What would usually come into your mind when the country "Vietnam" is uttered by someone else?
Well to me, it will usually awaken some kind of plain curiosity.
Growing up, I heard about "Viet Cong" which seemed to have a negative connotation at first. My impression of this word was that this is something about a fighter. I've heard about the war, Vietnam War, but it was kind of vague because it happened before I was born.
Sadly, it occur to me now, how unfortunate if as a human being, when all you hear about a certain place or word connotes negativity. After college, I bought a book by Danielle Steel entitled "Message from Nam". This made me curious about Vietnam once again. I started checking about Vietnam and US war. And eventually forgot about it :)
The third time that Vietnam is back in my mind was when I started visiting our Microfinance Branch in Palawan. Everybody seemed to suggest to give their food a try, saying it can only be found there. It is called CHAO LONG. As a foodie, I checked its history and found out that this dish was Vietnamese-influenced. The reason? Vietnamese refugees, during the war, ended up staying in Palawan and introduced their food to the local people.
Yet, it was only until 2015 that I finally met a Vietnamese person, a volunteer worker in our company, sent by one of our funding partner based in the US. And I find it exciting that there is someone I meet who's from this country.
Together with my three other colleagues we visited Vietnam in June of 2018. Kendy, Omin and Michelle were with me during this trip. Since there was no direct flight to Ho Chi Minh from Cebu (or was there?), we opted for Manila to Ho Chi Minh for our flight via a promo fare from Air Asia.
We were excited. It was my first time to go with others on a trip as I usually go solo. I felt like a mother with little chicks in tow. I have this feeling that I'm responsible for them since I was the one who influenced them to join in the first place, LOL! :D
Vietnam is almost like the Philippines but also different. We arrived at around 1:00AM, as most promo fares are at night. We were so tired and wanted to sleep right away. We took a taxi to our Airbnb accommodation with the help of the Airport taxi assistance service. Since I am with three more lives, I decided to play safe all the time. Even while at the taxi, we noticed how part of the highway was so like parts of Manila too.
Our hostel was a four-storey building. We kept on banging the door for a long time and saying something to hopefully wake up the staff. To no avail. Eventually, we noticed the doorbell and press. Staff came out. We all laughed. The staff was helpful and he assisted in carrying our luggage up to the fourth floor since there was no elevator. We were so tired so we just slept and have no care of the world.
The highlights of our stay in Vietnam were the following:
We were able to see the Reunification Palace
Visit the War Remnants Museum
Experience the Cu chi tunnel
And being hosted for two nights as Couchsurfers
Vietnam is one of the affordable countries to visit in Asia. Their food is delicious too. I remember hosting someone from Chile and his main complaint in Bohol was the lack of vegetable dishes. He explained that coming from Vietnam and having lived there for more than a year he has become used to their healthy veggies which Bohol sorely lacked.
During my visit in Vietnam, I finally understood him. Yes, their food is delish. I cannot say the same thing for my three travel buddies, LOL :D I believed they detested the smell of some herbs, especially that moment when we had our Pho ;)
|Condiments for Pho - according to your tastebuds.|
|Basil and I don't know what else.|
|Pho - looking so yum!|
|Lemon and chili.|
|Looking colorful and fresh.|
|How lovely is this? ;)|
|Even the food presentation looks delish, no food is bland.|
I even find their service to be impeccably done too. A buko (young coconut) being served like this is something I so admire from their vendor. For me, this takes a lot of work. I admire how they think so highly of their customer to present it like this :)
|Almost tempted to give a server a tip.|
Accommodation in Vietnam is affordable and their standard service is commendable too, putting ours here in Philippines to shame. Now I understand the feedback of our volunteer staff in terms of our incomplete hostels service (no free toiletries and electric iron, toilet curtains, etc). Vietnam has it at a very affordable price, and it is really clean too. During our travel, the options for hostel was even at this range Php200-Php450 per bunk bed at dormitory-type. It was also easy to find a room for Php1500 for a night that can accommodate 4. Our toilet was complete with complimentary shampoo, soap, bidet and of course toilet shower ;)
|Room for four Boholana Travelers.|
|Yours truly - at Reunification Palace.|
|At the entrance of Reunification Palace.|
|Naks, Kendy and Michelle were anticipating a scary virus nearby? :) Bus stop at Ho Chi Minh.|
Ho Chi Minh, as one of Vietnam's busiest City is not that easy to navigate as well. Since most people don't speak English, asking where the terminal for buses and you'll receive a blank look or shaking of their heads or pointing somewhere you can't fully understand.
The four of us have been asking for the bus terminal and a few locals pointed to us a specific place - and they meant BUS STOP!
Okay, so we got it, bus would just pick us up from this place and we don't have to go to the terminal.
That's pre-covid days by the way, but Kendy and Michelle were face mask-ready.
|A place to stroll once you exit Cu Chi tunnel.|
|Michelle can't hide her excitement for this experience at Cu Chi tunnel.|
You will see how the patriotic Vietnamese fought the war with Americans using these tunnels. It pays to listen to the orientation prior to experiencing the tunnels yourself. Once you focus on listening and understanding what they did to resist, you will have a new respect for these people. They indeed fought well. And this part of their history, I guess, is what contributes to their feeling victorious and being "fierce" as they say :D
|Omin was temple hopping-ready.|
After the Cu Chi tunnel experience, we were given an afternoon snack or a treat. It was composed of a boiled cassava and it can go with a grated coconut with sugar and sesame seeds. As the guide explained, it was the staple food of the fighters during those times. After we exit the place, we can also choose to check on a park that has many palaces. Or was it temples?
RICE for Filipinas!
Vietnam is also a place to feel like a MILLIONAIRE. From the food that we had, we paid 751,3000 Vietnamese Dong. Yes, for us this is something, something to laugh too ;)
How this country made us feel so rich! :D
And on to this bus one morning, for our travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for 8 hours (when they said five) ;)
Wait for it :)