Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

Our last stop in Vietnam was in the south.  First we stopped in Ho Chi Minh for the day and then spent three days on the Mekong delta in a Sampan (small boat) that we rented for three days and two nights.  And Finally we returned to Ho Chi Minh for three days to terminate our trip.

Ho Chi Minh, contrary to the other parts of Vietnam we visited, was a very busy metropolitain city with all the exclusive brand stores and state of the art buildings, restaurants and stores that cater mostly to tourists and then there is the other part of the town that is more geared to what the vietnamese can afford.

On our first day we explored the city and visited the War Museum, the Post Office, the Cathedral and the city in general.  Then we headed to the Mekong Delta where we sent off on our sampan.  This is a private little boat that includes an english tour guide, a captain and two helpers.  They all catered to only David and I.  We spent three days and two nights visting the Delta, taking in the beautiful scenery and stopping periodically to visit a market, a brick making factory, a candy factory, a temple,  we also had supper at the house of a wealthy local, etc.  All very interesting and eye opening.

On our return to Ho Chi Minh, we took a day to go and visit the Cu Chi tunnels where the Viet Cong hid and fought the americans during the Vietnam War.  We were given a history lesson from the perspective of the Vietnamese and NOT what we’ve always heard from the  American version and movies it was very unsettling to see how these people managed to live for years in these tiny tunnels with all that entailed.  Bugs, scorpions, bombs exploding overhead, tunnels being flooded by the americans to ‘flush out’ the Viet Cong, etc.  I walked about 40 meters (walking is a generous term, more like scuttled along bent over, and I’m only 5’3”) and was very anxious to get out, so I definately, could not image living full time in these tunnels.

On our last day, we visited some museums and did a little last minute souvenir shopping.

The Vietnamese are an amazing, accepting, resilient people who still manage to be happy with the little they have and who have learned to put the past behind them and live for the future.

The Rex Hotel at night.

The Rex Hotel at night.

View from our room at the Rex.  The Rex is where the foreign correspondants would meet and exchange stories during the Vietnam war.  This gathering of correspondants was called the Five O'Clock Follies.

View from our room at the Rex. The Rex is where the foreign correspondants would meet and exchange stories during the Vietnam war. This gathering of correspondants was called the Five O’Clock Follies.

View from the Rex Hotel Bar

View from the Rex Hotel Bar

View from the Rex Hotel bar

View from the Rex Hotel bar

Ho Chi Minh at sunset

Ho Chi Minh at sunset

Inside the Post Office

Inside the Post Office

Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral build by the French during their occupation

Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral built by the French during their occupation

Traffic outside Ho Chi Minh

Traffic outside Ho Chi Minh

More Traffic

More Traffic

On our way to the Cu Chi Tunnels

On our way to the Cu Chi Tunnels

Washing the laundry

Washing laundry On the Delta

Brick Transporter

Brick Transporter

Water marketplace

Water marketplace

Would you like some pineapples?

Would you like some pineapples?

Each boat posts on a long mast what they are selling.

Each boat posts on a long mast what they are selling.

Bargaining on the river

Bargaining on the river

Water marketplace

Water marketplace

Another Village at sunset

Village at sunset

Activity outside the temple

Activity outside the temple

Inside the temple, where people are getting ready to worship.

Inside the temple, where people are getting ready to worship.

Marketplace garb.

Marketplace garb.

The village

The village

Brick Making Factory

Brick Making Factory

Workers in the factory

Workers in the factory

Shoveling in the rice shucks to fuel the fire to cook the bricks.

Shoveling in the rice shucks to fuel the fire to cook the bricks.

Carrying out the cooked bricks.

Carrying out the cooked bricks.

Young boy in the brick factory

Young boy in the brick factory

Brick factory angles, running around the factory with no shoes or safety gear.  Supervision you say?  None whatsoever.

Brick factory angles, running around the factory with no shoes or safety gear. Supervision you say? None whatsoever.

My little angles

My little angles

Once the bricks are made, they are shipped off by boat to other villages.

Once the bricks are made, they are shipped off by boat to other villages.

Fishermen

Fishermen

Fishing at sunrise

Fishing at sunrise

Work on the river at sunrise

Work on the river at sunrise

Landscape at sunrise

Landscape at sunrise

Internet cafe where young village boys congregate.

Internet cafe where young village boys congregate.

Marketplace in the small village

Marketplace in the small village

Young boy doing homework in the boat.

Young boy doing homework in the boat.

Housing and people working

Housing and people working

More Village Activity

More Village Activity

Activity at the village

Activity at the village

Small village at sunset

Small village at sunset

Landscape with reflection.

Landscape with reflection.

Temple, I loved the reflection in the water

Temple, I loved the reflection in the water

Bridges are very active and often have people, walking, biking or using their Vespas on them.

Bridges are very active and often have people, walking, biking or using their Vespas on them.

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Housing on the Mekong

Fishermen, this photo was taken at sunrise.  They are hard working and get to the task at hand very early.

Fishermen, this photo was taken at sunrise. They are hard working and get to the task at hand very early.

Fishermen

Fishermen with his traps

Fishermen on the river.

Fishermen on the river.

Washing clothes, a regular activity on the river.

Washing clothes, a regular activity on the river.

Banana salesboat

Banana salesboat

Women working in the Candy factory.

Women working in the Candy factory.

Process of making popped rice.

Process of making popped rice.

Making Coconut Canady, Delicious

Making Coconut Canady, Delicious

Woman showing us the making of rice paper

Woman showing us the making of rice paper

Spreading the rice paper around

Spreading the rice paper around

Checking if the rice paper is ready to take off to dry.

Checking if the rice paper is ready to take off to dry.

Dock to the candy factory

Dock to the candy factory

Building along the Mekong Waterway

Building along the Mekong Waterway

Young woman waiting to escort us to our table at a french restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

Young woman waiting to escort us to our table at a french restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

Typical bridge over one of the many small waterways off of the Mekong Delta

Typical bridge over one of the many small waterways off of the Mekong Delta

Fighting Cocks, this is still a widly accepted sport in Vietnam.

Fighting Cocks, this is still a widly accepted sport in Vietnam.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is located in central Vietnam and after our trek in Sapa, we headed south to this beautiful area of the country.  We stayed at a beach resort that was located about 5 minutes from the old city of Hoi An.  This is a magical city at night where the lanterns are lit in all of the windows and stores. What made it very attractive to us was the friendliness of the people as well as how easy it was to get around the city.

Hoi An is also known for its tailors which can be found at every second shop.  Go in, get measured and within a day or two you have some wonderful suits.  You can also get these done in a matter of hours, but I’m not sure how good the fit would be since we had to go in for three separate fittings.

Enjoy the adventure with us.

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Fisherman throwing his nets.

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Lantern Making. Courses are given if you so desire, but the cost of a large lantern is about $5 us.

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Colorful Lanterns

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Lantern store

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Moss growing on the roofs of Hoi An shops

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Restuarant in Hoi An

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Lanterns hung on trees overlooking the river and the other side of Hoi An

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Japanese Bridge

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Life on the river

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Old man selling his picture for $1. His way of making some cash.

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Lanterns hung around a little shop

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Old woman selling lanterns for $1. Once purchase, they are lit and you make a wish and let them float downstream on the river. Very pretty when there are a bunch of them floating at the same time.

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These young girls gestured to us from the street (we were eating in a second floor restaurant) to purchase a floating lantern from them. They waited for almost an hour while we ate and of course we could not resist buying a few of their lanterns. School night, it was dark and getting late and no parents were around. But they sat their and giggled the entire time we watched.

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View from the temple doors

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Hoi An in the rain.

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A pastry seller. Even when it rains, business must go on.

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Hoi An Cloth market, where you can go and bargain for cloth. The women will then make whatever you want out of that cloth for a very good price.

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Hoi An Harbor

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Entrance to a little village not far from Hoi An

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Fishermen on the river

 

Da Nang, traffic

Da Nang, traffic

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Live Chickens for sale

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The marketplace. Waiting on clients.

 

Hoi An Market

Hoi An Market

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Kids playing in their front yard in a little village not far from Hoi An

Living room

Typical Living room in a small village.

Rickety Bridge

This bridge was so rickety that if you were to stop while riding your bicycle, you took the chance of your wheels getting stuck in a hole. This little bridge joined two outlying villages near Hoi An

Old woman

This old woman was 86 years old and had spent her entire life making straw mats, which is what the locals sleep on. It takes approximately 5 hours to make and they sell them for 20000 dong which is about $1 us.

Sapa – North Vietnam

During our travels to Vietnam, Sapa was probably the most eye opening, beautiful and destabilizing of all.  However, in the three weeks that I was in Vietnam, I will remember the people of Sapa the most and I was only there for two days.  I could have spent weeks here and never gotten sick of the place or the amazingly nice people.  The children were cute as buttons, the women so hard working and strong in both mind, body and spirt it was humbling, the men, kinda scarce.

On our first day in Sapa we travelled to the Bac Ha Market to see how the locals traded and lived.  It was a feast for the eyes. The colors, the smiles, the bartering and bargaining was enjoyable.  It always amazes me that some tourist will squable for a buck when these hard working people have so much less then we do.  Share the love people.  Very enjoyable to see how they lived, work and socialized.

Our second day was spent trekking with the Sapa Sisters.  This is a very small organization of a few women who are trying to empower women in their country.  They give trekking tours in the rice fields and villages and are absolutely charming, entertaining and knowledgeable.  They are also very good with the english language and are pretty easy to understand.  When we went I was disappointed at first because it was raining and misting and we debated on cancelling the trek.  But we had taken an overnight train from Hanoi to see Sapa and I didn’t want a little rain to deter us.  So we I rented some mud boots (they had none in my husbands size) and we bought cheap rain coats and off we were.  Our Guide Pen was absolutely awesome.  We were also followed by two other young women who one day aspired to be tour guides and followed us for 7 hours in order to sell us some of their goods but also to try and learn english.   In the end they saved both my husband and I from slipping and falling in the mud quite a few times and deserved the big tip we gave them.    I had also brought along some warm clothing for the children and this were handed out by our guide to everyone she knew.  She only kept one item for her daughter.  Quite different from our culture.  So when we said our goodbyes to Pen, I gave her my fur lined hoody.  She was so taken aback that she tood a bracelet off her arm and very gently put it on mine.  Needless to say, I still wear it today.  So if you are ever in Vietnam, don’t miss a trek with the Sapa Sisters, you will not be disappointed.

Check out my post on the Children of Vietnam to get a better insight into these amazing little ones.

Tribes women

Tribes women

Rice fields,  These are all done by hand.  No heavy machinery here.

Rice fields, These are all done by hand. No heavy machinery here.

Young woman selling bags to tourist at the Bac Ha Market

Young woman selling bags to tourist at the Bac Ha Market

Shoes

Shoes

Woman selling yams

Woman selling yams

Woman watching the men negotiate the sale of a water buffalo

Woman watching the men negotiate the sale of a water buffalo

Water buffalo, they run wild on the farms and are used to work the fields.

Water buffalo, they run wild on the farms and are used to work the fields.

Wise old woman in Bac Ha

Wise old woman in Bac Ha

Woman selling their vegetables at the market

Woman selling their vegetables at the market

Young woman of Bac Ha

Young woman of Bac Ha

Wise old woman of Bac Ha Market

Wise old woman of Bac Ha Market

Eating lunch in a village house in Bac Ha

Eating lunch in a village house in Bac Ha

Elder of the family

Elder of the family

Woman and child

Woman and child

Sapa, this was one of the recipients of clothes that I had brought.

Sapa, this was one of the recipients of clothes that I had brought.

This was a woman from the Red Dao village tribe

This was a woman from the Red Dao village tribe

One of the young women who followed us and aspired to one day be a guide.  She was trying to learn english.

One of the young women who followed us and aspired to one day be a guide. She was trying to learn english.

Trekking with Sapa Sisters

Trekking with Sapa Sisters

Trekking

Trekking

Trekking

Trekking

When we stopped for lunch, our Guide Pen was giving out the childrens clothes I had brought.  This woman was a happy recipient.

When we stopped for lunch, our Guide Pen was giving out the childrens clothes I had brought. This woman was a happy recipient.

Another happy Sapa Woman

Another happy Sapa Woman

On the left our Guide Pen with our two 'followers' and another young recipient of children's clothing and accessories.

On the left our Guide Pen with our two ‘followers’ and another young recipient of children’s clothing and accessories.

View from our lunch cafeteria

View from our lunch cafeteria

Our guide Pen's aunt in her home.

Our guide Pen’s aunt in her home.

Woman working at her sewing machine.  It was really dark in the house and all she had was a little light on top of her head with lots of smoke coming from the fire on the ground.

Woman working at her sewing machine. It was really dark in the house and all she had was a little light on top of her head with lots of smoke coming from the fire on the ground.

Woman at work in Sapa

Woman at work in Sapa

Getting a helping hand from Pen.

Getting a helping hand from Pen.

Just a 'little' muddy

Just a ‘little’ muddy

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay is in the China Sea and is a Unesco protected area.  The cliffs and mountains of this beautiful area are simply breathtaking.  The movie Avatar (the floating mountains scenes) were filmed here and no wonder.  Movies, pictures, postcards, it’s very difficult to give this area justice.  However, In our travels I took many, many pictures of this area, and even though I’m pretty good with a camera, I was never satisfied with the result.  It is so much more beautiful to be there and smell the smells, and feel the warmth and colors and just feast on this beautiful area.

Tourist boats on this beautiful bay

Tourist boats on this beautiful bay

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This boat is the Dragon Pearl and was the exact same boat that we were on. We were on the more recent Dragon Pearl II

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Fisherman in Halon Bay, note the impressive mountain formations.

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Fishermen in Halong Bay

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Typical fishing village anchored to the side of a mountain in Halong Bay. There are thousands of such formations. How they find where they live is beyond me as most formations look very similar.

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Squid fishing boat. These fishermen go out at night and turn the lights on, on their boats. This attracts the squid.

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Not a big yard to run and play in. Sitting on the beams of the house.

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The market comes to the fishing village.

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Hanoi, Vietnam

My trip to Hanoi in Vietnam was very mind opening, at times intimidating (trying to cross the  street), destabilizing and above all amazing.  The people, the traffic, the food, the environment, the experience; all of it was beyond anything I could have expected and Lord knows I had done quite a bit of research before going.  I will share with you in this post and future posts my different experiences in the different regions of Vietnam.  How we fared, what we learned, what we experienced and above all give a voice to this wonderful, gentle, amazing and resilient people.  Please enjoy the voyage with me.

Flower Vendor

Flower Vendor

Streets of Hanoi

Streets of Hanoi

Vespas buzz by your feet.  Advice given to us by the Vietnamese people.  'when crossing the street don't wait for a break in traffic for their isn't any, start crossing the steet at a steady pace.  Do not increase or decrease your pace.  The traffic will avoid you but only if they know and can gauge your speed'  That was very encouraging to us.

Vespas buzz by your feet. Advice given to us by the Vietnamese people. ‘when crossing the street don’t wait for a break in traffic for their isn’t any, start crossing the steet at a steady pace. Do not increase or decrease your pace. The traffic will avoid you but only if they know and can gauge your speed’ That was very encouraging to us.

Everytime I crossed the street I felt like I was putting my life in someone else's hands.

Everytime I crossed the street I felt like I was putting my life in someone else’s hands.

Flower shop on the sidewalk of Hanoi

Flower shop on the sidewalk of Hanoi

Doing business on the street.  Everything can be bought off a bike or from street vendors.

Doing business on the street. Everything can be bought off a bike or from street vendors.

Vietnamese hats

Vietnamese hats

Selling face masks.  These are worn by a great portion of the vespa passengers because of the smell they give off.

Selling face masks. These are worn by a great portion of the vespa passengers because of the smell they give off.

Street Vendor

Street Vendor

Kids coming home from school

Kids coming home from school

Taking a break.  The women street vendors are the lowest on the totem pole of sales people.  They have a very difficult life often coming in from the surrounding villages to make money to send home.  They will get up at 3am to go to the wholesale market to fill up their baskets.  Then they spend the day on the streets in order to sell their wares and will not go home until everything is sold.  Sometimes they are still out selling at 7pm.  They manage to send home on average $20 a month.

Taking a break. The women street vendors are the lowest on the totem pole of sales people. They have a very difficult life often coming in from the surrounding villages to make money to send home. They will get up at 3am to go to the wholesale market to fill up their baskets. Then they spend the day on the streets in order to sell their wares and will not go home until everything is sold. Sometimes they are still out selling at 7pm. They manage to send home on average $20 a month.

 

Praying at the local Temple

Praying at the local Temple

 

Female Street vendor - Hanoi

Female Street vendor – Hanoi

Nuns at the local Pagoda - Hanoi

Nuns at the local Pagoda – Hanoi

Streets of HanoiStreets of Hanoi

Traffic in Hanoi

Traffic in Hanoi

Farmer overlooking his fields on outskirts of Hanoi

Farmer overlooking his fields on outskirts of Hanoi

Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

The only window in the place is positioned so that the sun shines directly on the alter.  Beautiful  Hoa Lu Temple

The only window in the place is positioned so that the sun shines directly on the alter. Beautiful
Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

Hoa Lu Temple

Ninh Binh

Ninh Binh

Budda

Budda

Tam Coc - Halong Bay on Land

Tam Coc – Halong Bay on Land

Tam Coc

Tam Coc

Wise looking old man at Tam Coc

Wise looking old man at Tam Coc

Tam Coc - washing the dishes

Tam Coc – washing the dishes

Cemetary on Tam Coc

Cemetary on Tam Coc

River Shrimp Fishing - Tam Coc

River Shrimp Fishing – Tam Coc

Fishing - Tam Coc

Fishing – Tam Coc

Fishing - Tam Coc

Fishing – Tam Coc

Fishing - Tam Coc

Fishing – Tam Coc

Ninh Binh, vendor

Ninh Binh, vendor

Ninh Binh - meat vendor

Ninh Binh – meat vendor

Ninh Binh market

Ninh Binh market