Vietnam has a rich history and is a beautiful place to visit. It is undoubtedly a friendly and most desired place to visit. Vietnam is a developing country and naturally the things and experiences there are not as perfect as one can expect in developed part of the world. During the last winter I along with my friend Rina decided to go to Vietnam for a backpack tour. The beginning was not perfect as on the day of departure we got stuck in the traffic jam and so we missed the flight. A great loss, but we managed to get the seats in the next flight after payment of additional cost and so we were on our trip. We landed in Ho Chi Minh City after 2 hours from Kolkata.
On reaching the airport we could easily track the hotel pickup, a man waiting in arrival lounge holding the placard of our name. He took us to our hotel, a nice one in heart of the city and reasonably good for the money that he had charged us. On the way to our hotel our first experience of the city was of traffic chaos where on roads the rule is Might is Right.
As we had arrived late in the day so after check in the hotel, we took shower and went out to get a feel of the city on foot. We took a map of the city from the hotel receptionist and we both were happy to see that many places were quite close to the hotel, good for us backpackers. We decided to start with the War Remnant Museum, which was located quite close to our hotel. The place was used to showcase the photos of the Vietnam War, with special focus on the atrocities done by so called American forces. The place had a gloomy look to us and so we went out fast. Some arms and ammunitions that were used during the war were also on display.
The next place was the Reunification Palace. This was the place used for handing over the power after the fall of Saigon in 1975. At that time it was used to be called as The Independence Palace. When we reached there, it was a bit late and the place was closed. So, we had to contend ourselves with taking pictures from outside only. The next location was that of Notre Dame Basilica. It was told to be 58 metre high and has two bell towers. Basically a piece of French Architecture with all materials said to be imported from France.
We also saw the Central Post Office Building which was build during early 20th Century when Vietnam belonged to the French Indochina. For memory we bought few postcards from these and posted them to our friends. The building of the Saigon central Post Office is said to be designed by the same architect who is known to have designed the Eiffel Tower.
By that time it was late afternoon and hence we decided to move to the Ben Thanh market. When we were on our way to the market we also stopped by to see the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. This place was designed in the French colonial style and said to be made sometime around 1902. The building is now known as the People’s Committee Hall and is not open to the visitors and public at large. But, we took our time to take photos along with the statue of Uncle Ho, which is installed near the entrance of the hall. After reaching the market we took our lunch. We chose the Chinese food and found it to be quite good. Then we set out to see the market. The market had everything to offer but we chose to buy some items as souvenirs for friends and family back home. The time flew by in the market and we returned late in night back to the hotel to finally take our dinner and then went to sleep to be ready next day for a short trip to Hanoi.
Next day we had an early morning flight at 0600 hrs and we had no intention of missing it again. So, we got up early, got ready, checked out on time and reached the airport to catch the flight. It was 2 hour journey and reached the Hanoi by 0800 hrs. There we met our tour guide James. He had come with the tour taxi, so we immediately barged into it and set out on our tour of the Halong City.
After going through the city for next 3 hours we finally reached the Halong Port by noon. We had plans to go to see the cave called Hang Sung Sot. For this we took a boat that took almost 2 hours to reach the place. On the way we got chance to see the Halong bay in all its serenity and beauty.
The boat ride was good and they served us seafood for lunch. It was very fresh and energetic and helped us to reach the cave which was at a long march upstairs from the place where the boat left us. On, reaching the entrance of the cave we were startled seeing those beautiful rock formations. Our guide told many interesting stories about the place. The place was so engulfing that after reaching there we never wanted to leave it. After spending few hours in the cave we stepped downstairs to reach back to our boat.
There was facility of doing kayak and we decided to give it a shot. Initially found it a bit difficult but soon got hold of it and enjoyed it for almost 2 hours. After that we started our return trip back to Halong Port and reached there by 6 PM. On our way back we spent our time sitting together on top of the roof boat and watched the beautiful sun go for rest behind the waters of the Halong bay, a really nice day indeed to be spent in the lap of nature.
After my visit to the place, let me say that the place is not bad considering that it is still a developing country so the things may not be same as they are in developed parts of the world. People are nice and calm and it is always advisable that one must remain polite when in Vietnam and not to lose temper. One should also be ready for the aggressive street vendors who shall be hell bent in selling their goods to you, disorganised local tour operator market and worst of all, the bad roads. Sometimes there is just chaos on the roads. If you are from developed part of the world you may not be able to adjust to this initially.
Some precautions to be followed when in Vietnam are that one must be a little conservative in choosing clothes. This may be a bit difficult to do as the place is hot, but still advisable looking at the fact that the society is a bit conservative. No open display of emotions in public. Be extra careful about your manners and dress when visiting pagodas. As the place is hot, drink lots of water, but only the bottled one. You shall easily find the bottled water everywhere. Never go for the open water as it won’t be hygienic.
If you take care of the above advises, you can be sure to have good time in Vietnam as we had.