To end our glorious time in Vietnam, Kai and I booked two nights at a five-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh is a short flight from Phu Quoc (I believe around 40 minutes) and from there we planned to take an international flight back to Amsterdam. While I wasn’t necessarily dying to explore Ho Chi Minh, it was the most accessible city from Phu Quoc for us to fly home from.
During our time in Vietnam, we stayed everywhere – from eco beach resorts to sleeper trains – and booking a posh hotel for our last two nights allowed us to relax, clean up properly, and gave us something to really look forward to at the otherwise sad end of our holiday. My friends Katherine and Jess went to Vietnam a month before us, and they flew home first class with Emirates for the very same reason. I am putting that on my life bucket list, because what a cool idea! (and I am also keeping an eye out for Emirates deals, because I’m not made of cash over here!)Ho Chi Minh (formerly known as Saigon) is known for being one of the more western cities in Vietnam, with skyscrapers, big paved sidewalks, shopping malls, and posh hotels. It’s the most populated city in Vietnam and also the biggest. That said, Ho Chi Minh is no Manhattan. It’s a fun city to explore, as the city is a clear collision of eastern and western cultures. Although the infrastructure feels more developed, the sidewalks are still crammed with local street vendors selling fresh fruit and fried bugs, mom and pop restaurants with small plastic tables and chairs, residents washing laundry in the streets, and scooters parked haphazardly everywhere. It felt like we were in a slightly more clean and spacious Vietnam, but definitely still Vietnam!As our flight was delayed from Phu Quoc to Ho Chi Minh, we arrived at Ho Chi Minh around 10.30pm. Our bags were the first off the belt, and we went right to our hotel, so were checked in and in our room by 11pm. The three biggest bummers of our trip: our scooter crash in Phu Quoc. My stomach bug in Hanoi. And our hotel in Ho Chi Minh. We had booked a room with a hot tub at The Myst Dong Khoi (white building above), and at first glance were really excited with the hotel. But when we got to our room on the first floor, the nightmare began.We were placed in a room directly across from a huge construction site. It was incredibly beautiful, but it was also incredibly noisy, even with the windows closed. We called reception and asked to be put in another room, which we were told was not possible. We asked what time the construction would stop, and they said midnight. So we braced ourselves for another hour and a half of noise, and laid in bed listening to yelling, shouting, hammering. At 1am the commotion had not stopped, and we were still listening to loud bangs and a jack hammer. It started again just before 5am. It was the worst hotel experience we’d had our whole trip – we literally got a better night’s rest on the sleeper train. It was a huge disappointment and a total waste of money, and I can’t believe the hotel didn’t lift a finger to try to improve our experience. I would literally recommend staying in a €5 hostel over staying at The Myst Dong Khoi.That said, shout out to our toilet that was heated, massaged your bum, sprayed various scents, and had lots of leaning options! I was way to scared to start pressing random buttons, but yes, this toilet was by far the most fancy one I’ve ever sat on.ANYWAYS, now that I got that off of my chest, the rest of our time in Ho Chi Minh was fantastic. It was a huge bummer that we weren’t able to sleep, as we spent our last days pretty groggy (and we’d literally expected the opposite!) And to add to our already fragile state, the temperature in Ho Chi Minh was smoldering. Every day it was more than 100° F. So we planned one or two activities per day, and spent the rest of our time laying by the hotel pool, napping, reading, and swimming :) When we weren’t hiding out in our hotel’s rooftop oasis, we were down below, gorging on street food and enjoying the attractions.Due to the heat, we almost always had an iced coffee in hand as we roamed the city.The only museum we went to during our time in Vietnam was in Ho Chi Minh. After spending two weeks in the beautiful country of Vietnam, we really wanted to educate ourselves properly on the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum. To be fair, this name is too kind – the museum was formerly known as the Museum of American War Crimes, which I feel much more accurately sums up the contents of the museum and some of the actions taken during the war. After spending two weeks being welcomed with open arms by some of the kindest and most lovely people, we then spent two hours walking through a museum filled with horrors. I’d learned in school that the Vietnam War was a disgrace for the American people, but I didn’t realize that there were so many impoverished civilian casualties. The photos in the museum were so graphic, and it was especially hard, as we had just spent so many weeks getting to love and know this country, and then to learn that your own culture had so severely brutalized the landscape, people and culture . . . . I was a teary mess and spent at least 15 minutes sitting in the hall crying. At one point I saw some casualty photos of the ethnic minority groups in the north – people from the same tribe as the woman who had cooked me lunch in her home a few days before – and I absolutely lost it. And the worst part?? At first I personally did not feel to blame as I was not even born at the time of the war. However, some of the after effects from the Agent Orange used in the war are still wreaking havoc on the Vietnamese, with birth defects and health problems still rampant in exposed areas – a horrible after effect of the war that is still having an impact on the Vietnamese today. So while I can shrug and say ‘it’s not my fault’ or ‘I wasn’t born yet’, there are Vietnamese children being born right now who are missing libs or have other birth defects due to the fallout from the war. And if those children are being held accountable, I should too. And so I did the best I could to use my time in the museum to educate myself. I cannot change the past, but we can all learn from it, to make sure we are respectful, kind, and caring to ll cultures in the future.
But let’s pivot onto a lighter topic – food! The friends I mentioned had been in Vietnam earlier, Katherine and Jess, suggested we check out the Lunch Lady in Ho Chi Minh. So we rocked up around lunch time one day, sat down, and a feast slowly started materializing on the table! We don’t really know what we ate – but ohh boy was it good!The only down side to the Lunch Lady is the cost – we were charged much more than the locals who were eating the same things right next to us for lunch. As the restaurant has gained popularity in recent years, it would seem they are taking advantage of their fame and ripping off those who are not from the area. Not cool – and for that reason we will not be back.Kai and I did a lot more in Ho Chi Minh that will go undocumented – we shopped, bought gifts for family and friends back home, went to a night market for dinner, and even had a night out on the town that ended with big bottles of pear cider in our hot tub at 1am. These last photos are from Chill Skybar, which recommended to us by a fellow Dutch traveler we met in Phu Quoc. The bar had spectacular views of the city, and we went for a sunset cocktail on our last night in town, where we reminisced about our holiday (the highs and lows and hilarious moments!) and said farewell to the sun for one final time in Vietnam.This was by far the coolest trip of my life. It was the longest vacation I’ve ever taken to another country, and also the most out of my comfort zone I’ve ever felt. And I can’t believe I got to do it all with my best friend – my favorite travel buddy and fellow adventurer.
Here’s to many more amazing years of exploring the globe.