Saigon – Da Lat – Nha Trang

13 Feb
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam traffic

Chaos in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

As I mentioned in my last post, we stayed in Ho Chi Minh City during the Vietnamese New Year called Tet. Because there were so many places closed, we decided to spend our last day in HCMC at the waterpark. We expected the park to be busy – but when we arrived I couldn’t believe the swarms of people! Thousands! Hundreds of thousands and we were the only foreigners. haha. I experienced more culture shock here than in downtown Saigon. Families picnic-ing on any manageable surface, grandmothers hanging their hammocks on trees, children racing each other, dads smoking cigarettes in the pools, etc. It was bizarre.

I heard a lot about Vietnamese and other Asian cultures being sensitive to ‘saving face’ in public. They don’t want to show strong emotions, like anger, in public. Seems reasonable. I noticed this immediately while standing in the line for a water slide. Tons of kids cut the line. They jump the fence laughing and just step right in front of you. Nobody says a thing!! It is so ridiculous and I was getting frustrated. I remembered the idea about ‘saving face’ so while this one kid jumped in front of me and smiled casually – I just gave him a solid death stare. After that, he let our group go in front of him and a bunch other Vietnamese people. Only he saw my face and that was enough. It was obvious: he didn’t want a scene.

We were looking forward to the Lazy River. Relaxing on a tube during a hot day… sigh! When we actually saw the Lazy River, we were definitely taken off guard. TONS of people, stampeding down the little stream – splashing everyone around them. It was chaos! This place was a downright fire hazard, but we had tons of fun and it felt great to be surrounded by the locals and not just tourists.

After Saigon, we took a bus to Da Lat. Many people refer to it as the City of Eternal Spring, because of its very temperate climate. During the occupation, the French came here to relax and retreat. I expected a quiet town with French villas and sunny hillsides – but Da Lat was pretty busy and chaotic. Lesson learned: there is no such thing as quiet. There are over 85 million people in Vietnam, a country that’s merely a sliver of Canada – so I suppose most towns will be fairly busy in comparison.

To escape the city where we wanted to escape, we hired motorbikes and drivers for the day. We explored the countryside on the back of old motorcycles with even older men – and it was fantastic! We visited flower farms, vegetable farms, rice-wine houses, coffee plantations and even a waterfall. We also toured a silk factory, which was pretty gross. They make silk from the cocoon of a silk worm – the whole process is disgusting but in the end, the silk looks fabulous.

Blue Starfish off the cost of Nha Trang, Vietnam

We are now in Nha Trang, a built up beach town in central Vietnam. The water is a lot colder than in Thailand and Cambodia, but very refreshing. Today, we went snorkeling. We explored some shallow reefs and saw a ton of butterfly fish, trumpet fish and even large jelly fish. Stefanie and I wanted to go diving, but I just got over a pretty nasty cold and Stefanie is starting to show symptoms. Head colds are horrible because you can’t equalize. If you are feeling stuffy, avoid scuba diving!

Tomorrow, we are going to a spa. They have cheap mud baths and mineral pools. I can’t wait for some indulgence!

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