When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, we didn’t really know what to expect. Since we had decided relatively last minute to even go to Vietnam, we didn’t do much research. Our hotel was only about 5 km from the airport, but with traffic, it took about 40 minutes to get there and the sun was set by the time we got there. The drive was fascinating because there were so many motorcycles on the rode! Our driver told us that Ho Chi Minh has 10 million people and 5 million motorcycles and we do not doubt it after driving there. It is hard to describe how all the different vehicles (buses, cars, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles) cram in together and somehow don’t kill each other, especially when you see 3 or 4 people on one scooter often with one or two kids and/or babies. Also, we were struck by how much our first impressions of Vietnam reminded us of India – not just the driving situation, but also the housing and shops we passed along the way. There was certainly a clear contrast between the 1st and 2nd world countries we have been visiting and 3rd world Vietnam.
Our hotel in Ho Chi Minh was absolutely lovely. Our room was fantastic, the pool was refreshing and the restaurants were so good that it was hard to eat outside of the hotel, which we usually prefer to do. We had ricotta pancakes for breakfast two days in a row and they were, without a doubt, the best darn pancakes either of us have ever had! The lunch and dinners were splendid as well and we had Vietnamese dishes like spring rolls, green mango salad, and a crushed shrimp wrapped around sugar cane and grilled – SO yummy! When we ventured out we went to a market that was overwhelming and stifling hot, but it was still a fun experience.
The drive to the beach in Mui Ne was about 4.5 hours but it was great to see the more rural areas. We saw countless rice fields and also dragon fruit trees. Dragon fruit was new to both us when we got to China but it is very nice. It is pinkish-red on the outside and white on the inside with tiny black seeds like poppy. It is similar to watermelon but milder in flavor and texture. (Mom, you would like the way it looks in fruit salad). The place where we stayed was a small resort town called Phan Thiet and we had a villa overlooking the beach. They had two restaurants as part of the hotel; one was Vietnamese and the other was German (random, but good). Their gardens were extensive and very well maintained.
For 3 full days and 4 nights we didn’t do a whole lot besides hang out on the beach and read our books, and then go out to dinner at night. We ate lunch every day on the beach along with mojitos and I think I ate fresh spring rolls with every single meal (sorry to rub it in mama). The sand was sugary and nice and it was very windy, so we watched a lot of people kite-surfing. The sun was scorching so we stayed in the shade unless we were playing in the surf or going for walks on the beach. We also noticed that there were millions of dragonflies! At times there would be almost swarms of them up in the trees! One day we each enjoyed hot stone massages at the outrageous cost of $15 for an hour and they were fantastic massages – no doubt that was expensive because it was in a resort. Our villa was nice although not luxurious. While it was nice to be in a private villa, the downside was the mosquitoes. Luckily, we had a very nice mosquito net, but unfortunately, we were constantly in our little cocoon hiding from the mosquitoes whenever we were in the villa. Whenever one of us ventured out of bed the other heard a constant clapping as we tried to kill the buggers. All in all, we enjoyed Vietnam very much and the R&R was wonderful. We left there amazed that we had only 2 weeks left of our trip and ready to take advantage and explore Cambodia!