Farewell to Vietnam :(
I had an interesting introduction to Saigon in the south of Vietnam. It started with a walk through the busy bustling streets and side street stores, along with a lovely dinner alone and then a beer with a nice english couple sat next to me. And then I nearly became a Ho Chi Minh street robbery statistic. I had literally walked two blocks from my hostel for dinner and it wasn't too late at night and there were people everywhere on the streets! I was in total shock :( As I walked back to my hostel I saw an old man give a nod to a young man sat next to him, and they both got up and the young one started to quickly walk behind me even though he knew I could see him. I even turned around and stared him out in the hope he would stop (stupid I realise now...). I ran for my life into a fancy hotel with security and pointed the man out. I waited a while and then they said to me the coast is clear, but I was too freaked out to walk the 100m to my hostel so they called me a taxi and bless the man he held my hand as he walked me to the hostel door to make sure that I was ok. As we drove along, we saw the guy sitting on the street waiting a little further down with 4 other guys. Thank goodness I didn't carry on walking.
So sad, because it really scared me and made me want to leave the city immediately and I had hoped to spend a few days exploring. After giving it some thought I decided to do an organised tour to see the Cu Chi Tunnels and then make my way towards Cambodia instead.
The tour was a long day. They picked us up at 8am and we drove for hours to get to a Cathedral called Coa Dai Temple. It was a beautiful building and inside there was a prayer ceremony going on which meant that we could watch the service and take photos from the floor above. I took the opportunity to do my daily handstand outside the building. From here we drove a little further and stopped for lunch, before traveling on to the Cu Chi Tunnels. At lunch I sat with two lovely people who were both from Brazil and traveling together, they had both been living in Australia prior to their trip. Such nice conversation. They told me that they had managed to see the main temples that they were interested in, in Cambodia, in just 2 days so I could definitely fit the main ones into a 3-4 day trip - which was how many days that I had left. That just about sealed the deal for me, in terms of moving on from Vietnam and making sure I saw Cambodia. Especially after the near robbery, and also the idea of doing handstand photos with the backdrop of the temples was very exciting for me ;)
The tunnels of Cu Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Saigon and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. They were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for many Northern Vietnamese fighters. The tunnels were of great importance in the Vietnamese resistance to American forces, and evidently there is a great deal of pride in what is believed to be what helped them to achieve ultimate military success.
The rain arrived as we got to the tunnels so we had a bit of a rushed tour, which was fine as we all felt quite exhausted from the long journey to get there. It was a really long day for just 45 minutes walking around the tunnels :( I found the video of the history of the tunnels fascinating and seeing just how small they are made me feel claustrophobic just thinking about them. I can't believe that people actually spent large portions of their lives down there! Amazing. We were shown the entrances to the tunnels and they are exactly as I imagined...teeny, tiny holes that probably would hurt my hips to try and drop down into. Insanely small. We also had the opportunity to climb inside a small series of tunnels, with the option of getting out of each one after every 20m. I went to go inside the first entrance and freaked out...then managed to get convinced into it and went last of everyone. WOAH was that scary for someone who is as apparently claustrophobic as me.... The guys in front of me stopped every couple of metres to take photos and I thought I would go into full blown hyperventilating panic attack :( It was horrible, I had to ask them to keep moving to keep my head together. Thank god for yoga breaths lol... I jumped out as soon as I could and met everyone a bit further down. Such a chicken. I can run and jump off a mountain with a paraglide attached to my back floating through the sky with eagles for an hour, but I can't crawl 20m through a small tunnel. Interesting huh!
Later that evening once back in the city I had such a nice evening. Clare and Anne, who I had met in the hostel that morning at breakfast, knocked on my door to make dinner plans. At the same time Candice and Tori, who I had met in Mui Ne backpackers, also got in touch to meet for dinner. So we all went together to a place that is well known for its' Pho soup. So nice, everyone got along well and it was lovely to see Candice and Tori again before they start their exciting travel adventures through Vietnam and Cambodia. Clare and Anne helped me book my escaping Saigon bus ticket to Siem Reap, Cambodia for the next morning. 12 hour journey on a non sleeper, non VIP bus...which should be interesting. Then we chilled out in the hostel communal area chatting away. Very relaxed and nice :)
It's been a beautiful whirlwind of an experience. I saw Vietnam for 18 fun filled days and still I feel like I only scratched at the surface. I will without a doubt be back to see more of this stunning country. Hanoi I love your smooth and co-ordinated shops, the lake, the views, the smiles, the colourful artwork, the friendly people, the amazing food - especially Pho and Bun Cha Han Oi :) The Temple of Literature mesmerized me with its immense sense of calmness, and I took a little piece of that away with me as I re-entered the chaos of Hanoi city centre outside. Halong Bay - your beauty amazed me and I am so grateful that we finally met after looking at photos of you forever dreaming of seeing you one day! Hue - I enjoyed your coffee shops, and the opportunity to unwind and do nothing at all. Hoi An - the love of my trip. amazing, amazing, amazing. Such history, culture, people, buildings, lanterns, colours, temples, pagodas, artwork. The food at Morning Glory - wow! The cooking course that I adored, and Dingo Deli what an amazing cafe :) The new clothes from various tailors, the dress for the wedding - in LOVE! I will be back to do photography with Entienne for sure! Nha Trang - your brashness, the cool weather that allowed me to do my first run in months since India and Nepal. A beach to lie on and watch the ocean, a different landscape (one which makes my heart beat faster), and the opportunity to chill on a lounger at the fancy Sailing Club. Mui Ne - your amazing calmness from the moment that I arrived, my favourite dorm room so far and amazing inspiration for my handstand collection from the awesome people that I met that day. The sand dunes in torrential rain, the handstand photo with the runaway bride. And Saigon - a lesson learnt not to walk alone in a new city, to keep your wits about you and never ever let your guard down. Also the chance to learn more still about your history and culture. And most of all the friendships that I have made along the way. Who knew I would be so lucky to meet so many wonderful people from around the World. Literally around the World! So many inspiring people, and the opportunity to learn so much more about myself as I travelled alone through the country for the first time really on my adventure so far :)
Now to cross the border and see the fabulous temples of Cambodia!!!!!