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Backpacking through Vietnam

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 10 January 2012 | Views [3672]

I spent three months backpacking through South East Asia earlier this year, spending three weeks in Vietnam. We moved from south to north, jumping on nightbus and tuk tuk and taxi and motorbike, making my way through all the usual backpacker haunts.

Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City. That place was crazy!  There I was, a cocky Westerner, thinking I  could easily navigate my way through an Asian city like a seasoned traveller, I was very wrong.  Leaving your hostel without a map – never a good idea.  A leisurely stroll through the streets with my boyfriend Chris(our attempt at ‘alone’ time, which is impossible when you’re backpacking on the cheap with a group of friends) turned into  two hours of back and forth through the streets, trying to find someone who speaks English , and wanting to help (also very hard to come by in Vietnam).Crossing the streets was always a bit of fun too, especially in the city, trying the avoid the onslaught of cars and motorbikes  without looking like a complete fool, it’s hard work people! And always remember, you do not have right of way, they will knock you over if you get in their way, so be careful!

We had one really lovely experience in Vung Tau, (a popular holiday destination for the Vietnamese but relatively untouched by Westerners) My boyfriend and I arranged to meet our friends for dinner on the beach (this town had the best seafood!) and after about half hour we were still wandering up and down the beach. We managed to find them eventually, sitting down on makeshift stools surrounded by older Vietnamese men.  We were very enthusiastically invited over to join them and proceeded to have one of the best nights of our trip. They couldn’t speak English, we couldn’t speak Vietnamese, but the beers were flowing and somehow we managed to communicate to each other, much to the amusement of all involved. Vung Tau was also well known in Vietnam for its huge Jesus statue, second in size to Rio’s and rather an odd monument to erect in a primarily Buddhist country.

In every city and town we visited families and friends would gather in huge groups, on beaches, outside houses, even on the streets and they would eat and chat, for hours and hours on end. They weren’t on their phones, there was no facebook, no tv, they were just enjoying each others company. The Vietnamese in particular were such a social group of people, and they seemed to place so much importance on the family unit. The art of conversation, which sometimes seems all but lost in the Western world, was thriving in Vietnam.

Drinking on boats made up a large portion of our Vietnam trip. In Nha Trang(a very popular spot for backpackers) we jumped on a day booze cruise (with a little bit of snorkelling included). We had some very lively, cross-dressing hosts but the highlight was definitely their ‘floating bar.’ Which consisted of one man sitting in a donut shaped floaty pouring Vietnamese whisky (nasty stuff!) into our plastic cups whilst we drunkenly swam around him. Needless to say we passed out as soon as we arrived back to hotel room.

My favourite part of Vietnam was our backpacking booze cruise in Halong Bay (yes, any excuse to drink!). Halong Bay is breathtakingly beautiful and untouched(something you can’t say about a lot of Asia). Part of our cruise included kayaking through the bay, which will go down as one of the most amazing experiences of my life, beer between the legs (yes still drinking the beer, even to kayak) we set off at sunset, already a little pissed and explored the vast landscapes of the bay.  It was a phenomenal and a memory I will always cherish.

Vietnam is a great country to travel through, the beers are cheap, the people friendly and you’re spoilt for things to do; you’ve got bustling cities, lazy coastal beach towns and one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  Definitely add it to your list if you haven’t already!

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