Saigon & the Muddy Mekong

Day 2 in Saigon

Today we tour the famous Mekong River Delta in Vietnamese: the Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long “Nine Dragon river delta”.

Lengthy bus ride through HCMC and over the river …

Pit stop for refreshments again… Roadside fresh coconut water!! I had so much fresh coconut water in Vietnam… but it was definitely the best in Saigon where the weather was the hottest and it was most refreshing!

Our first stop, we visited a little village where we sampled various local fruits and honey, and a Vietnamese group sang for us.

Carrying on… we wandered through some “farmland” near the river while our guide spoke a bit about the history of the area and some of the cultures and traditions… beautiful area for sure!

And then, the highlight of the day… traditional conical Vietnamese hats, called nón lá, and a traditional Mekong row boat  ride down one of the many little channels of the Mekong River… It was amazing just meandering along that muddy chanel, surrounded by tall foliage on either side… So relaxing actually. (Not for the poor woman rowing/pushing the boat around though!)

We landed at a little factory on the edge of the river where fresh coconut candies were made. They demonstrated how the treats were made… and then we got to sample the still warm and gooey and totally delectable coconut candy… made from everything coconut! Coconut milk, coconut sugar… so yum!!!!

And… there just happened to be a big ol python?? there. Some type of snake anyways. It was our lucky day. we could hold it! Initially I was kind of excited to hold it. It looked like it was sleeping anyways as it was super relaxed. A bunch of people held it. It started waking up. By the time snakey got to Amelia… it was definitely starting to wake up and squirm a little more… so I started getting pretty freaked out about my turn next. Would it be fully awake by then?!! It took me a bit to talk myself into have the snake placed around my neck, and when I finally said yes, the snakes handler just tossed the darn thing around my neck. I jumped! Pretty sure it jumped too and started winding its snakey large self up and around my neck!!!! I was freaking!! And everyone was telling me to smile for the pic. I managed a grimace before totally freaking out. Never again feel the need to ever ever ever hold a snake again. I still get the heebie jeebies thinking bout that thing snaking around my neck!! Entertaining photos tho! :S

Next up on our tour: we took a bigger boat down a main portion of the Mekong River to a little island where we had some lunch.

And finally… headed back to the bus and on to our last stop… a Vietnamese Pagoda… Vinh Trang Pagoda, My Tho…

And that was it for our Ho Chi Minh tour plans. One night to go out with our hostel crew and in the morning we were catching a quick flight up to Hoi An!

Saigon nightlife for us started with a few drinks at the hostel bar where I met a ton of Canadian backpackers!!! A giant game of sidewalk Jenga evolved into a very loud and exuberant and very touching edition of “Oh Canada”. JT would be proud (Justin Trudeau…).

oh and… Canadians dominated the Hideout hostel Hand Grenade Challenge (a shot of tequila followed immediately by a Jager Bomb) as we obviously completed the most challenges 🙂

Hostel life isn’t complete without a rambunctious pub crawl through Saigon (Saigon nightlife is supposed to be fantastic btw)… so we joined a whole group from the hostel and headed out to a couple different places in District 1 in Pham Ngu Lao.. definitely a seedy district, nothing classy at all. But a whole lot of fun!! Saigon is crazy by day… and at night is only a fraction quieter and less crazy but equally as bright!

And that was it for us in Saigon… potentially will hit up a museum when we return to Saigon in a couple weeks before we fly back home.

Cam on Saigon!

Vacation in Vietnam

End of January 2016

The end of January… end of probation (the mandatory 3 months in Saudi Arabia without vacation to prove you’re a responsible employee…) and my bestie and I are headed to Vietnam for 2 completely amazing weeks away from work!!!!

Riyadh -> Doha -> Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon).

Flying Qatar airways for the first time… even economy class is lovely on a Dreamliner!!!! And Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar… is definitely the nicest airport I’ve ever been too!!!

We had a couple hours wait in Doha before our flight to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) so we found a lovely steakhouse/wine bar/piano bar where we ordered dinner and settled into luscious leather seats to listen to some lovely piano music and sip glasses of wine. Such a relaxing start to the trip!

And… my bestie is AMAZING! She surprised me with a gorgeous white gold necklace with my name written in Arabic! I’d always admired hers… and, being the extremely thoughtful individual that she is, she got me one of my own!!

Eventually we flew out of Doha to Vietnam, and landed in the crazy that is Vietnam mid-day I think? I can’t remember. I think my body was pretty stunned by travelling all night after working a full day before getting on the plane! We retrieved our backpacks (oh yeah… I should mention that this is my first ever “backpacking trip!!!!!! It took a little to minimize my packing style!)

As a side note, to avoid confusion, I should briefly explain that Saigon is the original name of Ho Chi Minh City… it was renamed after revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh. Still most commonly called Saigon by Vietnamese and tourists alike.

Our first exposure to Vietnam was a little crazy. I don’t even know how to begin to describe the traffic… but imagine how a school of fish swim… and then picture those fish as dilapidated cars or mopeds… and the mopeds are carrying probably a mother and father and one toddler and the mother is holding a small infant and theres a box of groceries on the back and a small tree and potentially a cow… (the cow is probably pushing it a little… but the rest is legit)… and the cars and mopeds all swarm together and cross paths and beep their horns continuously… rushing forward as soon as theres a small gap that opens up before appearing to nearly crash into each other again… It was insanity! I was white knuckled every time I got in any type of vehicle and I thought for sure we were going to get in a car accident at some point on our trip through Vietnam. (we made it out unscathed though… didn’t even witness a single accident!)

Anyways. Found our hostel in District 1. Crashed for a few hours. Then went a wandering the streets around our hostel looking for some fabulous pho for dinner. I’d seen that Pho Quynh had great reviews on Foursquare (didn’t know how much I could actually count on Foursquare in Vietnam) so we wandered around a couple blocks several times, before realizing we kept walking past it! It was a packed little place on a street corner, filled with locals and expats, where we sat outside on the corner on metal chairs with traffic zipping by only feet away. Despite Saigon being hot and sticky, that hot soup tasted amazing despite the heat… probably cuz the Tiger beers we drank with it were amazing!! Fun fact: upon further research now that I’m home, apparently this place even made it into Lonely Planet it’s so great!

Seriously sleep deprived so we didn’t have the energy required for Saigon nightlife… but we did manage to wander the streets around our hotel for a bit… found a bar where we had a couple drinks sitting on flimsy wooden chairs along the sidewalk, just people watching and taking in all the crazy awesome and fascinating scenes the busy night scene had on display…

And then, early-ish lights out for us sleep deprived nanas. Mekong Delta tour tomorrow!