Vietnam – The trip that unleashed the beast

Vietnam – The trip that unleashed the beast

Back to where it all began

It must have been fate. Why else would I have decided to switch to History in my last year of high school? Well I soon found out why! That year was the first year my high school – Kamo High – did an educational trip to another country. A 2 and a half week trip to Vietnam. How fricken cool is that?! After much convincing of my parents that this was THE BEST IDEA EVER! And that OF COURSE I should go on a trip to Vietnam! (Even though I was studying Elizabethan English in class and not the Vietnam war. Details, details…)

So this trip happened 12 years ago when I was a spring chicken at 18, and it unleashed the travel beast within me. I was so lucky to have been able to go, (especially to somewhere so ‘exotic’ like Vietnam!) With help from my parents, from fundraising and working part-time after school and on weekends I got there.

My Photo Diary

Now these photos are proper photos, you know from film that I got developed. So I had to actually scan these from my actual  photo album to be able to post them on here! Yeah, old school. So please be gentle about the quality (or lack there of) ok? Thanks!

Hanoi streets in vietnam crowded and busy I loved it
The busy bustling streets of Hanoi. So much activity and culture for my brain to take in!

Good morning Vietnam!

First Stop – Hanoi

This was my favourite city in Vietnam. Maybe because it was the first city I’d been to at all outside of New Zealand. It was SO different. The hustle and bustle, the noise, the merchant streets, I loved it all. I was excited every second of every day. My mind exploded, but in a good way.

I loved the tall skinny houses, the food, the people,  the cute wooden jandals (sandals to anyone who’s not a kiwi) and handbags I could buy on the street corners. I still have them to this day!

Vietnam tall skinny houses in hanoi
These tall, skinny houses fascinated me. I wish I could’ve seen inside one!

Then another great adventure – the overnight train to Hue! One of the girls in our group had bright blonde hair so she got stared at quite often, one of the guards even leaned up against our doorway and just stared at her for like 5 minutes. Just a tad strange.

overnight train from Hanoi to Hue Vietnam
This was our room on the overnight train from Hanoi to Hue. Nice and cozy eh!

Hello Hue!

tu duc tomb in hue vietnam
The majestic yet haunting Tomb of the Emperor Tu Duc. Finished in 1867.
vietnam hue imperial city
Our group outside the Imperial City in Hue. It was so incredibly hot that day, I was just a big sweaty mess the whole time.
Vietnam hue to Hoi An south china sea
A deserted beach on the South China Sea all to ourselves. On our way from Hue to Hoi An. Where I could cool off from being a hot sweaty mess.

Feelin’ flash in Hoi An

This was another favourite of mine, probably because it was the nicest hotel I’d ever stayed in. I thought I was so flash! Here my friend & room-mate for the trip Ashley and I were able to go exploring by ourselves one afternoon. So there we were walking along and this little boy of about 10 rides up beside us on his bike and asks us if we’ll go visit his shop. Because we’ve just started out we say oh maybe later ok, he says ok and cycles off. He catches up with us sometime later and asks if we’ll go to his shop now, but we’ve decided we’d had enough so no sorry we can’t, “You f#%*n b*#%”s! You lie! You said you’d come to my shop!!” Whoa! Uhh ok sorry buddy, that’s a definite no now.

vietnam hoi an hotel
Such a nice hotel we stayed at in Hoi An. That was pool was heaven when temps were in the mid 30s!
vietnam hoi an school visit
These cute little kiddies had been learning english for about 2 weeks. We said hello and smiled at each other a lot.

 Not so flash in Nha Trang

Nha Trang was not my fave. It’s described as a beach town, but since we’d just come from the beautiful South China Beach, we didn’t really fancy the city beach there. Also when Ashley and I were heading to our hotel room we saw a rat running down the hall. Good times.

vietnam nha trang po nagar cham towers
The beautiful Po Nagar Cham Tower in Nha Trang. Built between the 7th and 12th century.
vietnam nha trang fishing village
A fishing village in Nha Trang that we sailed through on our way to snorkelling.
Vietnam nha trang beach where we went snorkelling and swimming
Where we spent the afternoon swimming and snorkelling.

Central Highlands

This was probably the most adventurous part of our trip. Out in rural Vietnam, we stayed in a traditional Longhouse. A one room long wooden house with many places for roaches and other bugs to get in. It was so fun and terrifying as we were deathly aware of ‘what if we need to go toilet in the middle of the night…?’ It was a risk we weren’t willing to take. So my mate Ashley and I thought it’d be a good idea to take about 3 Imodium each to make DAMN SURE that didn’t happen!!! Well needless to say, we didn’t go for the next 3 days…

vietnam central highlands
Arriving in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Lak Lake in the distance.
vietnam central highlands elephant trek
It makes me sad, looking at these elephants. Now I would never do this. I would much rather go to an elephant sanctuary to watch them walking around freely.

I would never take part in something like this now. Because honestly, it is exploitation of animals. I bet those elephants would rather be doing something else than having humans making them walk all day. But at the time I was just having an internal meltdown at the fact I was so close to an elephant and could give it a pat on the trunk.

Ho Chi Minh

vietnam ho chi minh notre dame
Notre Dame – Such beautiful architecture from the time of French Colonial rule.

As this trip was so long ago, all I can really remember about Ho Chi Minh slash Saigon is the big malls and our group going nuts over the ridiculously cheap pirated dvds and cds. We went mad, buying stacks of them. Our teacher, Mr Agent, bless him, realised they were all fake, and said to us, “Guys, these are fake, they’re illegal!” We just stared at him, Waiting for him to click that we didn’t give two hoots and to leave us to it.

Vietnam ho chi minh ak47
Oh yeah, and that time I shot an AK47 and an M16. Cost US$1 per bullet. Great fun.

Mekong Delta

Another exciting adventure of the trip – staying in hammocks in the Mekong Delta! Now, being one of the only over 18 year olds in the group I could technically drink. Not that I had been, because it was a school trip after all. But on arrival a guy at a makeshift bar had laid out a bunch of shots of this (delicious!) banana liqueur stuff. So yes, I did partake of a couple. What I didn’t realise is that in the heat and not having had a ‘beverage’ for quite sometime, it went straight to my head. Which explains why I don’t have many photos of the rest of the evening. We went firefly catching that night, but it involved me trying not to fall out of the boat into the river to my certain death. Also the snake we had for dinner was a blur.

Firefly catching. Tasting snake. Oh wait, those are photos I would have had if that banana liqueur hadn’t snuck up on me!

vietnamese girl Tam in the mekong delta vietnam
I’m glad I did manage to get a photo of this sweet girl Tam, who hung out with us and sang to us! And that is 18 year old me with my incredible fashion sense.

So that was my very first, totally amazing adventure! I caught the travel bug and I never found a cure. I would love to go back to Vietnam, especially for a longer trip. What a walk down memory lane that would be. I’m sure I’ll be back!

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