... a few weeks later and we finally have photos from our trip to Vietnam! It was our second time there (remember our early honeymoon?) so we mixed in some beach time with city culture.
Most of the trip was spent at Mango Bay Eco Resort, in Phu Quoc. It was a complete 180 from our experience in Con Dao in that even though they both boast an eco-friendly environments, Mango Bay was bare bones. No A/C, no phone in the room for room service, outdoor toilet, and unfortunately really crappy bed and pillows. However, the setting was gorgeous and it still felt indulgent with it's own grown-up summer camp vibe. We ate, lounged, and ate some more but my favorite part was spending the day out on the water while Joe and other guests snorkeled. I stayed on board due to my recent LASIK surgery so instead of swimming with the fish, I was invited to join the guides in catching them instead. I did pretty well - four total! The water was beautiful and warm and that night I went to sleep still feeling the rocking of the boat. Luckily it was more soothing than it sounds.
After three nights in Phu Quoc we headed to Ho Chi Minh City, or as tried and true locals still call it, Saigon. My first impression was "wow, it looks like a mini Europe but with all Vietnamese people!". The French influence and architecture is still very much present in the old districts as are the wide streets lined with trees - a rare sight in South East Asia. When Joe and I hopped onto motor bikes with our guides for a night tour we were instantly impressed with the ease of getting around. Everyone was so relaxed about riding motorbikes and most of all courteous. I'm sure locals might think differently (or even other tourists visiting SEA for the first time) but now coming from KL where people (mostly male) drive their bikes at crazy speeds and seem to always try to hit you, Saigon felt more like a pleasant bike ride in the park. There were so many more women on the road, even ones dressed up in fancy work clothes. It's just the norm and it's awesome.
The biggest treat was the next day when our guide took us to the building where an American helicopter evacuated people during the fall of Saigon. It was crazy to think of the iconic image and then look up/down and realize that we were standing on top of history. The location isn't advertised to tourists nor is it generally open to the public so if you want in, give Bao a call.
We had to catch our flight home that afternoon so with other cultural spots to see, the day was jam packed but well worth it. It was our first time hiring a guide during holiday and I don't think it will be the last. We did it mainly because we had less than 24 hours in the city and expected that there would be a lot to see. And unlike traveling in Europe where we're more familiar with the history, culture, and where cities tend to be easier to navigate, we've realized that we need a little extra help in this part of the world. Ubud, Bali is next for a long weekend so we'll see how we do there!
Have you ever traveled with a guide? What was your experience?