Good morning Vietnam

August 06, 2016

One month ago I was sat on a plane, nervously watching the miles clock up on the TV screen in front of me as I sped towards Vietnam on my first trip alone. Twelve hours is a long flight - it provides plenty of time to ask myself why the fuck I chose to spend my summer alone in a foreign country. At that moment, I was pretty close to calling it off; but I eventually did the grown-up thing and pushed my apprehension aside, ordered a gin & tonic (the first of many, obviously) and settled down to watch a romantic comedy on my teeny, tiny TV.
Deep down, I always knew I'd be fine and, fortunately, I really needn't have worried. As soon as I landed I was caught up in the buzz of Saigon city and began to feel really excited about my trip for the first time. I had booked to stay at Hideout hostel in the backpacker district, Pham Ngu Lao, in the hope that it would be social enough to make a few friends - luckily it was a good choice. On my first night, I ended up going out for dinner with 11 people, two of which I carried on travelling with for the next two weeks - I think on my 'solo' trip I was alone for all of three hours! (It still counts though, right?).

So, I'd reached my first stop: Ho Chi Minh City (which everyone else calls Saigon, because HCMC is, lets face it, a bit of a mouthful).
I had booked three nights there, to give me a chance to recover from the light, get used to the heat and hopefully find some people to continue my journey with. It was actually probably a bit too long to stay there - its a cool city, but you can see all the main sights in a day and after that, there's only so much cheap Hanoi vodka you can drink on the main strip before you really need to get out.

Top three things to do:
War Remnants Museum - definitely worth seeing. A very eye-opening - if a little biased - display of the harsh realities of the Vietnam war.
Lam Cafe - eat here! Its right on the main street in the backpacker district. Its not fancy, but there's a huge menu with relatively cheap prices, and everything I had was delicious.
Hideout/Hangout - both of these hostels are right opposite the Pham Ngu Lao bus station, and are clean and really social. Do the bar crawl if you're alone, you definitely won't come back without having made some new friends.
On the Monday, Kacie and I headed to the next stop: Mui Ne.

Now, Mui Ne wasn't quite what we thought - everyone in Vietnam seems to be colluding in one HUGE lie - that the beaches here are pretty. They are not. The beach was one of the worst places I've ever been, largely because it's a fishing town and it smells like sardines and has a large amount of dead fish littered across the sand.
What is worth seeing, however, is the sand dunes. Stay at Mui Ne Backpackers Village - clean, relatively central and has a really great pool and bar - and book a Jeep tour to the Fairy Stream, Red and White Sanddunes.
 After that, we got a six hour minibus to Dalat, a small 'French' town in the mountains with a climate largely reminiscent of that which I left behind in England. I had unfortunately come down with the most evil virus I've ever encountered, so Dalat was a bit of a disappointment - we also had two flights cancelled (use VietJet at your risk) so stayed a little too long.
 Still, there's a few things worth seeing:

Crazy House - honestly, not sure what it's purpose is, but it's an amazing, Disney style hotel that you can pay 40,000VND to go in and explore. It's great fun, and has the best views over the town and the surrounding mountains.
100 Roofs bar - The coolest bar I've ever been to. Nothing will rival it. It's basically a huge maze set back in a cave, with hidden nooks and crannies in which you can sit and chat. Buy a bottle of spirit from the bar and take it off to a hidden table, and when you're suitably drunk, play hide and seek - but don't necessarily expect to be found.
Lien Hoa bakery - Having a French influence, Dalat bakeries are pretty good. Lien Hoa is right in the centre and sells all kinds of savoury and sweet pastries, which are all delicious. Prices range between 5000VND and 15000VND, so a pretty cheap snack.
More to come in the next post...

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