Good morning Vietnam!

Ho Chi Minh city highlights and Mekong delta tour

Ho Chi Minh, like Bangkok in Thailand, is not the best introduction to what Vietnam has to offer. But it is a very convenient entry point coming from Cambodia. As another huge city in South East Asia, the chaos, traffic and noise left us once again wanting to leave as soon as possible. We booked a one day tour to the Mekong Delta, hoping for some peace and nature, even if we knew it was no Okavango Delta.

The tour was kind of a fiasco, since the main stops were at pushy vendors, the included boat ride was on a channel where only boats full of tourists in the same type of excursion travelled up and down… Back to Ho Chi Minh, we had a walk around, and went to the War Remnants Museum.

The museum was much bigger than we expected, so we didn’t have enough time for a thorough view. It has a very good collection, especially of photographs, about the Vietnam war and escalation of the USA intervention. We learned also about the heavy use of deforestation chemicals used by the USA, the most famous of which is called “Agent Orange”. These chemicals left a huge negative impact in the health of those exposed, and today children are still born with disabilities due to those chemicals.

Notre Dame Cathedral, where we went to mass (even though it was in Vietnamese)! Nevertheless it was a good experience, even if only to appreciate the beautiful liturgical chants.
City Hall by night.
We can’t help notice the incredible amounts of plastic even on the border of the Mekong river. So sad…
As part of our tour in the Mekong Delta we went on small rowing boats. Too touristic for our taste.

In our Mekong Delta tour was included a visit to one temple where one more gigantic fat Buddha was sitting.
US Army was almost everywhere in Vietnam. At the peak, the number of soldiers reached more than 500.000 men!
In Vietnam a lot of war crimes were committed. An enormous amount of innocent lives were taken away… For what?!
Outside the main building there is a display of war aircraft and tanks

After Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh, and witnessing the death and destruction both by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and by the Americans in Vietnam, our faith in humanity was very low.


Mui Ne tour

We took the bus to Mui Ne, and stayed two nights. Much calmer than the larger cities, it was a breath of fresh air. A kitesurfer’s paradise, the beach was too windy to enjoy properly, but the tour to the dunes and stream was a good contrast to the temples and museums of the past few days.

Fairy stream: a colorful geological formation.
Around the fisherman’s village we can see hundreds of small boats like these (including the ones that look like a round bathtub!).
The white sand dunes.
The red sand dunes, where we waited for sunset.
Sadly, more of the same: plastic on the beach of Mui Ne.

With not much else to do on a windy beach without a kite, we moved to the next stop on our route, Nha Trang.


Nha Trang

Following our guide’s recommendation, we stayed at Mojzo Inn, which was an amazing hotel and our best stay to date. A much bigger town than Mui Ne, full of high rises in front of a beach, it brought back the chaotic feeling of the previous large cities, but not so much as to be unpleasant.

Hon Chong in Nha Trang.
Po Nagar Cham Towers: built between the 7th and 12th centuries. Only 4 of the original 8 towers remain, and they’re still used for worship by Cham, Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhists.
One of the (less popular) beaches in Nha Trang.
Long Son Pagoda.

As would be predictable, the beach was full of garbage and not really inviting for a swim. We picked up enough plastic on one of our walks to fill a big bag, and it was a very curious experience for me. There were: 5 people who encouraged us; 3 people who picked up some trash and helped us; 1 person who picked up the pack of cigarettes he had just thrown to the ground; over 300 people who looked at us curiously. The biggest impact of our little action was making people think about properly disposing of the garbage. If only one of them starts to be conscious about this, over a lifetime it is way more plastic than we can pick up in half an hour! That’s why it was great to do it on such a crowded beach! Since Nha Trang was still not the Vietnam we were looking for, after two nights off we went to Hoi An.


Hoi An

Hoi An was the first city in Vietnam we actually enjoyed! No high rise buildings, easy to ride bicycle in, not too big, beer for 20 cents… Hoi An was very nice both at day and at night. The My Son temples are impressive, especially because of the destruction they suffered at the hands of the American bombings. The lanterns around and in the river area are simply beautiful, and set a calmness about the city that we thought impossible in this part of the world.

Once in Hoi An you cycle everywhere. Some accommodations even let you use bicycles for free!
My Son temple: we did a guided tour and it was really worth it! Here you can visit the most important remains of the ancient Cham empire which is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The lanterns in Hoi An are in a lot of different shapes and colors . They transform the city at night and you feel like you’re in a fairy tale.

Japanese Covered Bridge: the first one was constructed here in the 1590s by the Japanese community.

Hoi An Cathedral: where we went to the mass (this time in english)!

Assembly Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation: originally an assembly hall it was transformed into a temple for the worship of Thien Hau, a deity from Fujian province.

The highlight, though, was a Sandwich! The Bahn Mi served in the center of town, brought to fame by the late Anthony Bourdain, is really to die for. These past few days, whenever I feel hungry my thoughts go back to that sandwich, which we had 3 times in our two nights in Hoi An!

Banh Mi Phuong: the place with the best sandwiches we’ve ever ate in our lives!

João and Margarida

P.S. The title of this post was taken from the famous movie “Good morning Vietnam”, which we recommend you to watch.

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