I was told Vietnam is beautiful and the food is amazing. Now after leaving Vietnam, I can say this is true. Besides positive thoughts, I didn’t have expectations for this port of call. I had made last minute plans anyways.
I disembarked from the ship on February 10. My friends and I headed straight to the market. We walked there. It was an adrenaline rush! We had been told by our program directors to cross the street by keeping a steady pace, not stopping and looking forward. We did exactly that! The cars, but mostly scooters weaved their way around us. I got it on video too. Mom, I’m fine. You can watch it later. At the market, I shopped specifically for a cover up and elephant pants! I found them. I loved this market more so than in China because no one pressured/attacked me to buy something. If I looked at an item, but decided I didn’t want to buy it, no one was upset. This made me more inclined to buy things. Dad, I only got two things. It’s all good. With my backpack strapped on me and the heat blazing, we flagged a taxi and headed to the airport. I had a flight to Ha Noi to catch!
Later that night, I arrived in Ha Noi. Our Airbnb host sent a friend of hers to pick us up at the airport! Driving 45 minutes away from the airport, we arrived at the Airbnb. Excited, Kelly, Nico and I couldn’t go to bed. We decided to walk around the little town outside the Airbnb. We discovered a local form of transportation. For four dollars, we rented hover boards that had two handles, one front wheel, a seat and two bars that attached to the part of the hover board you put your feet on. We had 30 minutes to ride around anywhere. It was real life Mario Cart! We raced, crashed and got scraps thrown at us from the locals, all in good fun. It was one of my highlights!
Running on three hours of sleep, we headed to Halong Bay on a bus for three hours. It was worth it! In awe, we took a little boat to our two day, one night party cruise. The cruise was all SASsers (Semester at Sea students). It was an opportunity for small friend groups to bond with each other. We all loved it very much. We kayaked and jumped off the side of the cruise. Although it was a little chilly, we all had a wonderful time. In all, we got served four delicious meals, one including where we were taught how to make spring rolls. We prepared and rolled them ourselves. At night, our cruise threw a party and two more cruises with SASsers attached to us until the next morning. The crew was extremely friendly and interactive. I was pleased with my experience with new and old friends! Photos of Halong Bay do not do it justice. It’s breathtaking!
Exhausted at this point, we returned to Ha Noi where I had my first hostel experience. It was different, but I plan to do it again. A kind Australian local took us to the most beautiful restaurant filled with colorful lanterns. We sat on the ground, indulged in famous dishes and didn’t count calories. Then we were taught the traditional chant. We raised our glasses filled with the local beer and cheered with our friends and locals around. To end the night, we went to two pubs, both majority filled with tourist. It was a different vibe. My friends and I agreed that Vietnam is the first place we didn’t feel like we were constantly sticking out. In the streets, we noticed a lot more tourists from around the world.
But, of course, I did see SASsers in the airport on my way back to Ho Chi Minh City, where I had one more night and another whole day to explore. Kelly, Carolyn and I wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the culture so we decided to take part in the customary transportation—motor scooters. We used the Uber App to grab a ride to a nearby spa where we got traditional Vietnamese massages. I highly suggest looking up a video on Vietnamese traffic. I can’t describe it. But when you do, pick out a motor scooter and pretend I’m on the back of one. I was and that was my experience. I would do it again, and I sure did do it again the next day. We experienced day and night time traffic. I think I liked riding at night better because traffic lights, motor scooter lights and city lights passed by. Dad, I did this for you. I know how much you like riding your scooter and motorcycle. I couldn’t pass it up.
With only a few hours left in port, Nico, Carolyn, Kelly and I went to the War Remnants Museum in honor of the Vietnam War, or in other words, the American War. It was heavy, but I received a deeper understanding of the war from a Vietnamese perspective.
I want to mention one more thing about Vietnam that I had not known before. If you know me well, I love coffee. Mackenzie, Courtney, Chuck and Triston, ya’ll can attest to that—9:15ish coffee group. I love Starbucks, don’t get me wrong, but I had the best coffee from local, whole-in-the-wall coffee shops. Again, it is hard for me to describe the taste. Take a trip to Vietnam and try it! I stopped to get coffee two to three times a day. I couldn’t resist not taking some home with me.
I plan to return to Vietnam to visit places I was not able to squeeze into my itinerary.
Mom, Dad and Alexandra, thank you for putting up with my 3 a.m. Facetime calls, 5 a.m. novel long text messages and silly requests!
Enjoy the photos ☺
Cee at Sea