Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Happy monsoon season!... Or typhoon season? Hurricane season? All I know is something like this for the past two months:
Rain, thunder storms, and humidity so thick that you can cut it with a knife. And, when it isn't raining, the heat is magnified by the humidity. Oh, and all of my Californian friends and family have NO idea what real rain is like. I mean, for the past 23 years I had no idea what real rain was like. Imagine approximately two months of rain like this... but even harder:
(Video taken by me from an apartment in Seoul)

Anyway... to escape all of the miserable storms and humidity, my boyfriend and I decided to go to Vietnam. Soooo, if you know anything about Vietnam... it's not exactly the first place you would go to escape humidity. Or rain. Or thunder storms. BUT, if you are on a beach while all of that is happening, it's a little less miserable right??

I had one week of teaching summer camp and then we were off on our tropical vacation.
(Get your reading glasses on, this might be a long ass story... especially since I haven't updated in a long time. Ready? Ok, let's go!)

Getting to Vietnam
We arrived at Incheon airport (Seoul) about 3 hours before we could even check-in (yes, we were that excited... and someone's air conditioner wasn't working, so staying inside a stuffy apartment wasn't an option).
Who knew Incheon Airport had a really nice garden area?... Oh yeah, people who are at the airport way too early.
We then hopped on our flight, which had a layover in Shanghai. After wandering through this creepily empty and quiet airport with little.... scratch that... zero direction, we found out that in order to get to our connecting flight, we had to act as if we were leaving the airport. Immigration... customs... grabbing luggage... walking through the long walkway of people with sign who were welcoming people home... the whole shebang. This was a little surprising considering most airports aren't like that, especially in countries with extremely strict visa regulations. We then had to get on a bus, transfer terminals, check in at the airlines counter, go through customs, immigration, x-rays, you name it. 2 hours. 2 hours seems to be the standard amount of time the Shanghai airport gives most people to transfer airplanes. This will be an issue later on. But, for our flight to Ho Chi Minh, we made it with plenty of time... seeing as our second flight wasn't even on time anyway.
We are in China! (Little did we know there would be more of that to come...)

Ho Chi Minh: Day 1
We arrived in Vietnam at about 1am. If you weren't aware, getting a visa for most Westerns requires a little work ahead of time. You can either go to the Vietnamese embassy nearest you and wait until your passport is ready to be picked up OR you can apply for an online visa. You basically fill out an application, pay some money, and they send you a copy of the visa you are to bring to the airport. You then get your visa stamped at the airport, wait 15 mins and you're all set. The whole process, either way you do it, is about $40.
We hopped into a sketchy cab, took a sketchy taxi ride, the guy ripped us off, and we were at our hotel in no time!

We decided to spend the next day walking around Ho Chi Minh, since our hotel was so close to the all of the touristy things. We wanted to go to Nha Trang the next day, so we booked our train tickets through our hotel. The concierge was very helpful... not everyone is trying to rip you off like the tourist forums and books would have you believe. We walked past hooker "hair" salons (I'm assuming these salons aren't on the hush-hush because you can see those bright & tight, short dresses and sky-high heels through the windows from miles away), street vendors, played frogger in order to cross every single street, and just took in the sights. It's definitely not the prettiest or safest of cities, but it was much better than some other places I've been.

First stop was the The War Remnants Museum, which was previously known as the War Crimes Museum, which was previously known as the Museum of American War Crimes, which was previously known as The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government of South Vietnam. Hmmm. It basically made America look like monsters... And, in all honest, some of the things that were done during the Vietnam War were pretty awful. But, war is war. No matter what countries it is between, it is never flowers and rainbows.
After seeing all of the depressing things that the War remnants museum had to offer, we decided to go to the zoo. On the way, we stopped by a beautiful church in the middle of the district.
And then continued on...
We thought, "This will be fun! A zoo! Animals! Yay!" Common sense would tell you what a zoo in such a poor country would be like... but after the museum, we didn't have much of that common sense. It was a pretty large zoo with pretty small cages. Elephants with their legs locked to chains no longer than my leg, leopards in tiny glass enclosures, rats feasting on a hippo's food, orangutans kept in a small area by electric wires you could hear crackling as the rain hit them, and a tiger who could care less if a litter of stray kittens were feasting on his raw meat.

Construction on a river next to a full animal exhibit
After two depressing attractions, we were exhausted. We decided to have our dinner at the hotel restaurant which still ended up being pretty delicious: Pho, spring rolls, and some broccoli/beef combo. And, that ended our first day in Vietnam on a high note...

Part 2 coming soon....

No comments: