Sunday, August 14, 2016

Exploring South Vietnam

Our first order of business was procuring a rental scooter for our trip northwards from Ho Chi Minh of South Vietnam. Heading out was a bit of an ordeal, travelling an extensive distance in a dichotomy of road conditions before the hectic congestion of traffic eased. Some roads were well paved and others were like being on a trampoline as we bumped and jarred over the numerous potholes and uneven surface. At times, we thought "This can't possibly be the right road!"

Our large map and reality didn't always jibe and signs were few and far between, even at intersections. Small towns many times were not indicated on the map. Asking locals for directions produced haphazard results as most rural people spoke no English so it usually took the enquiry of many to get a dependable direction.

On one occasion, one man pointed in one direction and his buddy shook his head and pointed in the opposite direction. What! Now what? The two had a brief discussion and both eventually agreed on the direction we were headed. The road was horrendous. But it eventually became fairly smooth pavement.

Sometimes we had to backtrack and try again. We tried to take it all in stride and as part of the experience and as the expression goes "We are not lost, we are just on an adventure". Even with a little frustration, we always got to our destination - maybe a bit late, but we arrived.

Woman tending her roadside rice paddy

Our stops at day's end were varied - some less than ideal but some very beautiful and interesting places. We enjoyed Dalat and Nha Trang for example. The approach to Dalat was along a twisting and verdant mountainous road where with each mile the altitude went up and the temperature and rain came down. We arrived in rain gear, chilled to the bone and the decision to splurge on a luxurious hotel room for a long hot shower was easy.

Dalat has several suitable nicknames such as City of a Thousand Flowers, City of a Thousand Palms, City in the Fog, and Little Paris. As we were riding in the dry season, we called it Pretty City in the Cold Wet Clouds!

One of the reasons for our trip to Dalat and Nha Trang was to find the artisans who create beautiful pictures by embroidering with multiple coloured fine thread. Some were so intricately perfect that they looked like photos. There were also pictures that were embroidered on both sides of a see-through fabric, ideal for viewing with a double-sided frame.

Perfect artistry

The next day, again in the cool high altitude air that was laden with mist and threatened rain, we headed out, once more snaking through the steep mountain roads. But this time we were descending, heading for the coast and a hotter climate.

Water below!

Nha Trang is a coastal city that is now popular with divers, backpackers, and Russian tourists. Downtown area was especially busy and full of high-rise hotels. Eateries were everywhere including beside the long stretch of beautiful golden sand.

From Nha Trang, we started to make our way back to Ho Chi Minh City taking a more coastal route. The sights were different from the villages, sand dunes, and miles of vacant beaches.

More boats

A peasant's limo

Back in Ho Chi Minh, we met a Canadian couple and the 4 of us went to the Bitexco Tower for a sunset cocktail and the great 360 degree view of the City below. It is considered the third tallest in Vietnam at 262.5 m (861 feet). But that is miniature compared to the tallest in the world at over 800 m (over 2,700 feet) in Dubai!

Tower with helipad (photo copied from the Internet)

Ho Chi Minh below

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