Can I tell you a story about the time I went to Vietnam?

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After my two weeks in Europe with my friends, I flew to Vietnam to join my family for our family vacation.

Fun fact about me, I was born in Vietnam, but migrated to Australia when I was 6. I have been back to Vietnam once before this, but that was 10 years ago. I really should go back more often, to reconnect with my extended family over there. Plus, Vietnam has built up their tourism infrastructure, quite extensively over the past 10 years, it’s now one of the more sought after destinations in the world.

Our first 4 days were spent catching up with relatives, or in my case meeting them for the first time. Always so weird for me to be introduced to an uncle, aunt or cousin I’ve never heard of. I have to pause for a moment and try to work out in my mind where they fit on the family tree. On my dad’s side, there are 6 siblings and on my mum’s side, there are 9 siblings. Once you figured out who they’re married to and how many kids they have, you can quickly do the math that I have over 30 cousins.

I was born in Ho Chi Minh City, (or better known as Saigon as my parents like to remember it) the majority of my family is still currently based there, as it’s the capital of Vietnam and the most metropolitan city. We visited my grandma’s house (where I grew up to the age of 6), and it’s strange that when walking around the area, I can still remember certain things that brings on a sense of nostalgia, like my old house or the time the streets got flooded from the rain. I guess when you migrate as a child those big changes impact your life and will forever be embedded in your memories.

After landing from a long flight from Europe, the first thing I did was find a local pho shop for a trip down comfort lanem. Pho is Vietnam’s most famous and traditional dish,  beef noodle soup, and there is something special about eating it from the side street vendors to make it more delicious than having it anywhere else in the world. Obviously, accompanied with a classic Vietnamese iced coffee.

You can guess pretty quickly that over the next few days I spent a lot of time eating. I’m not the biggest fan of Vietnamese food, mainly because growing up surrounded by Vietnamese food you become complacent of the uniqueness of your own culture. To be honest, I don’t know how to cook Vietnamese food either, there’s a real fine art to getting it right! Since moving out of home, I tend to cook as any 20-something year old would resort to; pasta, stir fry, and anything that you can bang-in-the-oven. I do hope one day I have enough time to do a slow brew of beef broth to make pho, just like how mum makes it. It was really nice to take time in trying different and new Vietnamese dishes on this trip (all recommended by my mum).

After a few days of spending time with my extended family, my dad booked us on a tour to the south region of Can Tho. They are known for their floating markets on the Mekong River. It’s a more rural landscape, slow paced and definitely the region for you to practice your bargaining skills at the markets, and try fresh seasonal fruits!

The famous prickly fruit, durian.

I love going to slower pace areas, it forces you to take in the culture and the environment surrounding you.

After our short trip down south, we flew up mid country to Da Nang. Which was more touristy, with bright lights and over capitalism in Vietnamese traditions. Which, for some people enjoy, but for me I’ve retired my partying days.

The famous dragon bridge in Da Nang, where real fire and water comes out of the dragon’s mouth every night.

In the last 15 years or so, Da Nang has really taken off as a destination for tourism, so much so that the city had to undergo major infrastructures, such as bridges, cruise terminals and resorts. It’s quickly becoming one of Vietnam’s more touristy destination.

The famous ‘Mi Quang Bep Trang’, which translates to Noodles soup with frog legs. You’ll find a few Vietnamese dishes were influenced by the French. Such Banh Mi, which is essentially a Vietnamese croissant.

We did a day trip to Hoi An. One of the more popular province in Vietnam, known for it’s old town and traditional buildings. The prettiest province in Vietnam.

You have to experience taking a boat ride (round boat) down the coconut river.

And of course they put on a show for you. It’s customary for visitors to tip the locals, as they rely heavily on these tips as their income.

Walking around the old town of Hoi An, I’m so glad they have kept the traditional buildings and maintain the old charm of the city.

It’s so strange walking around this city as it’s so different from Ho Chi Minh City, there are no cars, everyone is back to basic with tricycles, using bamboo to carry goods around and selling food on the side of the street.

Every night the river is lit up in a sea of lanterns.

Personally, I would take a boat down just to experience the pretty lights, but don’t buy a paper lantern to float down the river, it’ll only contribute to polluting the river with glossy cardboard paper.

We spent a day at Ba Na Hill, a fairy-tale theme park built on top of the mountains. At first I thought it was strange, but I slowly bought into it. It feels like you’re in Europe, only everything is hollowed out and is made of plastic. You can stay in the hotels within the theme park to really heighten your experience. Ba Na Hill is lot cooler in temperature than Da Nang. The theme park is extending quickly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it doubled in size in the next 5 years.

The park’s famous Golden Hand bridge, which is smaller than how it looks on camera. But still beautiful.

We spent the last 2 days of our time in Da Nang relaxing by the water and checking out temples. And of course, trying new Vietnamese dishes, which for me always involves some new seafood I’ve never seen before.

I’m hoping to visit Vietnam soon and explore more of my culture and history, but for now, we’re off to Korea! In my next blog.

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