Destination #4: Vietnam
We first landed in the massive city of Ho Chi Minh (population 13 million and growing), spent about four hours trying to sleep on the pavement area outside the domestic flight terminal with hundreds of other travelers, then boarded our flight for Nha Trang. We flew over rough terrain and mountains covered by dense jungle. I remember wondering if there were monkeys down there and I was later informed that there are. Once we got to more level ground, we could see the rice fields. Then when the ocean came into view and we flew right over the beautiful beach front and islands of the bay of Nha Trang and landed in a village at the airport at the end of the beach.
Why We chose Vietnam
We chose Vietnam as the next stop on our journey around the world to meet 500 women for several reasons. First we wanted a location in Asia that offered a variety of ways of life and interesting locations within one country. We also wanted a location that was not a common vacation spot for Americans. Vietnam also appealed to us because this would be the first Communist Country we would visit and we wanted to hear how it was different in the daily lives of the people. The reason is our curiosity about the economy and how the people have rebuilt their lives after the Vietnam war and their attitudes toward Americans. I am pleased to say, we received a very warm welcome everywhere we went. The people are very interested in learning more about Americans, Europeans and Australians and building relations with us.
Lay of the Land
We went to the eco village in the center of Ho Chi Minh City that shows visitors the early way of life of the Mekong Delta. We saw rice growing at various stages and learned how the rice plants grow in the flooded fields. Once the plants are harvested, the side of the field is cut open so the field drains and the water buffalo are allowed to go in and eat the remaining stalks.
There are so any water ways in the Vietnam countryside that a Monkey Bridge is a common sight. These are easily built with cut trees so that anyone can quickly get across a stream or small river.
These lily pads are still growing. Yep, they will continue to grow until they are 5 to 6 feet across and will be able to hold a small adult.
We saw unique vegetation all over the cities including bamboo, gingko trees and this crazy tree in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City.
The Culture / The History
You often hear about or see pictures of Vietnamese wearing masks over their nose and mouth. Here is the reason why. There are 8 million motor bikes in this city. There are actually very few intersections that have street signs. All the motorists and cars just meld into the traffic and work together to keep the flow moving. Picture a flock of thousands of birds taking off from a field and none of them collide. That’s the analogy that was shared with us by a Scotsman we met at dinner one evening.
In Nha Trang, we walked over to the market and around the beach front area. The main boulevard was lit with archways promoting tourism in Vietnam in 2019.
We went on a city tour to learn about the historic landmarks of Nha Trang and learned a bit about Buddha, Buddhism and the significance of the lotus flower that Buddha is often seen sitting on.
The lotus flower is revered as all this is good, and pure of mind, body and soul. The lotus flower rises up from the murky swamps as a pristine, beautiful and strong flower. Anything that comes from those conditions must be the purist form of good. Buddhism is the most common religion in Vietnam but there are numerous other religions openly practiced.
This statue overlooked the entire city of Nha Trang and the bay. There were 160 steps up to the top of it and special statuary all along the path.
This temple is over 1000 years old and used to be outside the city but the city grew around it. The closeup of the bricks shows how the temple has been rebuilt after destruction due to fire, war and just 100 years of the elements. You can clearly see the old, discolored bricks and the newer ones.
We took a quick tour of Nha Trang Bay and got to stop on this amazing floating fishing village. The fish are caught and put into the square holding “cells” that are lined with nets. People drive their boats up and order their fish or they get onto the planks and go shopping and place their order. If you are just there for one meal, they will prepare the entire dish for you and you can dine on fresh fish at the tables they have set up. At the end of the day, some of the people that work on this floating restaurant, paddle a tiny dingy back to shore and spend the night in their cabin.
This is the elegant and opulent Ho Chi Minh Opera House. It is almost 100 years old and stands alone on an entire block near downtown.
Much of the architectural style in Ho Chi Minh comes from the French who formerly ruled Vietnam. There are many older buildings with Chinese design for the same reason.
Our first open market experience was at the Nha Trang Night Market. It looks like a long street that was turned into a market with dozens of stalls selling all kinds of goods down both sides of the street. We were shocked at how much stuff the vendors display and pack into these stalls.
The first market we visited in Ho Chi Minh City was the Wet Market. This is a place to get fresh food daily. Historically, when a woman married, she moved in with the husband’s family. She was only allowed out of the house unescorted once a day. Rumor has it that the young wives would go the to Wet Market for daily supplies and food for dinner by themselves and complain about their mother-in-laws.
In Ho Chi Minh, we went to the famous and massive Ben Thanh market. We were told to shop only at the interior stalls. This was because the stalls along the exterior walls were owned by the government and everyone wants to support the individual stall owners. You could buy anything here from food to clothes to jewelry to home goods.
If you are in a stall buying something or waiting for them to get you items, the stall owner asks you to sit down and they give you a stool to sit on. If you say, “no thank you” you are told again to sit down because they want other shoppers to be able to see their goods.
As we were walking around Nha Trang, we came across this woman steaming lobster on the back of her motor bike. Is this the Vietnamese version of the “food truck”? We also saw this very odd fruit for sale on the sidewalk. They would have to teach us how to eat it as well. We found that oranges as we know them, in Vietnam are not orange. They are green. Yep, these are oranges.
Another interesting food was this “gelatinized” coconut milk still inside the coconut. They keep it cold and it is just served with a plastic spoon. The texture is like thick gelatin and the flavor is like coconut ice cream. On a hot and humid day, it was quite a delightful treat.
This little guy was served as a dessert. We tried to guess
what it was but were surprised to find out it was a dehydrated sweet potato. It was wonderfully sweet, chewy and candy-like.
Thank you for joining us on our journey to Vietnam. There were so many memorable moments and people, that we could ramble on forever about them. We won’t though so you can go discover it all for yourself and create your own memories and friends in this amazing country and with these wonderful people.