I am not sure whether joy is associated with traveling, but I am sure whenever I travel, I will try something new, feel different feelings, taste different tastes and learn something different. And that’s a joy for my soul.
The word Vietnam is not alien to me and my population. I suppose we’ve heard about this country ever since we were little, when our father fetched us to buy him coffee from an auntie nearby the house. The shared history between Cambodia and Vietnam have never imprinted a good picture for the people of the two nations. Because of the bitter & sweet history with this neighboring country, the Vietnamese issue has always been politicized back in my country. Yet, I believe each country has a beauty of their own. And that is why my trip begins.
As our sleeping bus is roaming into the border of Vietnam, just like everyone else, I am curious to know about the country I am visiting. Glancing from the window, I can notice the organization of their homeland, green and clean to a greater extend. Paddy rice fields and small houses in a Vietnamese style followed us till we came closer to the city. Ho Chi Minh, mostly addressed as Saigon, is in order with green flowers and trees on the both side of the road, giving us an impression of a good city-planning. Along the street in Saigon, posters and billboard of Ho Chi Minh, addressed as Bac Ho, and the flag are seen in a lots of places. So are the communist sign and Vietnamese flag.
I don’t know a lot about the Vietnamese nor its history. Yet, our shared history gives me a slight knowledge of who these people are. The peaceful Vietnam we see today might not be the Vietnam we know 50 years ago. Vietnam had gone through series of fighting for their independence from the Chinese, French, and American, respectively. Wars have never been a pleasant idea to anyone in any country, if not the state itself. During the Vietnam war where the South and North Vietnam were polarized by the Ho Chi Minh and Ngo Dinh Diem, although separated by the geography of North and South, people in the South believed in what Bac Ho was promising, a free and peaceful Vietnam unlike President Diem who tried to project American Catholic to the Buddhism population. During the fighting, the villagers would take side to serve Viet Cong by stealing ammunition, first aid or risk their life to give signal to the Viet Cong if they see American coming. Nationalism and thirst for a free Vietnam were within the heart of its people. However, the misery of protracted wars cannot keep such spirits, but instead brings bad consequences, just like our country. Therefore, Vietnam today is a legacy of its protracted wars and history.
But anyhow, the trip was a pleasant one. A glimpse of Saigon tells me that there are more to expect from Vietnam. Its people, scenery, cuisine, etc.!
Aside of the beautiful trees and parks, Saigon has its own specialty, city lights, bars, local milk tea shops opening up very late. I bet everyone who goes to Saigon will carry a memory with them back. And so do I. Meeting up and especially being able to see my cabin mate face after these 3 years is something I am grateful for. I know my mind was smiling when seeing her face and hearing about her good news.
After Saigon, Dalat is our next stop. The way to Dalat is an adventure in itself. Beautiful mountainous areas is shadowing us along the way. With such feeling of excitement, there comes also a slight feeling of nervousness since beneath the two-car route, there is valley of foggy forests, and deep-down valley. Yet, Dalat of course does not disappoint us. Its steering mountainous area fills the town with beautiful hill-top houses and villas, along with a breezy and cozy weather. The locals look so fresh, beautiful and lovely. That is not the Vietnamese look I have before I visit this country. The local here are quiet, gentle and friendly. Girls, especially, are so beautiful. The make-up face with red lipstick signifies a decent look of modern Vietnamese girls. The way they eat, gather, travel with their family and lovers are just foreign to me, but somehow relatable to our Cambodian culture. In Dalat, aside from motor-bike riding with my tripper, in this mountainous area, one of the best experiences is making friends with some locals from HCM who came to visit Dalat as tourists. Riding the boat and having a great lunch with them was unexpected yet a great feeling ever.
As planned, we want to do a road trip back to HCM, which is a triangle way. Therefore, following Dalat, there we took another route to Mui Ne, which we initially planned for Vung Tau. The scenery along the way is indescribably stunning: mountain range, valley, lake and sea. It just took my breath away. In Mui Ne, sadly the weather and exhaustion from previous days do not permit us to have a closer glimpse to the region. We spent a night there, experiencing backpacker village: swimming, reading, eating, and watching the rain.
Lastly, what makes the trip more memorable is, of course, the food and someone whom you share the trip with. Vietnamese cuisine such as Banh Xeo, Pho, Sau a, Xap Xap tastes just right for us, Asian. Drinking hot Sau A in the showering weathering, eating a stumbled-across small Pho place were all great feeling ever. I know my tripper also satisfied with such a adventurous food hunting or all of those adventurous activities we did.
Traveling is somehow out of reach, but as soon as you make up your mind to just give it a shoot and get the ticket, every moment counts.
Big thanks to my tripper for joining the trip despite her health condition 😛