The best part about traveling for wake events is always that feeling of total relaxation once the event is over. The pressure of competition has evaporated, new friendships have been made and everything seems to just slow down.
I headed into Vietnam with that exact mindset, it was time to chill out, catch up with my old friend Tiffany and explore the city of good ol’ uncle Ho, aka Ho Chi Min City aka Siagon before the fall of the South.
Tiffany moved to Vietnam two years ago so she knows her way around, and after my last experience attempting to navigate Asia on my own her knowledge was definitely welcoming. Tifffany is one of the most laid back people I know. Even back in highschool she was always the one who embraced unique clothing styles, sports less practiced and had a knack for finding the best underground music. It’s no surprise to anyone she’s so well traveled, and the ultimate tour guide.
Over the four days I was in Ho Chi Min we were on a mission to explored the entire city. We ate 50 cent Pho, Bahn Mi sandwhiches from the local food cart, volunteered at a village school, stayed out to the wee hours at a dance club and shopped at Siagon Square ( and might I mention to the ladies reading this blog to never take offense to the saleswomen in Siagon Square, they will straight up tell you that you are far too big to try on any of their clothes) . We even made it to a Diwali party celebrated by the local Indian population. Talk about culture shock.
In between our adventures Tiffany did have to work, which meant I had two days to kill on my own accord. What do you do in Asia when you are alone?? You sign up for tours! I did two tourist-trap tours, one the to Mekong river where I went to a traditional Vietnamese rice paper, tea and candy mill. The second was a tour to the Chi Chi tunnels, where the Viet Cong hid during the Vietnam War. Let me tell you what an experience THAT was. I was one of two English speaking white girls on the tour (It was a Malaysian holiday) so my historical knowledge of the war seemed to grossly differ from that of the majority of the people on the bus. The Vietnamese view the Viet Cong as the ‘liberators’, those that are honored for their stealth skill and winning the war against the Americans. I watch a poorly translated video that referenced “We are liberated!! Praise Vietnam!” “Kill Americans!! We Reward Viet Cong for Killing Americans!!!” probably twenty times. Needles to say I sat WAY at the back of the room to avoid all the stares.
I met a few other fun people on the tour and afterwards we ended up hanging out and grabbing a BaBaBa ( 333 local beer brand). Tiffany showed up and decided to take us to her favorite restaurant, which of course was an outdoor food stand just outside of backpackers village. When we got there all the seats were occupied, so the owner grabbed a table, walked across a busy road and sat it right down on the sidewalk. He brought over a bunch of chairs and told everyone to sit. I looked at Tiffany to make sure this was normal and rest assured she gave me a wink. The food ended up being the best food I’ve ever had in my life. Dish after dish was carried out across the street where we sat eating on a busy sidewalk. Best night ever. We finished it off with a nightcap at a local pub and headed on back to Tiff’s place.
Vietnam was a whirlwind adventure and I was sorry to leave. For any of you planning a trip to Asia, make sure you put Vietnam on your list. Food is amazing, people are friendly and surprise adventures are around every corner.