These reports are from our very first trip to Vietnam in September 2014, so therefore prior to the previous trip reports!
Originally posted on TripAdvisor, this is where it all began…
19-20 September 2014
Ok, Trip Report time.
Trip Report doesn’t sound exciting enough. Sounds mundane….
Maybe “Summary of an Incredible Adventure”?
Call it whatever…
So, a quick summary of how we ended up here.
Around 18 months ago some friends, who had visited Vietnam previously, suggested that we should all go tour Vietnam together.
Lisa, with a couple of wines under her belt, says, “What a great idea!”
Well over the next 12 months not a lot of progress is made. The friends decide they can no longer go and we realise that with kid’s sport / school we really only have a small window of opportunity to do this. And that window is the beginning of September to mid October.
Lisa wants to do an organised tour.
I don’t think I like that idea.
My problem however, is I know nothing about Vietnam. I don’t know where it is on a map and I don’t even know what the country looks like. It was time to start researching.
And this seemed an incredibly daunting prospect. Made even more daunting by the fact that I had never been overseas in my life.
Was it really a wise choice to use as my very first overseas journey?
Well, I was going to find out, as I made my way towards the deep end….
So after countless hours on the computer, pretty much all of them on Trip Advisor, and more reading than I ever did in school, it started to feel a little less daunting.
So much so, that the idea of a guided tour just seemed to be an unnecessary thing. The extra money wasn’t the issue. It was the thought of being lead around by a guide, with a group of others like us, spending a predetermined amount of time at a predetermined place.
I wanted a bit more of a say in what we did. And when we did it.
Once a very rough itinerary was pencilled down it was time to book the flights.
Days available, price and stopover time lead us to book with Malaysia Airlines.
Then MH17 happened.
Which was after MH370.
Thought crossed my mind once or twice….
But like putting your money on the wrong horse before the race; you don’t change it.
Now finally, the trip….
Left Melbourne at 12.05am on 19 September bound for HCMC with a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
Thankfully, a pretty uneventful flight.
Arrived HCMC around 12.00pm on a Friday.
After clearing Customs (gee they’re a happy bunch….) we were met in the terminal by our pre-arranged driver. It was a nice feeling not having to worry about potential taxi issues.
So, the drive to the hotel.
I expected, from what I’d read, been told, seen briefly on a short Youtube clip, HCMC to be busy. To be crowded. To be noisy.
It was all of those things. But about 10 times what I expected.
I was blown away.
After checking into the hotel it was time to venture out. And after seeing what I had just seen, I actually wasn’t really looking forward to doing that. And I knew Lisa and the kids were also a little concerned. Scared even.
Anyway, off we went. That deep end again…..
Wow! Just Wow!
The people, the bikes, the cars, the noise, the smells.
And then added to all that, the cyclo drivers, amongst other vendors. It was at this point all the TA advice I’d read came flooding back. It was, at times, quite intimidating. Fortunately I felt reasonably equipped, information wise.
Anyway, we just walked. Not sure where, but after consulting our map, we found we weren’t far from the War Remnants Museum. We took the opportunity to have a look. Very interesting place and well worth a visit. But some of the photos are a little hard to look at. It is very moving.
Time to head back to the hotel. I don’t know how long it took us but it took far longer than it should have. Walking in the wrong direction will cause that. We got lost. A lot. But it was all good fun. Sort of….
Completely, and utterly, overawed by the whole experience, we eventually made it back to the hotel. And I think if someone had been standing there with return tickets to Melbourne, we may have even taken them.
Yep, that culture shock was a very real thing.
What the vast majority of people say about this tour on TA is absolutely spot on. It is a wonderful experience.
So friendly, so professional, so well run. So much fun.
It’s one of the more expensive things you’ll do in Vietnam, especially when there’s four of you, but it is worth it. And the kids loved it too.
If you’re in HCMC, just do it!
So, it had been an interesting first 6 hours.
We had gone from the excitement of having finally arrived in Vietnam, to the “what have we got ourselves into” and “have we made a big mistake”, to a feeling of absolute joy. It really was a fantastic night and a wonderful way to begin our holiday.
Next morning we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels. Interesting place to see and certainly worth a visit, but the whole thing seemed to take far longer than it should have.
When we did finally get back to the hotel we just spent the rest of the day relaxing.
And what better way to relax than sitting on the footpath with a beer watching the world go by.
It was a nice way to just soak it all in.
The next day it was up early to say goodbye to HCMC.
Our next stop was the Mekong Delta.