Before I dive into our last two outings from our trip I want to share a special offer that has been extended to my readers.
Last week, I talked about our wonderful experience with Endeavor Vietnam (not sponsored, just really loved it) and Jack e-mailed me over the weekend to let me know he is offering a $500 discount on his next trip to Ho Chi Minh from January 9-18th. If you are interested you can sign up or get more information at www.endeavorviet.com/trips and enter the code 1DS5CF to get the discounted rate. The remaining cost is $1995 but includes flights and ten days of accommodation, meals, and activities. I realize this is a little late notice, but if you have the flexibility in your schedule I would encourage you to check it out!
Now back to business, our last two days in Ho Chi Minh were pretty busy starting with a full day tour down the Mekong Delta. This was also arranged in advance by Endeavor and our tickets were given to us the previous day by our companions. Continue reading →
Happy Travel Tuesday friends! As usual, don’t forget to link up at the bottom of the post.
Back in July when I posted about my expativersary (or however you spell that made up word) I got an e-mail from a man named Jack about his own expat experience with his family in Vietnam. He had read on the blog about our upcoming trip and reached out to see if I would be interested in working with his company, Endeavor Vietnam. He offered to help us plan experiences in Hanoi and Hoi An, as well as partner us up with some of his friends living in Ho Chi Minh City to get us a unique first hand experience of the local culture with actual locals (that aren’t tour guides by trade).
Since we could use all the help that we could get in the planning department and I loved the idea of spending time with locals in their city, we jumped at the chance.
Between multiple e-mail exchanged and a Skype call, Jack hooked us up different places to eat in all of our stops and ideas for activities to do as well. Since we had nothing lined up for our time in Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, as it is often still referred to) he set up a full day of activities with his friends and former students, as he was an English teacher there for many years.
We arrived in the city Friday evening and relaxed at our hotel pool before venturing out to find some dinner. After a failed hanger induced decision to stop at a tourist trap once again (I know, I know- when will I learn?!) we wound up across the street from our hotel at the most legit Pho place I have ever been.
The next morning I told Travis that we had to be up and ready to go at 6am to meet Jack’s friends. We struggled but we did it, and then just as I was about to walk out the door I decided to check the itinerary (I had been working from memory until then) and much to my surprise we actually didn’t meet them until 8am. Whoops! So we just creeped over to a different Pho place and ate our body weight in noodles for breakfast while sipping on my favorite- Vietnamese iced coffee.
A photo posted by Courtney Alkek (@courtneyalkek) on
//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsAfterwards we headed back to the hotel where we met up with Hoa, Tri and Van. We hopped on the back of their motorbikes and headed to a pagoda to watch morning prayers. Then we got back on their motorbikes to check out a different pagoda. This one had ponds with turtles in them outside. If you want to know what it’s like to ride on the back of a motorbike through the streets of Ho Chi Minh. It’s a lot like this…
After Travis took this video, our new friends advised him to put his phone away because iPhone snatchings are common on the streets. This was advice we got from several locals over the next few days. Next, we visited the War Remnants Museum. I had been warned beforehand that this museum was pretty controversial and quite anti-American. It’s mostly just photographs, extremely graphic ones at that (I wouldn’t bring children) with captions that made us want to put on our best Australian accent. Speaking to my Vietnamese friends at home and the new ones we made it was clear they were aware of the bias, and they, like us, took it with a grain of salt. No matter what your beliefs are on the Vietnam War, the effects and aftermath in the country were devastating to look at in the exhibits. We stopped for lunch (more Pho) and then they dropped us back off at our hotel for an afternoon nap. Apparently this is common in Vietnam, but we aren’t big nappers on vacation so we hit the pavement for more exploring. First stop was their very own Notre Dame Cathedral. Where we creeped on a wedding that was taking place. We weren’t the only weirdos taking pictures, don’t worry. Then we we hit up this picturesque post office where we sent my BFF Alicia and her husband (and unborn child) a pretty pop-up card we had purchased. You should have seen how many stamps they smacked all over the envelope. After our stroll, we cleaned up and our friends picked us up for a traditional Vietnamese coffee shop experience. Obviously not us, but theres a kid eating a cheeseburger on the back of a motorbike so that’s noteworthy. Coffee shops are a big part of the Vietnamese culture and you always see people gathered with their friends at coffee shops on every corner. We had a great time talking with our new friends and really learning about their lives. It was so interesting talking with people the same age and stage of life as us, but with very different upbringings and living in a completely different part of the world. I especially found it interesting since many of my students when I taught in Houston were Vietnamese. It gave me so much insight into their culture. This was my favorite part of the day because everyone (including us) started to feel more comfortable and the conversations were flowing non-stop. After a couple of hours we hopped back onto the scooters to head to dinner. They wanted to take us to Nha Hang Ngon, which was perfect because we had actually read about the restaurant online and wanted to try it. The restaurant has a unique vibe where the seating is in the middle and you order as you would at a traditional restaurant, but around the borders of the dining room are food stalls set up with chefs from all over Vietnam cooking up their regions specialties. You can walk around and scope everything out before ordering.
We let the locals order a little bit of everything for us and it was absolutely delicious. We continued our conversations from the coffee shop and made sure to have a waiter snap our picture before we left. We spent the rest of the evening walking through an outdoor night market before saying our goodbyes at the hotel. Facebook accounts and hugs were exchanged before we bid our friends farewell. Hopefully we will get to see each other once again! I would 100% recommend this experience to anyone visiting Vietnam. Taking tours are one way to see a new place, but getting to spend a typical day with locals and learning about their lives is even better. Not only do we have souvenirs and memories from our trip to Vietnam, but now we have new friends as well (so sappy, I know).
Now it’s time for the Travel Tuesday Link Up with Bonnie from A Compass Rose!
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Earlier this week I shared pictures from our time in Hoi An. I briefly mentioned that we spent one afternoon on a bike tour, but today I wanted to share more from that experience.
I had read about Heaven and Earth Bicycle Tours before we left and had it down on our itinerary as a possible activity one day. We weren’t sure it was going to fit into our schedule so we went to go talk to them. They were so wonderful and worked the schedule around our needs. It wasn’t too difficult considering we were the only two signed up (perks of traveling in low season), but we were still very appreciative.
The tour started off in Hoi An where we boarded a boat and took at 45 minute cruise down the river delta. Continue reading →
Happy Travel Tuesday! Be sure to link up at the bottom and check out the prompt for next week’s themed post!
Hoi An was another spot that we had little to no plans for. We had done our research and we knew it was known for its tailors and cooking classes. We knew it had quaint lantern-lined streets and nearby coral reefs to dive in. We figured we would just choose from those activities once we got there.
You can’t fly directly into Hoi An so we flew to Da Nang and then took a cab 45 minutes to our hotel in Hoi An. We stayed at Hoi An Riverside Resort which was really nice and quiet. It was in between the old town, where we spent most of our time and the beach. The hotel had a free shuttle so we went straight into town to find dinner and a diving company for Travis to sign up with. Continue reading →
Happy Travel Tuesday- don’t forget to link up at the bottom!
When we tell people that Hanoi was our favorite city we visited they tend to respond quite surprised. Apparently even though it is Vietnam’s largest city it isn’t a tourist mecca- which is exactly what we liked about it.
Our time in Hanoi was limited to the evening after our Halong Bay tour and the following day before our 6pm flight to Saigon. We spent our time wandering the streets, checking out the Old Quarter’s shops and eating street food. We loved the old French architecture, the bustling streets and watching the friendly locals going about their days.
Well friends- we are finally out of Thailand. Did anyone else feel like we were there forever or just me? I can’t think of a good alliteration for my Vietnam posts so they will just have boring titles (unless you can think of one- then please tell me).
Today I am taking you along on our two day, one night junk boat tour of Halong Bay. Continue reading →
We are home!! It feels like we have been gone a lot longer than two and a half weeks. I really am not sure how people travel long term, after the second week mark I start getting homesick.
Anyways, we have over 2,000 pictures from the past 19 days. Luckily my husband is ocd and has already transferred them all and sorted them into folder so the hard part is done. Hopefully I will begin my Thailand posts soon, but for today you are getting more iPhone pictures. This time from Vietnam.
We spent 9 days in the country and absolutely fell in love with it, so much so that we are already trying to plan when we can go back and see more. Here’s what we did get to see/do during our short trip…
Beer corner in the middle of a busy intersection
We ran into our friends we met on the Halong Bay cruise!
Checking out the lights by the river
My first of many Vietnamese iced coffees, good thing I hid those water bottles under the table.
Learning to row in a Basket Boat on our bike tour around some island villages.
Just eating dinner in an alley way…
Last night in Hoi An
Saying goodbye to our wonderful tailors, thanks for the recommendation Endeavor Vietnam!
Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon
Drinks at the historic Rex Hotel (the site of American forces daily conferences during the war).
Breakfast of Champs
Our new Vietnamese friends we met through Endeavor Vietnam, can’t wait to write more about this experience.
That’s all for now folks! I have soooooooo much more that I can’t wait to share about all of the above adventures!