Ho Chi Minh City (cont) & Nha Trang

Day 51 / Day 10 of ATID – Ho Chi Minh City

After breakfast at the hotel, nearly all of us had opted in to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels for a half day and so jumped into our private minibus with another excellent local guide to travel there. This particular guide was fond of making ‘beep beep beep’ noises loudly to get our attention in the tourist crowds, mimicking the constant beeping of the Vietnam traffic…it wasn’t as annoying as it sounds, at least not to me, and he really seemed to know his stuff as he chatted to us on the bus and then guided us around the Cu Chi tunnels site.

(It has been pointed out to me by one of the travellers who joined us on the previous evening that actually, three travellers joined us when we commenced the second part of our g adventures tour, not two – this is correct, and we met the third on this morning at breakfast as she arrived late the evening before!)

Speaking of the guide ‘beeping’ to imitate traffic…I did not mention it in the previous post but yes, Vietnam traffic is really something out of this world. There are a lot of vehicles, especially two-wheeled drives (many motorcycles), there is a lot of beeping and there are essentially no ‘safe’ crossings on the roads. Sure there might be something that, say, looks akin to the zebra crossing of the UK but the vehicles will all treat it like it’s not there. The best way is to form as long a line as possible (parallel with the road, I mean, not single file) and then go across as a group, slowly but steadily – never stop! Motorcycles will assess your pace and go around you. Cars are a bit more tricky, but try to cross when there is a sparsity of these and you’ll be okay.

The Ho Chi Minh City street our hotel was located on
The Ho Chi Minh City street our hotel was located on

So, back to the Cu Chi tunnels! This was a really amazing morning, and worth paying for. In the past I had heard vague terms such as ‘guerrilla warfare’, especially in relation to the Vietnam war, but didn’t really know much about the war or what guerrilla warfare actually entailed. The previous day at the War Remnants museum, subsequent Googling and discussions with Dave were an education in the war. Our half day at the Cu Chi tunnels, then, was an education in the ingenious methods employed by many of the ordinary citizens of Vietnam to keep alive (they lived and operated underground through an extensive network of – yup – secret tunnels) whilst at the same time fighting the enemy, through a combination of really rather clever traps and tricks as well as actual fighting. They’re worth reading about – the secret passages and the warfare tactics.

Dave getting into an example of a hiding place at the Cu Chi Tunnels - it's completely camouflaged once he puts that thing over his head!
Dave getting into a narrow hideaway at the Cu Chi Tunnels – it’s completely camouflaged once he puts that thing over his head!
They've built some tunnels for tourists so can experience what it was like for Vietnam citizens hiding and living underground!
They’ve widened some existing tunnels for tourists (we’re bigger than those who used the tunnels and also not as used to it) so you can experience what it was like for Vietnam citizens hiding and living underground!

Later in the afternoon after we had returned to our hotel, we set off for a noodle soup lunch at a place our guide from earlier had recommended, involving a walk through the city.

Seen in Ho Chi Minh City
Seen in Ho Chi Minh City

I regret to say I can’t remember the exact name of the noodle soup place and this is one of the occasions on the tour I wish I’d paid closer attention because it was amazing! This was my introduction to ‘Pho’ and unfortunately no other place, in Vietnam or outside of it, has come close to delivering such good noodle soup.

Mmmmmm....Pho
Mmmmmm….Pho

After our Pho we headed to the famous Bến Thành Market, a big indoor marketplace in the city selling lots and lots of different thing from food to sleeping liners – I don’t normally enjoy trawling markets that much because I dislike constantly being asked to ‘look, look’ and dislike haggling, but I had managed at some point along the way managed to lose my sleeping bag liner and needed to replace it. We ended up getting one for just a few dollars (US) which wasn’t bad.

Ben Than Market entrance
Ben Than Market entrance
Inside the market - busy busy busy!
Inside the market – busy busy busy!

In the evening, we caught a sleeper train on to our next destination, Nha Trang. Dave and I grabbed some chips at the station and we had bought pot noodles for later on to consume on the train.

This sleeper train was much nicer than the ones we had experienced in China. These had four bed compartments rather than six and each compartment had a locking door. There was plenty of room on overhead shelves and under beds for luggage. There was wooden (or wooden effect?) panelling everywhere and soft yellow night lamps (one for each bed) and the whole effect was rather cosy. A bunch of us crammed into one of the compartments and watched part of a Harry Potter movie on one of the girl’s laptops and I’ll be honest, it was awesome.

The only downside compared to the trains of China was that unfortunately there was no hot water for the pot noodles in our carriage! Staff on the train kept directing us to the canteen cabin for hot water but after walking what seemed like the entire length of the train to reach it, we were told the hot water thing was broken. To be honest it didn’t look broken and I suspect a bribe was needed but we just couldn’t be bothered and I survived off the snacks whilst Dave bravely ate cold-water-pot noodles.

Day 52 / Day 11 of ATID – Nha Trang

We couldn’t check into our Nha Trang hotel straight away as we arrived rather early in the morning. So after eating a pancake breakfast at a café (Nha Trang is first and foremost a beach holiday destination and there are lots of cafes in town, many offering Western fare. Weirdly not many on the actual beachfront though, you have to walk a bit further inland to get to them) and dropping our bags off, most of us headed to the beach.

Nha Trang beach is nice, very geared towards tourists. You pay the equivalent of about $2 to $3 (US) each on average for an umbrella-covered lounge chair (these are in abundance) at most places along the beach, and you can stay all day. So Dave and I spent the day chilling on the beach – a welcome change of pace from the business of the last few days! I had my first coconut-water of the holiday, and for lunch we wandered to try and find some sandwiches to bring back to the beach. Unfortunately not many places close to the beach seemed to do takeout options so we wandered quite far before eventually managing to find some in a pokey little shop in town! They were good sandwiches, though.

Nha Trang beach
Nha Trang beach

In the evening the group headed to a local Claypot restaurant. I was advised not to get my usual curry and to try a traditional claypot dish…so I did, and wished I’d got a curry! Actually not many of the group were too impressed by the food at this place, which was a bit of a shame, as we’d heard good things. Ah well…!

An early night for Dave and I, with plans to visit either the local (renowned!) waterpark of Vinpearl the next morning or the local mudbaths…

Day 53 / Day 12 of ATID – Nha Trang

….alas, neither was to be. We slept in late (I missed the included breakfast though Dave managed to make it) and couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere to be honest. Sooo around 12 (yep that’s how long we dithered for) we headed back to the Random Sandwich Shop and then to the beach, where we stayed for the whole day.

Awww - Nha Trang beach
Awww – Nha Trang beach

In the evening, after my arduous (ha) day, I decided to go and get a Vietnamese massage at a place one of the girls had recommended to me from the day before. It cost about $10 (US) for a full body massage for an hour – excellent value. Unfortunately, I don’t ever get massages, and so stupidly headed there straight after the beach, and the lady massaging me exclaimed lots of incomprehensible things at me in Vietnamese after I’d removed my shirt, which with the help of the owner translating (he was male and thank God I realised in time that she’d gone to get him so could cover myself, as she gave no warning in any language before he walked in!!!), I realised meant that I was too sandy. Luckily they had a shower on site for this purpose so I showered and then had my massage. It did leave me feeling a bit relaxed and an ache I’d had in my left thigh (not sure what from) disappeared, but bits of it were a little painful and the language barrier meant I couldn’t really chat properly with her when she tried to talk to me in simple English. She also snickered a bit now and then throughout and couldn’t answer me (obviously) when I asked what she was laughing at. Overall, though vaguely relaxing, it was also an uncomfortable experience for me, as I’m quite a sensitive soul. I don’t think I’d get a massage with such a language barrier in place ever again. Don’t much enjoy being almost naked and not knowing whether the masseuse’s laughter is directed at me!! However, that aside, if you’re not too sensitive like me, it was EXCELLENT value for money and would recommend it for that.

Whilst I was getting massaged, Dave picked up some  snacks for our second sleeper train of the trip. This train seemed as cosy and wonderful as the last, until someone spotted cockroaches. And then someone else spotted a rat. Yeah, fun times…!! Still, managed to sleep, tucked deep into my sleeping bag liner for safety.

All in all, a bit of a weird day. The beach bit was good though!

Our next destination was Vietnam’s most famous tailor-shop destination, Hoi An. We actually didn’t get anything tailored but still found plenty to do – which you can read about in the next post 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Ro x

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