What a beautiful country. I have never been somewhere where the people are so welcoming and just overall pleasant. I think the Vietnamese are the happiest people on earth.
After a long flight, slight detention in China, flight delay in China, Brian and I finally make it to Ho Chi Min. Brian and I used to work together at Gannett. He has racked up thousands of airline and hotel points so he decided to take a month off work to travel Asia. Good Call. We get off the plane look at each other and say "what now?" We have absolutely nothing planned for this trip except to fly into Saigon and out of (well me) Bangkok. We step outside and are abruptly ushered into a cab with another American. Turns out he's a pilot and has been to Saigon often and is heading to a great area where there are lots of hotels and things to do. Sold. We end up finding a random hotel (second floor of a clothing store; same owners) and put our stuff down. At this point it's pretty late but we're excited so we head out for some drinks. At 12 we cheers to Christmas in Vietnam!
The next day; It's Christmas! Again we have no plans although we do have a Lonely Planet book. We see we're close to a market so we head in that direction. On the way we see people setting up tents in a park. We go to check it out. And who approaches us? Nghia!!! [pronounced if the answer is no; would you like another? "neeeeehhhh"] He asks what we're doing, where we want to go and tells us he will take us for one day to the tunnels and one day to the Mekong River delta where we can catch a bus to Cambodia. ughh ok, sold. So on Christmas day to prove he's a good driver and trustworthy guy he takes us on a tour of Saigon. We go to a market, where we see cockfighting in the middle of the afternoon, out to lunch for yummy pig tripe pho, and to the American War Museum, which was actually really interesting and somewhere we would have never gone on our own. We decide Nghia seems like a nice guy, give him $50, and cross our fingers he shows up the next day to take us on our adventure.
Christmas night. We go out for some drinks, then see a sign at a bar for 2 free chocolate drinks and free snacks. We walk in and order a fishbowl for the two of us. It's basically 2 liters of vodka pineapple. After this we head out to see some more pho. For those of you unfamiliar, pho is a soup with the yummiest broth. There are usually fresh herbs on top of rice noodles and random meat. Most have chicken, duck, dried fish or pork, or some combination of all of those things. It's delicious. The we head to another bar and discover the best drink known to man. Galliano (vanilla liqueur), vodka, orange juice and controiux (orange liqueur). It was soooo good. Tasted just like an orangcicle.
Anyway, next morning and guess whos outside our door. Good old Nghia! He and his buddy are there on two bikes and they take Brian and I and we're headed out. After a stop at a market (you'll notice this is popular with Ngia), a rubber tree plantation, and a hammock stop for coconut and sugar cane juice, we're at the the Tunnels. (3 hours later!)
PAUSE. It's a snow day here in Korea (most snow in 100 years) so Krissy and I are going out for some wine. I will finish Vietnam later...keep posted.