We have so much to write about for our visit to Vietnam.  The kids wrote some great stories here. We did our first group tour and it was great.  We were a little apprehensive since we were going to be traveling with 10 other people that we didn’t know for 12 days.  One day into it and our worries subsided.  Our group was awesome.  We used Intrepid Travel for our tour and our guide, Dat, made the trip memorable.  There were two families from Australia and one family from New Zealand.  

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Mekong River Visit

The highlight of our trip to Vietnam was our visit to the Mekong River and especially the overnight homestay.  We took a boat down the river and saw people fishing, people transporting products.

Cu Chi Tunnels

One of the places I was interested in seeing on this trip were the Cu Chi Tunnels.  These are the tunnels that were designed by Vietnamese, first during the war with the French and then expanded considerably during the Vietnam War.  

We got a much more different perspective on the Vietnam War than what we have heard back home.  Our tour guide for the Cu Chi Tunnels appeared to be a strong Northern Vietnamese supporter.  She seemed very proud of how the Viet Cong were able to get in lots of “American Kills.”  

To see the tunnels up close and hear the stories is eerie.  To see the booby traps and how they worked makes a chill go up your spine.  The Northern Vietnamese were quite clever and resourceful in order to keep themselves hidden and to eventually win the war.  Because the Viet Cong did not have the same technological resources as the Americans or the Australians, they needed to use more simple but creative methods.  One of the things they did was put their shoes on backwards and walk away from a booby trap.  These purposely left footprints, which then led American soldiers right toward the booby trap.  The Viet Cong would wash themselves with soap they stole from the Americans.  This allowed them to avoid detection from the dogs that the Americans used to track them.  Since they had to cook underground they built a labyrinth of remote smoke outlets.  Some of these outlets were 2-4 km away from the source.  

Entrance to tunnels - made bigger for tourists

The entranceways to the tunnels are especially small.  In the interest of tourism, they made the entranceways a little larger in a couple of places so that tourists can get an idea of what it was like.  We all tried to go into it.  No surprise that Tom did not fit.  He got stuck at his shoulders.  They also made one of the tunnels completely larger so that  tourists can walk through about 100 m of the tunnel.  The photo on the left shows the entranceway that was made larger and the photo below shows an original entranceway.



There is a shooting range at Cu Chi Tunnels.  Tom and I got the opportunity to shoot a M16.   

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The Joys of Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the most interesting places we have visited. Given everything that has happened in this country, the people are kind and peaceful.  It is a cheap place to visit, the traffic is crazy, and safety rules are almost non-existent.


The Vietnamese people are quite honest and we didn’t feel as though people were trying to rip us off all the time.  Of course, there are some vendors trying to sell you stuff for much more than you need to pay.  You just need to know what something is worth.  In most cases, things are pretty cheap in Vietnam anyway. 

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Most cab rides only cost between $2-$3.  The most expensive cab ride was the 120,000 VND to take a taxi to the airport.  This is equivalent to about $7.75 Canadian.  The trip took about 20 minutes and we traveled about 5km.  Beer is also cheap if you stick to where the locals drink, 10,000 VND or about 60 cents.

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I’ve already written about the crazy traffic in Hanoi.  Well, it is like that everywhere in Vietnam.  The above photo isn’t an accident.  This is a normal occurrence at an intersection.  People just maneuvering around each other.  Folks drive their motorbikes on the sidewalks when the roads are too crowded.  They also drive them on the opposite lane into oncoming traffic.  When that happens everyone just moves over to the side a little bit.  There aren’t really any lanes to speak of anyway.  The real interesting thing is that no one appears to get mad at each other when they get cutoff or someone pulls out in front of them.  They just move slightly out of the way and keep going. It reminds me a little bit like downhill skiing.  The people at the top of the hill just avoid and go around the people going slower. 


A look to the bleaker side is that the people in Vietnam throw trash on the street and on the beach.  There is not much respect for the environment in this country.  I only saw recycling bins at the airport. 

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Safety rules have been thrown out the window.  It’s okay to carry a baby in one arm while steering your motorbike with the other, electrical outlets hang freely with open wires in the middle of a street, and we saw a guy changing light bulbs on the street while being pushed along on rickety scaffolding. The scaffolding was about 20 feet up in the air.

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Our first taste of Vietnam was Hanoi.  It was unlike any other place we have been yet.  The traffic is insane.  It is very busy. They sell everything on the street and there doesn’t seem to be any rules.  And if there are rules, they don’t seem to be enforced.

Our guide told us there are 4 million motorbikes in a city with 9 million people.  We saw chickens on motorbikes, dogs on motorbikes, flowers stacked 6 feet high on motorbikes, babies held in their mother’s arms while driving on motorbikes five on one motorbike, and pigs on a motorbike.

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There are no traffic rules and it appears as though there is no order.  You take your life into your hands when you cross the street and the green walking man doesn’t mean it is okay to cross. 

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You can’t walk on the sidewalk because there are either motorbikes parked on the sidewalk or people selling “stuff” on the sidewalk.  I say “stuff” because it can be anything from bananas to some type of meat on a stick to something boiling in a pot of water. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that if there is a restaurant all you do is pull up a couple of tiny (like kid size) stools and a tiny table and cook up a pot with some food and start selling it.  This is also done right on the sidewalk as well.  Gives new meaning to the word street vendors.

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So the advice we were given by locals is to just walk across the street slowly without any sudden movements (by the way same advice given about snakes in Australia) and the traffic will just go around you.  It was absolutely amazing that we didn’t see one accident even though we were surrounded by chaos.  At one point, Tom and the boys crossed the street and I was left behind.  I must have had a very nervous look on my face as I called out to Tom on the other side of the street.  A local lady (who was also pregnant by the way) noticed my distress, grabbed my hand and escorted me across the street.  Tom said it looked very cute and he wished he could have got it on video.  I just a little embarrassed that a pregnant woman had to come to my rescue.

Halong Bay

Halong Bay was one of the places I was most excited to see on our trip.  We went on an overnight cruise.  I had seen so many photos of this place and they all looked so beautiful.  I was only slightly disappointed. 

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The bay and the islands were just as I imagined. They were so beautiful.  The only downside was that the weather sucked.  It was kind of cold and rained a bit.  Having said that, we still managed to have a lot of fun.  We went kayaking and visited a remarkable cave.  I was a little worried about seasickness but the water was completely still. 

The water was murkier than I imagined and there was garbage in the water.  That wasn’t something I was expecting.  Despite that the views were still stunning and this trip is an absolute must for anyone visiting Vietnam.

Quinn and Nathan wrote some great stories about Halong Bay.

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© VanKosh Family 2015