Hard to believe I've been in Vietnam for a week already!
There was almost immediate culture shock going from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City...the contrasts in wealth and modernity are stark. Vietnam's southern metropolis is a vibrant, buzzing city with some sleek skypscrapers and a fashionably-dressed younger population.
The French colonial influence is easilly spotted in the city center, where the architecture is extremely European, and Chanel and Dior shops line the immaculate streets.
Scooters are the transit option of choice here in Vietnam, and at all times of day they zip along the streets, weaving wildly...they literally never have a red light. Only cars have to stop at red lights. To cross the street is to take your life in your hands.
I spent 2 nights in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, since I was already all city-ed out after Phnom Penh. My main stops were the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels- both worthwhile! To be honest, I knew next to nothing about the Vietnam War (they call it the American War here) before I arrived, and it was quite eye-opening. I'm told the museum information is quite biased in favor of the Vietnamese, but nevertheless it was an interesting (and disturbing) visit.
After the big city, I spent 3 nights at a beautiful, relaxed hostel in Mui Ne, soaking up the surf, sand, and sun...that is, I got very sunburnt. But it was really nice.
Then I moved on to the cool mountain clime in Dalat. It was a beautiful relief to feel a brisk breeze on my skin, and to actually have the desire to put more clothes on, and curl up under a warm blanket at night!!! While in Dalat, I visited the famous Crazy House, went Canyoning (photos to come), climbed Liang Biang Mountain, and visited a Monastery. The last two events were only made possible by inviting myself to join a group that are motorbiking down Vietnam (I am actually so jealous). I absolutely love riding on the back of the bike through the small village streets- you see SO much more of the country, and you have so much more freedom. The only thing really stopping me from joining their number is the amount of backpackers I've met with motorbike "war wounds". I'll leave the driving to others...for now.
I stayed at a hostel reccommended to me by a friend from Kamloops that visited Vietnam a few years back. Its called The Dalat Family Hostel, and it was SUCH an experience! The vietnamese family that runs the hostel are absolutely nuts- "Mama" sings, claps, hugs, and kisses you when you arrive, you are fed immediately, the "brothers" and "sisters" (are they actually family? I will never know) randomly hug you and pinch your cheek, or throw their arms over your shoulders while you are sitting around...everyone eats a huge dinner around the family table at 5 every night...its the best food...the BEST. I slept in the attic, where there are all different levels, and about 15 mattersses around the floor. It looks like the ultimate slumber party of your dreams! It was so much fun, and also just ridiculous!
Anyway, today I am in transit to the small village of Tuy Hoa, and I've had a couple hours to get some internet time in. This evening I will take a train for the first time- it was an early start this morning, so I'm already tired and can't wait to just arrive and get settled in.
I will get more photos up soon, but until then...instagram. :)