On to Saigon

This is going to be a long post, because I decided to fit the train ride and our last few days in Vietnam, and my dreams for the future (drama) all in one package. Bear with me, you lovely creature you. (A little flattery goes a long way. Hopefully).

So going from Hue to Ho Chi Minh, my sister and I decided to take a train, which would last a total of 20 hours. You would think that a 20-hour train ride would be hell, especially for restless weirdos like me. I get bored quite easily. But as it turns out, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It actually went by faster than the first train ride.

Our day started out late. Meaning the train was late. We were supposed to leave at around 9, but the train came at 10. Up until this point, I’ve actually been amazed at how on-time Vietnamese transport was (at least in my experience). So the delayed train came as a surprise to me, but not too much. I’m still from the Philippines. We’re used to this kind of stuff.

We actually upgraded our tickets from 3rd-level hard sleepers to 2nd-level soft sleepers, and I think this helped in making the whole ride bearable. If we were on the 3rd-level hard sleepers, that train ride would’ve been hell. Then again, in the soft-sleepers, the supposed “first class” we encountered tiny cockroaches. I hate cockroaches, but I also hate killing them. We saw three. I killed one. My ever-so-brave sister killed the rest. Funnily enough, that didn’t stop me from sleeping through most of the night, like it normally would. Also, in the whole 20 hours on the rain, I had a total of ONE meal. A cup of instant noodles. Yum. They give you free cups of instant noodles in the soft sleeper carts (because first class), and that’s what I had for dinner.

After the cockroaches and the cup noodles, the rest of the train ride was pretty uneventful. I only finished one book (I had three, just for this ride). After that, I was pretty much dead. We arrived in Saigon at around 6 in the morning. The check-in time at our hostel was at 2pm, so they advised us to take the half-day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which would bring us back just in time for check-in. So that’s what we did.

The Cu Chi tunnels tour is a pretty interesting thing to go to. I mean, it is touristy, but I don’t know if it’s something you can go through without a tour guide. Also, it’s about 2 hours away from the city, so yeah. You need a bus. Interesting things include several traps they used in the war to incapacitate or kill people. Holy crap those things are scary. They’re camouflaged in the ground, under grass. When you step on it, the ground revolves AND YOU FALL ON METAL FREAKIN’ SPIKES. Holy crap. I can’t. It’s like the medieval ages. They actually liked using metal spikes a lot. There’s a whole demonstration on all  the traps they had and how they worked. They involved sharp pointy spikes. Pretty morbid stuff. Kinda cool.

Of course, there is a choice to actually go into a tunnel. It’s not long, about 100 meters, with exits every 20 meters. If you suffer from claustrophobia however, that might be a different story. They are small and dark, and you have to do like a stoop-crouch kind of thing to go through them. There will be people behind you and people in front of you. And if I’m not mistaken, you have to start crawling for the last 20 of 40 meters. It is optional though. I didn’t think I had a problem with claustrophobia until I got in there. I went out after 20 meters. But don’t let any of what I said get you down. It’s still a pretty cool experience. I was freaked out half the time because I thought my sister got lost in there, which is sort of impossible, because there’s only one way to go. That’s a long story.

After the tour, we got back to the hostel just in time for check-in (like they said). We get in the room and settle down for a bit and got to know our roommates (who were pretty cool and we ended up hanging out with them every night). After a situation involving bunk confusions and some british guys (who ended up not being our roommates), my sister and I set out for a bit more exploring. We saw the Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s the front facade which makes it look like the Notre Dame in Paris. Especially the huge window in the middle.  We also saw the post office, which is like Grand Central, except it’s for mail. It’s big. We also saw what I think  was the reunification palace. At least that’s what is said on my map. It was closed, so we will never know. Whatever it was, the grounds were enormous.

That night, we also walked around a bit. We had dinner at the night market. Dinner, as Vietnamese food always is, was awesome. But right now, I wanna talk about the parks. CAN I JUST SAY. THE PARK WE WALKED THROUGH WAS FREAKING AMAZING. It was. I don’t know what that particular park was called (or if it even had a name) but I just love it. I loved how active and alive it all seemed, because there were activities going just everywhere. There was a whole team practicing martial arts. Inline skaters and skateboarders were zipping through people. A dance team was practicing some sort of routine. There were outdoor ballroom dance things in the gazebos. AAAAAND  there are public exercise machines (that don’t run on any sort of electricity). There was an elliptical machine and exercise bikes and bars for doing all kinds of pushups and sit ups. It was amazing. I’m not a fitness junkie, not by a long shot, but the fact that small things like this are provided for public consumption just makes me a little happy inside. Also, I really like the feeling of life at night in the park (drama).

The next day (after a late night, mind you), we had to get up early because we booked a tour of the Mekong River. I was a bit skeptical, because they told us the tour lasted all day. They don’t lie. We were gone from 8 in the morning until 7 in the evening. Insane. Now that tour was not something I would do again. It was pretty interesting, but not as fun as you’d think it would be. After a 3-hour drive to the river, we got on a boat to see the floating market. The floating market is definitely not what you would imagine it to look like. No, it doesn’t look like the one in Thailand. It’s less for tourists and more for the livelihood of the people living along the river. We got on an island and saw how they made coconut candy. And then on our way to lunch, my sister thought she’d learn how to ride a bike. Oh yeah. This tour requires you ride a bike to the lunch venue. But do not fret, you have a second choice of riding on the back of a motorcycle if you really can’t ride the bike. My sister ended up taking the motorbike, so safe to say, the whole learning how to ride a bike thing didn’t really work out. BUT WE’LL GET THERE, I SWEAR IT.  I took the bike.

After lunch, we all got on rowing boats, which would be a pretty cool experience if the sun wasn’t out to get us. I think the whole rowboat experience lasted about an hour? And you get to see how the locals live and stuff. But it’s mostly just river and grass… …and heat.

So yeah. The tour was interesting, but I definitely felt the length of that one…. It’s not something I would speak highly of, but it’s still an experience (yeah let’s chalk everything up to experience).

That night would be our last night in Vietnam, and boy was it bittersweet. We spent the night with awesome friends and the next day, after a little bit of shopping and a final visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral to say thank you, our Vietnam adventure came to a close.

As a first-time backpacking experience, this adventure was pretty freaking great. So great that I kinda just want to do it forever and ever. I’m already planning the next trip, which will happen hopefully next summer. My goals are ultimately the rest of Southeast Asia and maybe Europe too the summer after that! I’m also trying to think of ways to scrape up some extra money, but living in a third-world country where student/part-time jobs aren’t available makes it a little harder for me. But I’m determined to do it. I’m going to explore every possibility.

I’m hoping and praying and trying to make it work to make sure that this trip is only the beginning.

So until the next one (which will happen), thanks for sticking with me.

PS: I CAN FINALLY UPLOAD PICTURES! Check back to the other posts for some pictures! I’m also planning on making a separate post purely for all my instagram shots hehehehehehehe

k I’m done bai.

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