Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vietnam and Cambodia 2007, part 1

Vietnam, Cambodia, and this trip, holds some really special significance and memories for me. It was my first backpacking trip, the one that opened my eyes to the wonderful world out there waiting to be discovered. Also, on this trip, I discovered just how beautiful Southeast Asia really is. I had a really hard time choosing the photographs, because Vietnam and Cambodia is just overflowing with beauty, and it saddens me that I can't represent them all here, but I'll do my best. Last, but most certainly not least, I had the most fabulous travel mates, Shieh Yuan and Krystal, who truly truly made the trip.

The scene above is a typical rice field in Vietnam, and its peaceful sights like these that I love the most.

We started off the trip in Hanoi, a busy, vibrant city that practically throbs with life. The infamous Vietnamese traffic that gave me quite a turn on my first night, but I soon got used to it.

Dinner on our first night in Vietnam, Hanoi, a fine introduction to the fantastic street food culture of Hanoi. It was a kind of extremely thin pancake made from a rice batter wrapped around a meat and vegetable filling, served with a mountain of fried shallots, a hunk of fish cake and a huge handful of mint.

Next morning's breakfast, the world famous Vietnamese Pho, rice noodles in beef broth with beef slices, bought from a tiny eatery in the market

And then its off on our first destination, Halong Bay! I hightly highly recommend it to anyone heading to Hanoi

A one day package, which costs around 20 USD will get you on a junk like this for around 6 hours. Overnight packages are available too

This is Christie, a girl who was on the package tour to Halong Bay as well. She's from Hong Kong, and really nice =)

So, after around an hour of leisurely driving around the bay, enjoying scenery such as these,

the operators drove us to a sort of floating village, with a floating 'market' of fresh seafood they keep right there. We had to option of buying some to add to our lunch.

Then it was time for lunch, and boy, it was a glorious affair. Besides the pure enjoyment of eating on a boat, with the wind blowing through your hair, the food was top rate, cooked by the staff right there on the boat. It was so good, we only remembered to take a picture after we polished off everything.

After lunch, we drove around some more to a cave like structure, that little hole behind the 3 of us. For an additional few dollars, we had the option of getting into a smaller boat and exploring the inside. It was totally worth the money, a veritable secluded secret hide-out, like nothing we've ever seen before. Besides, this can only be done during the dry season, as the opening becomes submerged during high tides, so its definitely not to be missed!

All in all, it was a GREAT first day =)

And the next day, we visited the fantastic Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum! The communists have a really curious inclination to embalm their dead leaders' bodies and then putting them on display for the eternal adoration of their followers.
This had been done with Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh, in Vietnam. As a history student, this is a must see, and I have to say it was awesome. A little creepy, but awesome nontheless. No pictures were allowed, security was strict, procedures confusing and many, but still worth the while. Just be sure to get there early, its only opened for a very short time per day.

Vietnamese coffee, scrumptious beyond your wildest imagination if you've never had it before. Its civet cat coffee, which goes for pots of cash in Europe, but comes at a ridiculous bargain in Vietnam. Words of advice: buy as much as you can carry if you are in Vietnam! Go to the market, pick out the best grade beans, get them to grind [or not] and seal for you, that way you get even better value.

At night, we took a walk around the city, and came across this, a street-side stall selling a rainbow of traditional desserts.

The desserts are scooped out and served over ice and sugar syrup, with a dash of coconut cream over the top. Delish. I know guidebooks usually advice people to stay away from street food and ice, especially, but seriously, get a typhoid shot, bring lots of charcoal pills, and eat to your hearts content. THIS is the way to see Vietnam, not through some squeaky clean restaurant that could've been from any other city in the world.

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