Budget Travel: 16 Days in Vietnam Part 2
If you haven't read Part 1 yet, you can go back to it by clicking here!
If you read Part 1, you know about the insanity of the first few days of our trip. Well, it didn't end there!
After being sick from drinking the water for three days, riding together on a 110cc scooter until we dumped it in the road and a bird pooped on me, it was time to move on. So we did! We sold the scooter with the help of a hotel desk employee (thank God for Google translator!), then he helped us get on the right overnight bus to Hoi An.
This bus was cheap which we loved, but if you go this route be prepared. We were under the impression that the ride would be about 7 hours. Maybe this detail was lost in translation. Regardless, the trip ended up being 13 hours. There was no bathroom yet they gave us a water bottle. We also happened to be sitting next to a puking baby (this isn't uncommon as many people are so accustomed to riding scooters that they get motion sickness on the bus). So yep... that was our ride. Matt was squished into a seat meant for someone about 5 ft tall, and I was livid. By the end of the 13 hours I was ready to punch a baby, plus I was dehydrated and starving. If someone had handed me a ticket back to the US I would have taken it with a smile.
But we got through it, and I am so glad! Hoi An was amazing! The town is known for its beauty as it sits alongside a beautiful river and is lit by food stands and gorgeous lanterns. If you have the chance to stop there we absolutely suggest it. You may even want to purchase some handmade clothing. I am not typically the person to do this, but I had two dresses made. It took 24 hours and $120- I couldn't say no! Hoi An is also full of historical spots. Sadly much of the area is overrun with garbage, but it was still one of our favorite parts of the trip.
After Hoi An we took a flight from Da Nang to Cat Ba Island. Because Hoi An is such a touristy spot the flight was extremely easy to set up. Most people who work at hostels speak English and they are willing to help you in any way.
Cab drivers though- not as willing to help. Every time I watch the part of the video where we go from the cab to the boat I say how he robbed us. Look, he said a price then he changed it when we arrived. Lots of difference in Vietnamese money, only a difference of an American dollar. It's the principle of it!
Cat Ba Island was by far the most "vacation-y spot" (does that make sense?). Everyone spoke English, there were a million tours and hotels to choose from, and there was a lot of American music. Normally we try to shy away from those areas, but we ended up staying there for four days. We had a room with a stunning view that only cost $10 a night. We had the most amazing sea food, took a boat toar of Ha Long Bay, swam next to the most giant jellyfish I have ever seen, and almost died on a hike.
The hike was pretty incredible. If we had done this in the US we would have been checked for full packs of water, good shoes, and we probably would have signed a consent form. But we were in Vietnam! We went on a 10 mile hike, a huge part of which was very steep. We were lucky to have the correct shoes, but other people in our group struggled. We also ran out of water at the top. The view was worth it, but on the way down I honestly wasn't sure Matt was going to make it. I started singing to try to coax him. I'm not sure why I thought that would work because I am NOT a singer, but that's what happened. Luckily we lived and we got to eat a family style Vietnamese meal after the most difficult part was behind us.
The days went by too quickly, and soon it was time to head back to Ho Chi Mihn. This time we took a plane.
We decided to take a tour to a pagoda in the northern part of the country. Matt was feeling sick and his knee was killing him. It looked like he had gotten bit by something on the hike and it was infected. You never want to let something like that stop you on vacation so off to the pagoda we went. We climbed a ton of stairs, rubbed a whole bunch of Buddhas, and took a ride along a river. Other than Matt's bad knee slowing him down (I wasn't nice about it and this becomes funny later) the day was fantastic. It showed us a side of Vietnam we didn't get to see much of on the trip, so it was really special for us.
Our last day in Ho Chi Mihn was by far the most memorable part of the trip. It wasn't because it was our last day with the amazing food, the bitter coffee or the curbside pho- we visited the War Remnants Museum (formerly known as the US War Crime Museum). The feeling we had walking through the exhibits is not something that is easy to describe. We have grown up hearing about Vietnam, and both of us know people who served. In fact the war was the first thing some family members thought of when we mentioned our plans to visit, and it made them question our choice.
War is ugly. War also has two sides. Seeing the war from the other side was so powerful. We learned that over one hundred thousand people have been killed since the war from un-exploded ordinances left in the country, and generations of people were left disfigured or sickly because of Agent Orange. I am not trying to have a stance on the war- I wasn't around and I don't know enough about it to say if there was a right and a wrong side. What I do know is that it hurt so many people in both countries, and seeing that in an uncensored manner was something I will never forget.
So totally changing subject, Matt's knee was still killing him. We found a random pharmacy and walked up making "in pain" faces and trying to make hand motions to show Matt's knee was swollen. They gave us medicine in a box we couldn't read and Matt took it. Luckily we were heading for the airport, and whatever the heck they gave him made him feel better during the plane ride. Just a side note, our six hour flight from Vietnam to China was spent next to a woman who was puking uncontrollably. That is bad enough, but on top of it she was sweating profusely and leaning on Matt (he let this happen!!!!!). I almost felt bad for her, but then she was eating and puking and then eating more!!! This made the baby on the bus like a slice of heaven.
A few days after we got home Matt found out it wasn't an infected bug bite- he had MRSA. It hadn't been treated in 6 days and he was lucky he didn't end up in serious condition in the hospital. He will forever have a scar the size of a bullet in his knee, and I will forever be known as the jerk who got mad at him for needing ice after walking up the pagoda's never ending stairs.
Okay- let's end on a positive note. Basically, our trip to Vietnam was the most awful and wonderful trip we have ever been on. There were so many ups and downs it is pretty impossible to capture everything. Bottom line though- if you have ever even remotely considered going, GO! The country is beautiful, the trip is affordable (watch airfare deals!), and the people are so kind. One thing we can guarantee is that it will be a trip you will NEVER forget (especially if you contract MRSA... just kidding.. don't do that).
Let us know what you think about this article in the comments below! If you have any questions about our trip or if you are planning your own, feel free to send us an email at SimplyPallets@gmail.com!