First Two Weeks in Vietnam

May 26, 2017Sarah, Vietnam Standard

After our month in Thailand, we have now been in Vietnam for two weeks, and will be here for ten more. I’m excited to stay in one place for even longer to try to get to know it more, as I felt I was just starting to get comfortable in Thailand at the end of the month before we left.

We have only been in two places in Vietnam so far – Phu Quoc, the island John talked about in his last post, and now Ho Chi Minh City, staying with my high school friend and her boyfriend in their beautiful apartment in a very expat-y part of the city. It has been wonderful seeing old friends on this exotic-feeling trip.

Like John, I have also noticed how different Vietnam feels compared to Thailand, which is to be expected but is interesting to notice. It definitely feels less discovered by the outside world. The tourists and expats I do see have a different vibe to them, as if they are here for more serious business, and somehow seem more mature, not just here to party and vacation or seek the good life like it often felt like in Thailand. And the local people seem different……..not as full of smiles and open as in Thailand, and even in the large city, I get many more stares by both men and women, or so it feels. It is beautiful and exotic though, and each district (the city is divided into 24) promises so many things to explore……..a huge Chinatown, Little Japan, downtown, the War Remnants Museum, and so many small streets and alleys that feel much less explored by foreigners than in Bangkok.

We were very close to a possibly fatal scooter accident three nights ago, and it shook us all up greatly, and reminded me that developing countries are not simply affordable, undiscovered paradises……..the response time for help was infinitely slower than it would have been back home, and no ambulance ever came, just a pickup truck for a young man obviously suffering severe head and spine injuries. It was a wake-up call for me from over-idealizing an exotic, affordable way of life. No country is perfect, and the affordable cost of living comes with sacrifices in other areas of life.

But aside from this tragic night I am feeling very relaxed and also invigorated by this exotic and different country, and am looking forward to exploring it more over the next 2.5 months.


JW Marriott Resort, Phu Quoc, where we stayed (for free) for two nights with a high school friend of mine. A shock from our usual travel style……..


The French Colonial-style resort. Not fully opened yet, it often felt eerily empty and quiet.


The fanciest breakfast buffet I’ve ever had, and included with my friend’s Marriott points. It was our breakfast and lunch combined each day!


Dinner with Katherine, a great high school friend now visiting from the UK. We found a stall just outside the resort to save some money, and the soup was delicious, as has been all our food in Vietnam so far.


It was a very relaxing two days.


Children playing in An Thoi, the harbour town in Phu Quoc where we continued to stay for a week after the resort.


Walking around An Thoi. We loved going for walks and exploring the small alleys and exotic produce stalls.


The lovely woman who ran our An Thoi hotel, who invited us to eat with her family on our last day.


Ho Chi Minh City, known as the land of scooters. There is no subway or skytrain and cars are very expensive.


The children seem much more comfortable than me on the bikes. The government has enforced helmet-wearing to help with the high traffic mortality rate, but I haven’t yet seen a child wearing a helmet.


Part of downtown Ho Chi Minh. It feels very clean here.


Along with the national flag, the Communist Party of Vietnam hammer and sickle flag is commonly seen too.


Entering the 100m section of the Cu Chi Tunnels available to our tour. It’s impossible to imagine what life was like for those during the war. We had to crouch, or even scoot on our backs, to make it through, and we learned that some fighters would stay in these for weeks to months at a time.


Examples of traps used by the Viet Cong during the war. It was a lot to take in.


My friend’s apartment in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh, where we will be for most of our stay to look after their cats while they travel. It’s a wonderful trade.


So good seeing Nicole for longer than one day over Christmas.


The cats are warming up to us……..



Beautiful photos, John and Sarah, and so nice to have the commentary below each photo. I’m looking forward to your sharing your travels with me! Lots of hugs, Mimi

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