Author: Alex (Page 2 of 10)

Learning about the Vietnam War in Ho Chi Minh

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The Vietnam War is a dark period in Vietnamese history. From 1955-1975, the country was under attack, first from France, in an attempt at recolonization, and then the USA, in their war against communism.

The Vietnam War was taught to me at school, so I had some background knowledge of the conflict before I visited Vietnam. (Unlike in Cambodia, where I ashamedly knew very little about the Khmer Rouge regime until I got there.)

The War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants museum is a great place to learn about the tactics and weaponry used by the USA against the Viet Cong during the war. Much of the content is distressing so be prepared for that when you go into the museum. Particularly upsetting are the sections about the War Crimes committed by the Americans and the effects of Agent Orange. IMG_8074

I thought the museum was very one sided and did very little to explain the world political situation at the time.

The Cu Chi Tunnels

In the afternoon I went on a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. There, I learnt about the tactics used by the Viet Cong during the war against the USA, and also how villagers lived during the war.

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It’s interesting to see how resourceful the Vietnamese people were against the USA’s powerful weaponry.

The details of the traps the Viet Cong set to catch Americans are gruesome and it’s easy to see why so many US veterans of this war went home with mental health issues.

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There’s one part of the tour where you can pay extra to fire guns, such as AK-47s. The Americans left a large amount of weaponry and bullets behind when they left in 1975. The bullets fired are the same ones left behind by the Americans, and there’s still plenty more for tourists to fire in the future.

I hated how loud the guns were. If you’ve never heard a gun fire in real life, it’s actually really surprising how loud they are.

At the end of the day, we ate tapioca with peanut dip, which is what the people living in the tunnels would’ve eaten during the war. It didn’t taste too bad, but it was pretty bland.

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Learning about the Vietnam War was interesting, and I honestly think all visitors to Vietnam should take the time to learn about the history of this country. I think it’s important to learn about the history of a country when visiting, as it gives some insight into a country’s current state. Neighbouring Cambodia has also had a bloody history from the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

If you’re short of time in Ho Chi Minh City, definitely visit the Cu Chi tunnels and War Remnants museum instead of doing a day tour of the Mekong Delta.

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A Day Tour Of The Mekong Delta

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Ho Chi Minh City is situated close to the Mekong Delta, the end of a river which flows through 6 countries. (These countries are China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in case you were interested). It’s possible to do a day tour to the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh, which is exactly what I did.

It took 2 hours to get to the first stop. The bus stopped for a toilet break after an hour, but I suspect that the reason for the stop was less for guests comfort, and more so people could attempt to sell sunglasses to us.

We arrived at the first stop after 10am. Typically, a torrential downpour began as soon as we got off the bus. This was a place when honey was produced. We were given some honey tea and a small plate of fruit. There was also a photo opportunity with some bees.

mekong delta bees vietnam

Once we’d had some honey tea and watched a traditional Vietnamese folk performance, we got in a small paddle boat. We were provided with traditional Vietnamese hats and the boat took us to a coconut candy factory.

mekong delta boat ride

We were shown how the coconut candy is made and given free samples of the different flavours. They were delicious, especially the fresh ones!

mekong delta coconut candy

There was the opportunity to hold a boa constrictor, although it seemed a bit randomly placed at the coconut factory.

mekong delta snake

We then got on a large tourist boat and floated along the Mekong. Most of the the other boats on the river were tourist boats – there didn’t seem to be many local people around. Which makes sense as it was the hottest part of the day.

mekong delta boats

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant. We were split into two groups – those who had elephant fish for lunch and those who were given pork and rice. The elephant fish looked good, but I had the pork and rice, which unfortunately wasn’t that great.

After lunch, we got back on the large boat and were dropped off at a point where the bus collected us.

We went to a pagoda which had an enormous statue of Laughing Buddha and Reclining Buddha.

mekong delta laughing buddha

We returned to Ho Chi Minh City and arrived there around 6pm.

Overall, the tour wasn’t particularly amazing. It did kind of feel like the stops were simply to sell the products to us. I’ve spoken to other tourists who went to the Mekong Delta and stayed overnight and it does sound as though the overnight tours are much better. There’s an opportunity to see the floating markets and experience some of the food of the Mekong Delta.

Check out my other experiences along the Mekong, on the slow boat in Laos and kayaking to see Irrawaddy Dolphins in Laos

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Koh Lanta

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Koh Lanta – an island many backpackers miss out on their travels around Thailand. It’s an island more renowned for its quiet beaches and gorgeous beaches than a wild party scene.

Koh Lanta

I arrived there in low season – August. I caught a bus from Krabi for 300 baht, which includes the short ferry ride to Koh Lanta.

koh lanta long beach

The hostel I’d booked was almost empty. A far cry from the full dorm rooms of Krabi – backpackers who were going to or had just been to Koh Phi Phi. My hostel was a 10-minute walk from Long Beach so on my first full day, I headed straight there. The beach was wonderfully quiet. Disappointingly, I found there was quite a lot of litter on the beach. Mostly plastic water bottles. Perhaps they’d been brought to the beach by the rough seas?

koh lanta long beach

Lanta Animal Rescue

In the afternoon, I visited Lanta Animal Rescue, an organisation dedicated to helping the animals on Koh Lanta. There were kittens and puppies available to pet as soon as I arrived, including 3 very cute kittens called Ice, Gin and Tonic.

lanta animal rescue

Every couple of hours, a member of staff gives a guided tour to any tourists who are interested. I went on the tour and learned a  lot about why there are (or were) so many stray dogs in Koh Lanta (and by extension, other touristy areas). This is a great organisation and I absolutely loved spending the afternoon here. There’s also the option of dog walking, either before 11am or after 3pm, when the weather is slightly cooler.

lanta animal rescue

The following day, the weather was stormy almost all day. Not wanting to spend a week on an island where there’s very little to do when the weather is bad, I decided to go to Langkawi. This took all day and involved getting a bus to Trang, then a bus to Satun, then a boat from Satun to Langkawi. It was much easier than I expected, considering I could only book the bus from Koh Lanta to Trang, and I had to book the rest of the transport on arrival at each destination.

I liked Koh Lanta, but unfortunately didn’t experience everything the island has to offer because of the bad weather. Perhaps I was unlucky. Perhaps I wasn’t expecting it to rain quite so much.

 

 

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2 Days In Krabi

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After leaving Myanmar earlier than originally planned, I decided to go the south of Thailand for some beach time.

Previously I’d visited a few Thai islands, namely Phuket, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, all known for partying, but this time, I was searching for quieter beaches.

I arrived in Krabi at 9am, fresh off a night bus from Bangkok. My plan was to nap then head to Ao Nang to watch the sunset. Weird how plans don’t quite seem to work out in the south of Thailand.

First, I somehow managed to get roped into having breakfast cocktails with a guy who was waiting for a bus to Koh Samui. Luckily (for me anyway) he left at midday so it couldn’t turn into a day drinking session.

Next, I headed back to the hostel. Still unable to check in, I charged my phone in the lobby. I started talking to a guy who’d planned to go to the Tiger Cave Temple and managed to be talked into going there. Probably not the best idea considering how shattered I was from the night bus.

The Tiger Cave Temple

There’s a few monkeys hanging around the bottom of the steps. They may climb on you. Especially if you’re carrying a water bottle or any kind of snacks.

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Don’t be deceived by those cute faces

There’s over 1,200 steps to the top of the Tiger Cave Temple. If you’re in any doubt as to how many this is, it’s a lot. Many TripAdvisor reviewers didn’t complete the ascent. Think over 30 minutes of constant uphill.

tiger cave temple krabi

Just a short climb…

Undeterred, we began the climb. By 300, I was more sweat than human. It was pretty gross. I genuinely didn’t think I’d make it. At 1,000, I regretted not bringing a snack with me.

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I’ve made a huge mistake

The views from the top were incredible. Even though it was a cloudy day, we could see for miles.

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Railey Beach… or not

The next day I’d planned to visit Railey Beach. I went to get some breakfast and whilst eating, a torrential downpour started. I hoped that it would stop pretty quickly, but 2 hours later I was still sitting in the same cafe, hoping the rain would stop. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to Railey Beach. The rain continued to pour or threaten to pour for the rest of the day.

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Instead. I checked out some of the many sculptures along the main road in Krabi.

crab statue krabi

Crabs in Krabi. Original, I know.

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The two nights I spent in Krabi, I ate at the night market, where the food is cheap (around 50 baht for a meal).

I stayed at Pak-Up Hostel which was in a good location. Other backpackers said good things about Hogwarts, and as a Harry Potter fan, I’m not sure why I didn’t choose that one.

Overall, I enjoyed my short time in Krabi. It does feel like a stop over town, and you rarely meet people staying for over 2 nights. However, there’s plenty to do and see (providing the weather isn’t terrible the whole time you’re there).

 

 

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5 Things to do in Downtown Yangon

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At the end of July, I spent a couple of days in Yangon, also known as Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar. I stayed at Little Yangon Hostel, in downtown Yangon, so most of the sights I saw were in this area. Here are my recommendations:

1. Visit the Sule Pagoda

The Sule Pagoda is in downtown Yangon and is actually older than the Shwedagon Pagoda. The Sule Pagoda is important in recent years as it has served as a rallying point for political uprisings.

2. Go Shopping at Bogyoke Market

fabric bogyoke market yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

This market is centrally located and has a large array of fabrics and other items to buy. There’s a floor filled with ladies working their sewing machines who could fix you up with some handmade clothing. There’s jewellery, puppets, handmade bags, quite simply there’s plenty of lovely items to buy.

3. Eat in Chinatown

Every evening, the Chinatown streets fill with food vendors. There’s plenty of food to choose from – Burmese, Chinese, Indian – and it’s probably the cheapest food you’ll find in Myanmar.

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4. Visit a Yangon Teahouse

rangoon tea house yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

Teahouses are a relic from British colonial times, but many can be found around Yangon. I visited the Rangoon Tea House because it’s #1 on TripAdvisor, and it was 2 streets from my hostel. There’s a huge selection of tea and dessert (I highly recommend the chocolate samosas).

5. Watch the Sunset by the Botataung Pagoda

sunset botataung pagoda yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

Sunsets in Myanmar are amongst the most beautiful in the world and the Botataung Pagoda is situated next to the river, a perfect way to end a day of sightseeing. Many local people come to this spot to watch the sunset so you’ll find a few street food vendors nearby.

Have you been to Yangon? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

 

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