chris vs. the arctic

chris: 72 // the arctic: 47


Finally! The long awaited post about my trip to Vietnam! Sorry to keep you on the edge of your seat for so long. (I know you were.) As you've probably guessed, I don't really like writing about everything that happened on a trip. Mainly because I'm really lazy, but also because it's boring. So, I'm going to highlight the best parts of my trip by location. Enjoy!

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
March 25-28, 2006
The moment Amber and I arrived in Vietnam, we were absorbed in the madness. If I were an alien from another planet observing Saigon, I'd say motorcycles were the dominant species. They're everywhere! Somehow, though, the chaos works and everything flows smoothly.

Once we got into the groove of things, we enjoyed everything HCMC has to offer, including ridiculously cheap beer (50 cents a bottle), fresh spring rolls, warm weather, crazy foreigners, crazy locals, and everything in between. So what did we do "in between?" We walked around the city, shopped in the local markets, visited the Reunification Palace, experienced the War Remnants Museum, toured the Fines Arts Museum, grilled beef at our table at dinner, danced at a local club, and drank beer at every meal (save breakfast)!

Self Pic #1Saigon Rooftops50 Cent BeerHotel de Ville
Motorcycle MadnessUncle Ho
Notre Dame Cathedral and the Virgin Mary

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Saigon, for me at least, is how colourful everything is! Every building, from the tallest tower to the smallest shack, is vividly painted. I even saw advertisements for paint on billboards and in magazines! Maybe coming from bland Japan has cleared my palette for some colour, but it was definitely a nice change!

Our stay in HCMC was brief, but memorable.

The Mekong Delta
March 27. 2006
The mighty Mekong river is one of the world's largest. We had to see it. Amber and I booked a "classy" day tour of the delta region, including stops at a Cao Dai Temple, the floating market, a local village, an ancient house for lunch, and the river itself.

A Cao Dai TempleBuddhist PillarFirst Glimpse at the Mekong RiverIn the Boat
Kissy Fish
Rice Paper Drying in the SunBoat Eye

It's an amazing feeling eating food that was caught and grown a mere 100 metres away from your table. Globalization has done something unnatural to our food chain. It's not uncommon now to have food on one plate harvested from four or five different continents. We need to get back to the local food cycle. The Mekong Delta was a great experience!

March 28 - April 2, 2006
Next, Amber and I flew to Hanoi -- the capital of Vietnam. The one thing I immediately noticed was how much more relaxed Hanoi is compared to Ho Chi Minh City. Perhaps it is due to the French influence. Indeed, Hanoi is referred to as the "Paris of Southeast Asia." There were cute coffee shops, patisseries, and gourmet restaurants galore in the Old Quarter.

After several days of exploration, I discovered the second most remarkable aspect of Hanoi: It is the most international city I have been to in a long while. On a tour of the Temple of Literature, I heard the following languages in the span of ten minutes (no joking): English, French, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, German, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.

The Vietnamese have adapted well to the foreign tourists. Walking through one of the markets, I listened to the sellers hawking their wares. One second they will be yelling, "Please come look!" The next moment, they will seamlessly switch to Japanese, "Irasshaimase!" Incredible!

Old Quarter StreetCheese Oyster on the Half ShellThap RuaThe Huc Bridge
Burning Fake Money
Green GroundsThe Gate of Great Synthesis
Saint Joseph's CathedralHo Chi Minh's Mausoleum

Hanoi had a lot to offer. We did the typical touristy stuff, including: watching a water puppet show, paying Ho Chi Minnh a visit at his mausoleum, visiting the Palace and Ho Chi Minh's stilt house, walking through the Temple of Literature, shopping and dining in the Old Quarter, touring the Museum of Ethnology, and visiting an old prison. Pictures speak better than words, so please look through my photos for all the details!

Halong Bay
March 30-31, 2006
This was the one place I was really, really excited to see! Whenever someone says 'Vietnam', I think not of the war, but of junk boats sailing between the famous rocks of Halong Bay.

We booked an overnight cruise on the bay. Our boat wasn't a junk, but the experience was fantastic nonetheless. When we arrived at Halong City, we were a little surprised to find the entire bay had been engulfed in fog. Luckily, the captain was feeling adventurous, so we were able to sail. Whew!

Halong Bay
Amber and I at Halong Bay

I think we both at the best time at Halong Bay!

Vietnam is absolutely fascinating! The Vietnamese are proud, resilient, and alive in every sense of the word. The terrain is varied, unique, and beautiful. I can't wait to go back!!
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On April 22, 2006, Blogger Mark said:

Sounds like an absolutely amazing trip - especially the bay!    

On April 23, 2006, Blogger Lauren said:

looks totally amazing...adn your pics are hot:)    

On April 24, 2006, Blogger Gillian said:

Wow, your pictures are buchi kirei... but I admit I haven't yet taken the time to read all the stories that go with! I'm just gonna assume that you'll tell me all the best adventures while we are in Korea... IN A WEEK! Hurray hurray!
See you soon!    

On April 26, 2006, Blogger bullfighter6.2 said:

Brought back super memories going through your post and pictures. I have a dozen or so of the exact same ones! I guess there are just certain things that everyone takes pictures of. Yours are far better, however.

Glad that you and Amber went. Vietnam remains one of my absolute favorite countries and Saigon one of my favorite cities.    

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