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My First Backpacking Adventure

Adventures in Nam

CANADA | Thursday, 11 February 2010 | Views [800] | Comments [1]

Well Sihanoukville did a number to our team. We had a lost wallet, my camera broke and all 3 of us got horrible sunburns. Mine was soo bad that I had yellow blisters develop on my shoulders that still haven’t completely healed. We stayed there for a couple nights and met some wonderful people from England, Norway, Sweden and Ireland. We ran into a guy (Rob) that Kurt had met in Chiang Mai and we have been traveling together ever since.

Saigon is a beautiful city made even more so by the decorations being put up for Tet. Tet is Chinese New Years, but it is also celebrated in Vietnam and in fact it’s the largest celebration of the year. For some, this is the only time off from work they have all year! From what we’ve been told the whole country shuts down for a day and some businesses are shut for an entire week. We did a couple tours in Saigon, checking out the War Remnants Museum and the Chu Chi tunnels. Both were revealing, but also full of propaganda. Some Viet Cong lived underground in tunnels for up to 6 years. They built full schools and hospitals 5-20 meters underground. We were allowed to walk 120m through a tunnel that had been remodeled for tourism. This included making the tunnels bigger and adding lights…. And I still couldn’t imagine living down there even for a day. After the 120m journey underground I was dripping with sweat and craving fresh air. They told us later that from the area we were, there were tunnels dug all the way to the American base 5 km away. Vietcong would duck-walk the whole 5 km in one night and be back by morning with a mission completed. Seeing the conditions they lived through, and the utter resolve they showed it’s easy to see why the USA ended up pulling out. I don’t think the North Vietnamese would have stopped fighting until the very last soldier was killed. By this point all of us had just about enough of War History, and at Rob’s suggestion we decided to attend a traditional Vietnamese water-puppet show. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our time in Saigon even though the entire play was in Vietnamese and we didn’t understand a single thing. I think it was just long over-due for us to see some cultural event that had nothing to do with killing people.

On Russ’ last night in Vietnam, we decided to go out for supper (see pictures from new camera bought in Saigon). We happened upon a restaurant that looked decent and went in. We were welcomed warmly and shown to a table where we were immediately surrounded by a half-dozen people. There were 3 beer girls urging us to drink San Miguel, as well as the manager, assistant-manager and 2 waitresses surrounding us to help us with our order. We realized that we were the only western people in the bar, but all that attention confused us. We later found out that it was the opening night for that particular restaurant and judging by the other clientele, we were the very first western people to eat there. They treated us like Kings. The San Miguel girls would pour beer from the bottle into our glasses after every sip, while the manager and assistant-manager would come by frequently to chat and see if we needed anything. Most of the workers didn’t speak much English, so we either communicated through gestures or had one of the managers translate. We shared 5 dishes and 14 beer and the total came to 375,000 Dong ($20). We couldn’t believe the price after the service we received so although it’s not expected and we hadn’t done it at any other time, we gave them a nice big tip. At one point in the night a local Vietnamese man who had obviously had too much to drink decided he should come over and have a talk with us. He was very nice, although drunk and spoke only minimal English and we chatted through translation for a bit before he left. Those are the kinds of nights that really make you warm up to a city, and we were all in a wonderful mood after that meal.

A couple of days ago, Rob and I decided to move on to Da Lat, while Kurt stayed back in Saigon and tried to organize a job overseas for the next year. Da Lat is a beautiful mountain town that was originally used by the French as a vacation retreat during their occupation of the country. We decided to do a Canyoning tour (see pictures), which includes trekking, abseiling (repelling), swimming in the rapids and Cliff Jumping. We started the day off repelling down an 18m cliff face, then moved on to a 5m cliff jump and some trekking until we got to a “waterslide”. This was basically just a smooth section of rocks in the rapids that you could slide down. We then did a 15m repel and another ‘waterslide’ before hiking to the top of a waterfall for lunch. After lunch we repelled down the 25m waterfall, letting go for a free fall 3m from the bottom. After that we did an 11m cliff jump and then one more repel, this time off a 12m cliff face that dropped away leaving you dangling in the air as a rush of water engulfs you and eventually spits you out into the river. It might have been my favorite day so far, and I am certain that I will do Canyoning again.

Tomorrow Rob and I move on to Nha Trang, which is a costal town in central Vietnam. Here we will meet up with Kurt and possibly a couple of other friends from back home for the festivals of Tet.

Tags: canyoning, chu chi tunnels, da lat, saigon



I can't stand it!!! The Canyoning!! Sounds hairy hairy. I can just picture you guys! I'll see if I can bring up the photos. If I were your mum I would be happy that you write about these adventures after they happen!! THe old nerves won't take it.

Thrilled that you're having the time of your life - good, bad, full of surprises and some lovely contact.
Happy New Year!
love Liz

  Liz White Feb 19, 2010 4:34 AM

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