Just a whole bunch of photos from my vacation in Vietnam…
First, of course, there’s the Citadel. Right across the river from where I was staying, where the last emperors lived. Reminded me of the Forbidden City (and was modeled after it) but there are areas of ruins, destroyed during the war.
In Vietnam, I saw small shrines everywhere, sometimes just a few incense sticks sticking up from the sidewalk. Other times more ornate like this one:
A popular banh mi seller by the bridge on the south side of the Perfume river. Not my favorite, actually, the meat too fatty and chewy and sweet.
A local specialty called cơm hến with teeny tiny clams, peanuts, rice, herbs, and different vegetables. Can’t quite taste the clams but it had really great texture and was delicious.
I rented a bicycle one day in Hue and biked out of the city to this abandoned water park, Ho Thuy Tien. Quite eerie, especially alone. I started on the far end of the park where it was only myself and a few cows. Standing inside the dragon, I could watch other tourists approaching, including one Vietnamese family. There’s a “guard” at the front gate but there’s also a back route.
My visit coincided with Tet, the Vietnamese new year, and everywhere, there were flowers being sold. Little clementine trees and chrysanthemums.
Alongside the Perfume river, a water buffalo and her calf.
At night, the riverside in Hoi An is lit up by lanterns and little paper crowns with candles inside left to float on the river. It’s touristy but still oddly magical.
I did like the countryside best, where you can ride on a bike past paddies with egrets and water buffalo, a temple jutting up here and there. Someone told me that the dead in Vietnam get better houses than the living—the shrines and temples are incredible. This one is a simple family shrine, I think.
At a local market, small banh xeo. It made a great snack along with the silky tofu+ginger syrup from another vendor.
A local specialty of Hoi An, cao lau, which is thick rice noodles with roast pork, bean sprouts, herbs. Season it with soy sauce and lime.
Only in Da Nang will you find a fire- and water-breathing dragon bridge. Worth staying overnight just for that!
Ho Chi Minh:
More flowers being sold for the new year. I did spend some time with some flower sellers, cousins of a host, who had brought the flowers up from the Mekong. They had plenty of flowers a few days before Tet but expected to sell them all.
My favorite dessert, found on the backpacker street (Bui Vien). Silky tofu with ginger syrup, tapioca pearls, and sweetened condensed milk. Doesn’t look like much but it’s delicious and cheap at 7000 VND.
I ate at a lot of sidewalk vendors including this one. Grilled chicken with broken rice. The stools are tiny! I like the banh mi carts with their windows piled high with baguettes but I have to say that I prefer grilled fillings, rather than the cold cuts.
I took a couple of public buses to the more authentic Cu Chi tunnel area, Ben Duoc. Not hard to do at all and at the Cu Chi bus station, vendors like this guy would come onto the bus and sell snacks, sandwiches, and drinks. I have no idea what he’s selling though. Below, just a hidden entrance to the tunnels…I had to take off my backpack so I could squeeze in!
Just an impromptu fire show in the middle of the street…don’t know who she was performing for but it was pretty interesting!
Some com tam, grilled pork chop over broken rice. The broken rice is more dry than I like but I found myself ordering this quite a bit because I could read what it was and it would be fresh and hot.
Caught a lion dance show on my way out of the city. I’d actually never seen one performed on platforms before.
Mekong Delta (Can Tho):
Although Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong delta, because I spent part of my time in the countryside, it felt quite easy to escape it. Really easy to bike around on paths surrounded by banana trees and cross over the various creeks on thin bridges. Some were pristine but I saw one that was covered with garbage, yet a woman was still washing her clothes in it. The mosquitos are vicious. The bananas are tiny and plump with thin skins and incredibly sweet—one of my hosts picked some from a tree outside. Makeshift docks everywhere. Lovely to explore but so hot during the afternoon that all you can do is nap. And because of Tet, no floating markets. I’m sure it was quieter than usual with a lot of stores shuttered but there were definitely still vendors around and some restaurants open. And plenty of people enjoying the flower street and night markets.
Burning trash. Unfortunately, this was fairly common around many of the places I went to in Vietnam and would actually make it rather difficult to breathe. On the Hai Van pass between Hue and Hoi An, I’d asked the tour guide whether the air was misty due to actual mist or pollution. His response had been that central Vietnam doesn’t really have factories so it was mist but I’m not so sure. There are tons of motorcycles and random fires burning (completely untended!) which would maybe contribute to some obvious air pollution.
So many jackfruit!
Nem nướng̣, grilled pork patties that you wrap in rice paper with lettuce, herbs, chives, green banana slices, cucumber, and any of the other fixings. Really good!
In Can Tho, the riverside walking path ended in a large lot where kids and adults were renting these mini cars and hoverboards to play with. There was also a large night market nearby.
Both of my homestays in Can Tho were fostering tiny abandoned kittens!
It was a lot of traveling but I’m glad to be back, even if I’m greeted here by an earthquake (I woke up and felt my bed shaking) and perpetual rain. Hoping the rain lets up soon since the gloom makes me very unproductive!