I’ve always had an interest in Japanese culture and traditions and I find the country itself intriguing and beautiful. I’d long dreamt of visiting Japan to see its beautiful gardens, visit its quirky towns, see the temples and famous markets and also explore the world of Geisha … maybe even getting some of my own pictures done as a Geisha Girl.
It was 2011 and there was an email in my mailbox advertising an extremely good deal on flights to Japan. I jumped at the offer, phoned my fiancé and booked the flights then and there.
We were all booked! How excited I was to finally be visiting a country I had dreamt of visiting but never thought that it would be happening so soon! I spent the next several weeks googling accommodation and attractions in Japan and mapping out our trip, planning our days and writing a list of all the places and things I wanted to do… It was all starting to come together and it wouldn’t be long until we boarded the plane and we were saying Kon’nichiwa to Japan!
Then the unthinkable happened … On March 11 Japan was struck with a 9.0 magnitude earthquake which also triggered a massive tsunami, damaging one of Japan’s nuclear power plants. The earthquake and tsunami effects were catastrophic resulting in major damage and thousands of casualties. I remember seeing it on the news and thinking; those poor people how horrible to have to go through something like that. Devastating, to say the least.
As a result of this natural disaster, Japan was put on the do not travel list for the area that we were planning on visiting as it was the most affected area by the quake and tsunami… I rang the airline and they did not hesitate to offer me an exchange for my flights.
Now I had to think of another destination … what about Vietnam, it looked pretty good. So I booked the tickets to Ho Chi Ming City. I honestly didn’t know much about Vietnam apart from its war history, which you learn a bit about in high school.
It’s wasn’t long before our flights so I jumped online and booked some accommodation in Ho Chi Ming City. I thought it best to stay central as we didn’t know what to expect nor did we have a plan or an idea for that matter of what we wanted to do. At least there would be plenty of places close by to where we were staying.
Vietnam here we come!
We arrived in Vietnam, Ho Chi Ming City… It was a big bustling city with big tall buildings lots of shops and lots of markets but most of all lots of people and lots and lots of traffic!
We arrived at our hotel in the evening it was nice, simple and clean. Most of the markets such as the famous Ben Thanh Markets were walking distance from our hotel so we decided that in the morning we would hit the streets and head to the Ben Thanh Markets.
We got to the streets bright and early around 7 am, figured we could get market shopping early and explore the surrounds. The streets were busy and bustling but there weren’t many tourists around, we kept walking and noticed most of the shops were not quite open yet and the owners were still cleaning the floors and getting their shops ready for the busy day … we had peaked too early. Feeling overwhelmed and lost in our surroundings, we spotted a cute little French cafe that we ducked straight into. It was like entering another world… cool and peaceful.. we took a moment and had a drink and a sweet treat.. it was just lovely.
Off we went to Ben Thanh Market whoah what a place! It pretty much has everything you can think of from fresh produce to clothing. We found the quality of things in Vietnam to be of a high standard. We did some light shopping then wondered off to find somewhere for lunch.
The next day we found ourselves in the lobby of our hotel wondering what to do. We spotted a tour guide book where you can book a bus tour over 3 or 4 days that take you to some of the attractions in Vietnam. Having not much of an idea as we did no research before arriving in Vietnam, we figured this might be a good idea. We had never done a planned tour before so we were unsure if it was going to be for us.
Over the next few days, the tour bus picked us up each morning from our hotel and took us to some really interesting places. Along the way to the destinations, the bus would stop for lunch and at some nice little shops as well.
The first trip was to the Mekong Delta where we sat in canoes and were paddled along the river by a lovely Vietnamese lady. This was really beautiful and made for some lovely photo opportunities.
We then visited the Cu Chi tunnels which were very interesting! It was intriguing to learn about how they worked, why and how they were built and how the Vietnamese people used them during the War. This is a place I would definitely suggest visiting, very memorable, there is also a shooting range where you can let off a few rounds.
We visited a Honey Farm where they made honey products and specialised in honey tea which was delicious. They provided us with a lovely lunch and some honey treats. There were also markets here for some shopping as well as animals to look at and interact with like a giant snake ( which I was assured was ok to hold as it had no fangs …eeekkk ) and monkeys !
We did a trip to the War Museum, which was good as it’s a very informative and beautiful museum with lots to lookout inside and out like planes, tanks and helicopters. I found it was a bit sad to learn about Vietnam’s war history in such great depth, like the effects and use of ‘Agent Orange’.
We spent our last few days doing a bit more shopping at the markets and decided to visit a big shopping complex as they are always so grand overseas.
Our journey had come to an end and we were surprised at how much we enjoyed the trip, even though we had not planned it before we left and just ‘went with it’ when we got there. Until this day our trip to Vietnam has been one of our most memorable ones.