden wir von der Polizei angehalten und die Franzosen mussten ein bisschen Bestechungsgeld zahlen, weil sie nicht den richtigen Führerschein hatten. 

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After that we visited the sand dunes, where the French people rented a Squad and Ben and I hiked up the Dune. In the evening we took a shower at their apartment, went for Dinner and some pool and beer in a bar with them, before taking the nightbus to Nha Trang. Nightbusses are crazy! You have bunkbeds in the bus, where everyone over 1,70m doesn’t fit in (so for me it was perfect – for Ben… not so much). You get a bottle of water and a blanket and you are supposed to sleep there, while the bus is speeding over curvy coast streets and stopping every 2km to let someone else hop on. CRAZY!!

Oma Sentence: Danach sind wir die Sanddünen hochgeklettert, das war ziemlich cool. Abends sind wir dann Essen gewesen und haben mit den Franzosen Bierchen getrunken und Billard gespielt, bis unser Nachtbus nach Nha Trang kam. Nachtbusse fahren über Nacht (was ein Wunder :D) und sind voll mit winzig kleinen Stockbetten. Ich pass da gerade so rein. Man bekommt eine Decke und eine Flasche Wasser und angeblich soll man darin schlafen, währen der Busfahrer wie ein Berserker über enge Küstenstraßen heizt. 😀

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Nha Trang

We arrived in Nha Trang at around 5:30 in the morning and took a taxi to our hostel, where we stored our bags. Then we walked to the beach and took the first swim on the day in the sunset. SO beautiful 🙂 And there were so many people on the beach at 6 in the morning 😀 All the Vietnamese people go there for a morning swim before the masses of Russian tourists occupy the beach on the day.

Oma Sentence: Wir sind dann in Nha Trang passend zum Sonnenaufgang angekommen. 🙂 

Back in our awesome hostel we had some breakfast on the rooftop with view over the city. Yummy! If you ever stay in Nha Trang, book a room in the Mojzo Inn hostel: best hostel we’ve ever been in! The personal knows your name, treats you like a friend, braids your hair for scootering, rents you a scooter, books you a bus…

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That day we spent at the beach, swimming, reading and relaxing. In the evening we strolled through the city and the souvenir shops and had some beer.

Oma sentence: den Tag haben wir dann entspannt am Strand verbracht!!

The next day we took the scooter and went for some waterfalls one hour scooter-ride outside the city. We drove through some fishing villages and some stunning coast views. You have to hike a bit and then you can jump into the waterfall. Of course we did that :). After the waterfall we went back to the city and visited some ancient temples. Since we were wearing shorts, we had to wear grey tunics. Ben looked like a real life monk 😀 nearly left him there 😉 In the evening we took a shower at our hostel, grabbed our bags and took the night bus to Hoi An.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag sind wir dann mit dem Scooter auf wunderschöner Küstenstraße zu ein paar Wasserfällen gefahren, bei denen man runterspringen konnte! 🙂 Danach haben wir noch einen Tempel besichtigt und wir mussten so graue Kutten tragen. Ben sah 1:1 aus wie ein Mönch. Ich hätte ihn beinahe dagelassen 😀  Abends sind wir dann mit dem Nachtbus weiter nach Hoi An gefahren.

Hoi An

We arrived in Hoi An around 6:30 and first had some iced coffee and then walked to our hostel. On our way we already felt that Hoi An will be way more relaxing and calmer than the other cities in Vietnam and we immediately fell in love. 🙂 We arrived in our hostel, relaxed a bit and rented a scooter from the owner – lady for 5$ a day. That day we spent strolling through the beautiful ancient town of Hoi An, where some parts are only for bikes and pedestrians. The ancient town is nearly unchanged since 200 years, when Hoi An was still a very important trading habour for Chinese and Japanese and later also for Dutch, French and Portugese merchants. The city is actually under UNESCO protection because it is so beautiful. We bought a ticket, with which we could visit 5 of old houses, museums or old trading halls. That day we visited one attraction already. There are many tailors, souvenir shops, jewellery shops and other beautiful things. Ben got himself a linen shirt tailored and I bought myself a floor-length dress (I can never buy these in Europe – too short legs, but apparently I have a very Vietnamese body size ;)). The city gets especially beautiful when it turns dark and the whole city is eluminated by silk lanterns and candles that flow on the river. We ended the day with a beer and then went to bed early.

Oma Sentence: Hoi An war mit Abstand der schönste Stop unserer Reise. Die Altstadt ist seit 200 Jahren unverändert und UNESCO Weltkulturerbe und wirklich wunderschön!! Besonders abends hat die Stadt eine ganz tolle Atmosphäre. 

The next morning we had perfect breakfast (fruit, omlette, fresh juice and ice coffee) and then went with the scooter to find a nice beach. Ben also gave me my first Kathi-alone-on-a-scooter lesson. I drove like 200m straight and was very proud of me, but curves were already too much and Ben had to take over again 😀 We thought we found a nice beach, but it was a super weird one with big sand bag to hold back waves or something. Probably useful but not nice to chill. We stayed for an hour or so, since we payed the parking and a sun lounger (for like a euro each). We then decided to try finding a better beach and drove along the coast line. First we only found like weird abandoned hotels and construction sites where no-one was working, and no nice beach. We drove around for maybe 40 minutes until Ben discovered a tiny sign saying “To the Beach” and that was it: our dream beach! Long white sand beach with palm trees and beautiful turquoise water. We spent half of the day at the beach, relaxing in the sun. In the afternoon we went back to our hostel, discovered that we both had the very unhelathy colour of a lobster and then went to the city again, visiting a market, picking up Ben’s shirt and visiting some attractions with our ticket again. We finished the day with delicious food and Mojito. 🙂

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir einen schönen Strand gesucht und das hat ein wenig gedauert. Letztendlich haben wir aber unseren Traumstrand gefunden! 🙂 Ich bin an dem Tag auch mal Roller gefahren, aber nur ungefähr 200m 😀 Später sind wir dann wieder durch die Innenstadt geschlendert, haben einen Markt besucht und ein paar andere Sehenswürdigkeiten. 

 

The next morning we woke up quite early again and after breakfast went to the city once more, to visit the three last attractions with our ticket. Around noon a driver from the hostel took us to the airport and we took the airplane back to Ho Chi Minh City. The bus would have taken 21 hours, and we didn’t want to loose one day. The flight was only 36 euro, so it was very convenient.

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Morgen sind wir dann noch einmal in die Innenstadt bevor wir mittags dann den Flieger zurück nach Ho CHi Minh genommen haben. 

I have to say that Hoi An was the most beautiful and relaxed city of our stay and I really really enjoyed our time there!! If you go to Vietnam – check it out!

Ho Chi Minh City (again) and Mekong Delta

We arrived in HCM in the late afternoon and checked into the same hostel as the first time. We then went for some food and booked a Mekong Delta tour for the next day. Later that day we met a nice guy from Berlin who also stayed in our hostel and we had some beers on our terrace. We also messaged the French guys we met in Mui Ne and all together went to some bars for beer. Drinking is ridiculously (and dangerously) cheap in Vietnam. You get half a liter of beer for under 50ct.

Oma Sentence: In Ho Chi Minh City haben wir uns abends wiede rmit den Franzosen getroffen und einen netten Reisenden aus Berlin kennengelernt, mit denen wir ein Bierchen trinken waren.

The next morning (very early and a with a bit of an hangover) we took our tour bus to the Mekong Delta. We didn’t know how else we should see it, so we booked a guided tour – which was ok, but also a bit annyoing…

We first visited a pagoda and a biiiig Buddah and then took the boat over a branch stream of the Mekong to turtle island, where we had lunch. After lunch we took the boat to a coconut candy workshop, where we could see how coconut candy is made. Very delicious – but also very sweet. After the workshop we took little rowing boats through small arms of the delta, which was really cool! After that we were taken to a bee farm, where we got tea and had to listen to some really horrible music.. 😀

Oma Sentence: Am nächsten Tag haben wir eine Mekong Delta Tour gemacht, die geführt war und daher nicht soo cool. Wir haben erst einen großen Buddah besichtigt, hatten Mittagessen, haben eine Kokosnuss Süßigkeiten Workshop und sind mit kleinen Booten über die Flussarme gefahren. Dann haben wir noch eine Bienenfarm besucht und mussten uns ganz schreckliche Musik anhören 😀 

In the early evening we were back in our hostel, took a shower and than took our bags to met a friend from the Hanze, who is currently studying in HCM. We had Dinner and cocktails together and then took a Grab – Taxi (similar to Uber) to the airport, where we flew back to Taipei.

Oma Sentence: Abends waren wir dann mit einem Mitstudenten aus Groningen essen gewesen (der macht momentan sein Auslandssemester in HCM) und haben dann den Fleiger zurück nach Taipei genommen. 

Conclusion

I was a bit afraid of Vietnam, since I heard a lot of horror stories about pickpocketing, people who rip you off and food that makes you sick. All my fears were for no reason – nothing got stolen, we probably sometimes paid a bit more than the locals but we didn’t get ripped off too bad, we didn’t get sick and our sunburn was bearable. Vietnam is something totally different than Taiwan, a bit poorer, dirtier and rougher. The people are still super nice, the food very delicious and the country definetly worth a visit!! 🙂

Oma Sentence: Ich hatte mir vorher ein bisschen Sorgen gemacht über Taschendiebe und das wir das Essen nicht vertragen. Am Ende war das unbegründet und wir hatten eine tolle Zeit! 🙂 

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