Thursday, March 21, 2013

Beaches, Snorkeling, Museums and Tunnels...

(March 16 - March 20) The bus ride to Nha Trang was uneventful, thank the Lord. We arrived sometime in the morning and found a a place to stay. Ethan and Emily went out looking around the city, while I took a nap. A few minutes before my alarm went off they came busting in telling me to get up and get ready to go because they found a place to go snorkeling and we had to be ready in 10 minutes. So I got ready to go in a half asleep state and we walked over to the tour office where a van picked us up and took us to the dock. We got on the boat that we rushed to get to in time and there was no one on it. I was not happy. We asked them when we would be leaving and they said they didn't know because the other group was late. Even more unhappy. But then they offered for us to get on their other boat that was ready to go so we didn't have to wait. We hopped on and were cruising into the bay in no time.
The snorkeling was actually pretty good and the reef was one of the best/healthiest reefs I had ever seen. There were lots of strange fishes and also quite a few jellyfish. I was getting tiny little stings all over my arms and legs, but one girl on the boat got a full on sting and had to get out. It didn't leave a mark, but she said her whole forearm was stinging. Yikes! After a while, we couldn't take the stinging anymore so we got out and set up camp on the top of the boat. They took us to another site that I think we all stayed in the boat for and then they served lunch. It was arguably the best lunch I've ever had on a snorkeling trip. It was served family style too, so when everyone was gone we picked at all the serving plates that still had food on them. Yup. We did. (E- Why you ask? Because we're American! And overeating is what we do!) It was too delicious to let it go to waste! They took us to one more snorkeling spot that we ended up using as a place to jump off the top of the boat and then we headed back to the harbor. So our snorkeling trip pretty much turned into a little bit of snorkeling, some swimming and mostly eating and sunbathing. Oh well! We had fun!
Beard is filling out nicely
Took a little hike by myself to this hilltop
Soooo many motorbikes in Vietnam!
That night we ate dinner and the rest of the crew went to find a bar, while I stayed back to catch some Zzzz's. In the morning we headed to the beach to do some relaxing. Nha Trang's beach is really really nice and the only part we didn't like were the vendors who were extremely persistent. This one woman insisted that Emily, Alexis and Shannon wanted to look at her bracelets when none of them did. She got upset when they told her to leave and started insulting Shannon in English. It was a very strange experience for all involved and we're really glad all the street vendors weren't that feisty. The rest of the afternoon we spent swimming (and trying not get knocked down by the waves) and relaxing. Unfortunately, we had to head out that night for Ho Chi Minh city. We ate a quick dinner and headed back to the hotel to shower and make sure we had all our stuff. We boarded our very last overnight bus that night and, since it was the last bus, we took the 5 seats in the very back and watched Wedding Crashers before attempting to sleep.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh pretty early and after some back-alley searching found a place to stay with 3 double beds in one room - slumber party! Ethan was so thrilled. Anyway, we showered and headed out for some food and then to the Vietnam War museum. The museum was interesting to say the least. It was pretty anti-American (which I guess makes sense) and very graphic. Aside from being a bit shocked by some of the things they decided to display to the public, I was glad to see some of the history of the war from the Vietnamese side. Most of the things that were displayed about the war, I had already learned about, but they were shown from a different perspective, which was very eye-opening. They also had an entire room dedicated to the affects of Agent Orange (a chemical spread by American troops to destroy vegetation) on civilians immediately after and into recent times. Again, very eye-opening.

After the museum we headed over to market for lunch and then the Reunification Palace. The Palace was the home and workplace for the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war and was also the site of negotiations between the North and South after the war. Essentially, it's a fancy looking building with several large rooms decorated with outdated furniture and a basement dedicated to war operations. We found a movie room that was air conditioned and decided to learn a bit more about the place. But the lights were off and the seats were comfy and we all fell asleep in there for about 10 minutes. It's a good thing Ethan woke up because I was out cold. After we left the Palace, Alexis, Shannon and I headed back to the room for a nap, while Emily and Ethan looked at a cathedral nearby. We all ended up falling asleep for a few hours, after which, we headed to the night market for some dinner and souvenir shopping.
Underground at the Reunification Palace (post-nap)

The next day we booked a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels were used by the Viet Cong during the war. They are part of a large network of tunnels that run under the city that were used for communication, supplies, hospitals, food and weapon storage and living quarters. The tour wasn't the greatest thing we've ever been on, but it was informative and our guide was really funny. We saw some of the traps they used to ensnare American troops and got to sample some of the tapioca (pre-processed) they ate on a daily basis. We also got to walk through a section of the tunnel that was about 200m long. There were exits every 20m and I promptly took the first one - it was terrifying. The tunnel was about 3.5 feet tall by 2.5 feet wide and about 9ft underground. I do not know how people lived in them. I would not have lasted very long as a Viet Cong soldier. (E- Our tour guide discussed how the Vietnamese view American tourists. He said they have no problem with us because they know it was our government that was responsible and the citizens were actually fighting to pull out of Vietnam. Plus, American tourists give him a job so he really likes us. That was good to hear, mainly the first part.)
Tasty & Cheap Samiches
After the tour, we were dropped off by the market where we got some souvenirs and I bought some pants. That night we ate Mexican food and celebrated Shannon's 23rd birthday! A great time was had by all, particularly Shannon and myself. Unfortunately, we had to catch a bus at 7am so we didn't get much time to sleep off the night. Oh well! So long Vietnam! Cambodia here we come!

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