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Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Country Recap: Vietnam

On a map, Vietnam doesn’t look that big. But when you’re traveling through that country, the hours add up. Not that that’s a bad thing, this country has a lot to offer. We weren’t expecting much, since we heard some bad things from other travelers. But we were very pleasantly surprised! It turned out to be a great time.

This was also the final country in our tour of Southeast Asia. I’m really glad we spent extra time in this region, rather than hurry ourselves through to get to Africa. As it turned out, we didn’t even have time to get to Laos, so I don’t know what we were thinking with our original plans. And we saved a lot of money–so far we’ve spent 64% of our time in Southeast Asia, but it’s only accounted for 35% of the cost of trip. Next up is North Asia, starting with China!

Top three experiences?

Nikki:

  1. Strolling down the streets in Hoi An at night.
  2. Hanging out in the park in Saigon.
  3. Riding bikes through Quy Nhon and up to the leper hospital. 

Brad:

  1. Hoi An.
  2. Saigon. For as busy as its streets are, there’s little pollution and its parks are peaceful. We also met some nice people and had our first tastes of delicious Vietnamese food there.
  3. Quy Nhon. The Leper Hospital beach was quiet and so worth biking over the gigantic hill.

Bottom three experiences?

Nikki:

  1. The DMZ tour. It sounded like more fun than it actually was.
  2. Getting caught in bad weather in Hanoi.
  3. Using what I can only describe as female urinals. They’re not even squat toilets, they’re just stalls (sometimes without doors) with two cinder blocks that you stand on and pee on the floor. To “flush,” you splash a cup of water on the floor. Smelled pretty bad in there.

Brad:

  1. DMZ Tour. It was a very long day of sitting on a bus, and we didn’t have much time to see the sights. Also, 35 years changes things a lot, and there wasn’t a lot to see at most of the historically-significant sites.
  2. Hanoi. The Old Quarter is very noisy, cramped, and dirty. The weather wasn’t great while we were here either.
  3. Being sick in Dalat. From the little we saw, it looked very nice, but between a fever and some weird stomach pain I definitely wasn’t up for much exploration.

Best meal?

Nikki: It wasn’t especially Vietnamese, but Brad’s seafood noodle dish in Quy Nhon was definitely the best. The squid was just incredible, it must have come straight from the sea. As far as Vietnamese dishes, I still really love phở.

Brad: The phở on our first night in Saigon. We might have had better, but this one stands out in my memory.

Worst meal?

Nikki: The Japanese pancake I ordered in a food court in Danang. It looked and smelled so good, but ended up being really gross. Not even sure what was in it, but whatever it was, I didn’t like it.

Brad: A cheeseburger I had in Hanoi one night. It was tiny (for the price) and pretty boring. Nikki’s dinner that night looked so good.

Favorite person we met?

Nikki: Has to be little Adam from Saigon.

Brad: Adam in Saigon. So full of energy, talkative, and incredibly smart for his age. He was such a joy talking to.

Worst disaster?

Nikki: Our Halong Bay tour getting canceled was pretty inconvenient and very disappointing. Oh well, maybe next time.

Brad: The Halong Bay cruise getting canceled. I suppose it was for the better, because even if the boat actually cruised we wouldn’t have seen anything, but it was too bad.

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: The Spark Hotel in Hanoi was very modern and comfortable, with wood floors, windows that actually looked out at the street, a flat screen TV, and a big bed. It even had a separate shower stall!

Brad: Les Sapins 60 hotel in Dalat. With soft beds, a huge area, and a nice bathroom, it was a fine place to be holed up sick. And they had really good breakfast for a great price.

Worst place we stayed?

Nikki: The Bao Son Hotel in Hue ended up being a nightmare. We had a room on the 5th floor and we constantly had to hike up and down the steps to tell the owners about problems. First the balcony door wasn’t locking, then the front door wasn’t shutting, then the front door wasn’t locking, then the key actually broke in the doorknob. Really way more trouble than it was worth.

Brad: A hotel in Hue, where we had repeated incidents with locks. The patio door didn’t lock, then the front door didn’t, so we switched rooms. Then on the last night the key broke inside the other room’s door, and we had to get a spare! Bad luck with the locks at that place.

Best thing we didn’t blog about?

Nikki: Eating and walking in Danang. Danang is one of those places that doesn’t have much to see, but because of that there’s no tourists and you can walk around without the constant hassle of touts and scammers.

Brad: In Nha Trang, when we got a drink at a bar called “Booze Cruise.” They had a live band playing really good rock classics, and we watched highlights from the last Olympics on the TV.

Weirdest thing?

Nikki: Instead of beeping, some cars play a medley of Christmas music when they reverse.

Brad: Where do I start?

  • When cars are backing up, they often play Christmas music instead of beeping. It’s mid-March.
  • Vietnam’s obsession with blinking LED displays, flashing neon signs, and cheesy blinking halos on Buddha and Jesus statues.
  • The Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi. It was less an informative experience and more a postmodern multimedia oddity. What does Guernica have to do with Vietnam? Nothing, but they have an exhibit for that. A cave hideout reimagined as the inside of Ho Chi Minh’s brain? I don’t get it.

Statistics for Vietnam

  • Days in the country: 23
  • Places we stayed: 9
  • Rainy days: 2
  • Blog posts: 4
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 2
  • Photos taken: 901
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 240, 27% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 1
  • Hours on bus, train, or ferry: 67
  • Overnight buses and trains: 2
  • Motorbike crashes witnessed: 3

Statistics for the Trip

  • Countries visited: 8
  • Days on the road: 207
  • Places we stayed: 96
  • Rainy days: 32
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 12
  • Photos taken: 7558
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 1766, 23% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 8
  • Hours on bus, train, or ferry: 254
  • Overnight buses, trains, and planes: 7

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