CHAU DOC – Crossing in to Vietnam
As part of my Indochina Discovery tour, I arrived in to Vietnam from Cambodia (Sihanoukville) after a 4 hour bus ride. Our first stop was Chau Doc, a small border town bridging the two countries, where we stopped on our way to Ho Chi Minh City.
After arriving at our hotel and dumping our bags, we opted for a motorbike tour of the surrounding countryside. Each of us had our own motorbike driver who drove us up and around the nearby hills and through tiny villages; even at full speed through the one metre gaps between the houses which was slightly terrifying! At the top, we were greeted with a tiny sheltered bar area and a balcony area which overlooked the countryside for miles below. We treated ourselves to a celebratory beer (or maybe to calm the nerves for our journey home..) and watched the sunset, which was pretty cool. The drivers were great and were a lot of fun; stopping at interesting sights or temples along the way. All for a grand total of $4!
HO CHI MINH CITY
On our second day in Vietnam, we got up at early at 6am to take an 8 hour bus ride from Chau Doc to Ho Chi Minh (HCM). I’d previously visited HCM for 3 weeks when I was 16 with my mum, to work with a friend of ours who had opened a small cafe (Sozo – check it out!) which aimed to help disadvantaged street kids. We also visited her friend’s orphanage and took a bunch of kids to see the sea for the first time. Our hotel coincidentally happened to be just around the corner from the cafe, so I headed straight there to say hi and enjoy some of their famous coffee and cake!
In the evening, we went to a BBQ restaurant for dinner, which I’d highly recommend. Although pricier than other options, you choose your meat/ vegetables and get to BBQ it yourself on the table! Alongside being a lot of fun, it’s also extremely tasty. There’s often a huge choice too – there was even squirrel and scorpion on the menu, if that’s your thing! I can’t remember the name of the place we went to but Trip Advisor has loads of BBQ restaurant recommendations.
The following day, some of the group went to the Cu Chi tunnels, but I was rather hungover from the night before and overslept, missing the coach! The Cu Chi tunnels are a network of underground tunnels, which were the location of several military operations during the Vietnam War. Used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots, the 75 mile complex of tunnels is now a memorial park with two tunnel display sites. Visitors can squeeze in to the tiny tunnels (not for the claustrophobic) to see what life would have been like within the tunnels, or can opt to shoot an AK-47 at the shooting range.
Whilst the others were exploring the Cu Chi tunnels, I flagged a motorbike taxi and spent an hour wandering around Ben Thanh Market. One of the earliest surviving structures in HCM, it contains an profusion of foods (cooked and uncooked), clothes (”designer” of course), jewellry and handicrafts. A great place for practicing your haggling skills (most items can nearly be halved in price!) and for picking up any souvenirs.
Other options include a visit to the HCM City Museum, a trip to Lam Son Square for a night of culture or a day shopping amongst some of the richest residents, or a stroll down Dong Khoi, a lively stretch of shops and bars, spanning from Notre Dame Cathedral to the river. Check out Wanderlust for more information!
The next stop on the tour was Nha Trang!