In Vietnam, shopping is a battlefield.

I’m not that avid of a shopper. Most of my clothes are hand-me-downs from my sister. I hate trying on clothes, and shopping for extended periods of time gives me a headache. Shopaholics, I know– I’m weird.

But when I went to Vietnam, I experienced none of the above. That’s because shopping in Vietnam is a whole different kind of experience. Whether this is a better or worse experience depends on your personality.

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For example, if you’re my sister…

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…you thrive on the constant shouting, yelling, and bartering of the Vietnamese marketplace. It’s unavoidable. People will try to scam you, and you’ll have to fight to get the correct price.

So, if you’re me…

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…you hate confronting people and will flee at the first sign of conflict.

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That’s how I was when I visited my first Vietnamese market, the famous Bến Thành Market in downtown Saigon.  Bến Thành is actually one of the more tourist-friendly markets out there. The place sells all sorts of little souvenir magnets, handicrafts, and trinkets.

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Sellers actually have a good handle on English. Tourists, then, tend to swarm the place. Myself included.

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It doesn’t help that Bến Thành, and most Vietnamese markets, are very claustrophobic places. The stands are packed together and the aisles narrow. Walking through is a squeeze.

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I had trouble just adjusting to the chaotic atmosphere of the marketplace– it’s overwhelming, especially when people selling all sorts of products are yelling at you from all directions. Thus I proceeded to buy nothing at all.

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The Bến Thành Market is quite overpriced. That’s what I told myself when I walked out empty-handed, anyway. And what would I do with all those little trinkets?

But food is a little harder to resist.

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I love fruit. Vietnam is chock-full of all sorts of exotic, tropical fruits, sold daily on the street.

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Half these fruits, I’ve never even tried!

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Yes, I would have to do it. I would have to confront a seller, bargain with them, and buy some fruit!

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So my fear of buying things continued. It got worse when my family ventured into An Dong Market, a wholesale clothing market in Saigon. We wanted to get some custom-fitted áo dài, the Vietnamese traditional dress. 

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But finally, I encountered the greatest and most spectacular type of Vietnamese market yet.

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The night market!

Many cities in Vietnam have a night market. Unlike the functional produce or wholesale markets, night markets are usually designed for pleasure shopping. Stalls will be devoted to selling trendy purses, or the latest coats, or sparkling jewelry. Teens will hang out, eating Vietnamese snack food sold by various old ladies.

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These night markets are fun. My sister and I enjoyed wandering through them together, whether it be in Ho Chi Minh City, Hội An, Hà Nội, or wherever else we could find one. And then, while visiting the night market in Đà Lạt, I saw it.

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A lady had a whole tray full of the most adorable crocheted Totoros. I have never seen a crocheted Totoro before. Perhaps I would only ever see them in Vietnam. Now was my chance!

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There’s a strategy to bartering in Vietnam. First is to speak Vietnamese if you can. English pegs you as a tourist immediately. Tourists have money.

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Second is to demand half of the selling price.

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This will almost always elicit the same reaction from the buyer, no matter how reasonable your price is. Items, especially in tourist markets, can be severely overpriced. The sellers might be making a huge profit margin even at your demanded discount. Regardless, I would always hear next:

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Third is, if the seller doesn’t accept your price, to walk away.

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Often, the seller will be willing to meet you halfway.

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Fourth is to repeat until you get the price you want.

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And then… success! I finally made my first bargained purchase!

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Now, I could face the Vietnamese markets without fear! Though, depending on the seller, this strategy doesn’t always work. Sometimes they’re unwilling to lower the price. And bargaining can be quite stressful after a while. Still, now I could venture out, knowing that I could stop myself from getting scammed!

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And for the first time in forever, I actually enjoyed shopping!

 

…though I probably would’ve saved a lot of money had I not gotten over my fear.

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Screw castles, I want to live in a Vietnamese temple.

As my family and I traveled through Vietnam, we started to notice a theme.

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Buddhism is strong in Vietnam. Temples pepper the Vietnamese landscape with the same frequency as churches in Europe. These temples can reach the same vastness and elaborateness of churches in Europe, and they consequently draw in large numbers of tourists.

My family and I  became part of these visiting tourists.

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Elaborate dragon railing!

Elaborate dragon railing!

Massive bonsai!

Massive bonsai!

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The temples we visited were in all sorts of locations. Chùa Linh Ứng was on top of a mountain, overlooking the towns around it.

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I highly doubt it’s convenient to build a temple on top of a mountain. Regardless, many of the temples we visited were on mountains. And these temples could get massive. 

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Not only were the temples on mountains, they were sometimes in the most remote mountains possible.

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The temples were not only on mountains, but in mountains…

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And were often impeccably well-kept.

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Some temples were ancient. Literally, ancient.

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We visited so many temples that they began to blend into one another…

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…and eventually, my sister and I began assuming that everything was a temple until proven otherwise.

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We were just overwhelmed by the sheer number of temples we visited, though. Don’t get me wrong– all those temples certainly did not look the same…

Chùa Một Cột, or the One Pillar Pagoda, in Hanoi.

Chùa Một Cột, or the One Pillar Pagoda, in Hanoi.

At Chùa Bái Đính, aka the Bai Dinh Temple.

At Chùa Bái Đính, aka the Bai Dinh Temple.

One of the many boats used to ferry visitors to Chùa Hương, the Perfume Pagoda.

One of the many boats used to ferry visitors to Chùa Hương, the Perfume Pagoda.

At Chùa Linh Ứng, near Đà Nẵng city.

At Chùa Linh Ứng, near Đà Nẵng city.

…and were in fact some of the most incredible structures I have ever seen.

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So I might not be living in one of these grandiose temples anytime soon. Still, the temples of Vietnam are definitely worth a visit. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, the size, diversity, and beauty of these temples are really a sight to see!

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The tourist trap

Vietnam likes tourists. Tourism boosts the economy and creates jobs, after all. Apparently over 7 million people visited Vietnam in 2013 alone, a number that has been growing each year.

People have been trying to capitalize on that tourism. All sorts of hotels, entertainment centers, and luxury shops seem to be popping up around the country. As foreign travelers in Vietnam, my family and I got to experience the full force of the Vietnamese tourist traps.

You see, back in December, I met up with my family in Vietnam for the trip-of-a-lifetime: a three-week journey in Vietnam. My parents have been planning this trip for years, but expensive plane tickets– and a lack of school vacation time during the winter– hindered their efforts. Finally, since I was going to be on that side of the world anyway, my family decided that they might as well make our trip finally happen.

This wasn’t just going to be any family vacation, either. Oh no. My parents booked a massive tour through Saigon Tourist, starting from Ho Chi Minh City and going all the way up north to Hanoi. Hotels, meals, and destinations would all be arranged by our tour. It was a pretty unusual arrangement for my family, since we typically plan our vacations ourselves.

As a result, we got a different sort of trip from what we’re used to.

“Saigon Tourist,” as we should have expected, is, well, touristy. The company knows that the people using Saigon Tourist have money. They’d also like their tourists to spend that money. One of the first destinations on our tour, for instance, was this place.

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That place, we found out, was the “Rang Dong Wine Castle,” the first and only castle in Vietnam. Fashioned after the valleys of Napa, California, the castle was built and opened just a few years ago. Inside, we were treated to an informational video and a tour.

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We even took a tour of the wine cellar.

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fire

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It was clear that the place was only built for show. Even the small vineyard outside was struggling in the hot Vietnamese climate. In the castle, finely dressed employees carried signs advertising the various luxury Californian wines we could buy.

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That was the beginning of a series of luxury shopping sessions. During our tour, we visited a silk shop…

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…a sculpture store…

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…a sand art store…

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…an embroidery store…

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…and even this one that sold weaver bird’s nest. The store claimed that the birds’ nests (made from the bird’s own saliva) had medicinal properties, and sold them at an extremely high price.

That converts to about $300 per pound. No joke!

That converts to about $300 per pound. No joke!

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But I didn’t mind all the shopping. While the stores we visited were certainly touristy, each one carried something unique and new to me. I actually enjoyed visiting each one despite the premium tourist prices.

beards

Made from bamboo roots!

Shopping isn’t the only way that the Vietnamese locals have capitalized on tourism. Resorts have sprung up around coastal areas, serving tourists who need a trip to the beach. Some resorts have been successful, but many others have long since been abandoned.

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My favorite places, though, were the amusement parks. 

That’s the best term I have for them, anyway. I don’t mean the sort of amusement park you’d find in the States, like Six Flags, Disney World, or Cedar Point. No, these places were a an odd assortment of random entertainment. I’m not sure how to describe it. The best I can do is show what I mean. For instance…

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In Đà Lạt, Vietnam, one of the most popular tourist spots is a place called Thung Lũng Tình Yêu, or the Valley of Love. For a admission fee, you can come in and enjoy the attractions (all which cost extra, by the way.)

For instance, with your loved one, you could

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Another park in Đà Lạt is Thung Lũng Vàng, or the Golden Valley. Here, you could

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There was one park that was particularly memorable, though.

We drove into the amusement park intending to just have lunch there. We had some time, though, so our group insisted on seeing the rest of the sights at the park. Pushing past the people at the entrance…

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…we walked down the deserted path. Huts of tables and chairs lined the road, obviously unused.

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First, we encountered a ball pit that I probably wouldn’t let my kids play in.

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A lovely, but somewhat random, garden followed.

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All sorts of statues and swings added to the decor.

Like this super cool dragon!

Like this super cool dragon!

For a fee, you could try the shooting gallery to win a pack of gum.

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There was a crocodile pond where you could pay to feed the crocodiles. It made me rather uncomfortable– after what I had seen in Australia, it was obvious that these crocs were overcrowded and unhealthy.

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The weirdest part, though, was the foot spa.

For a dollar, visitors could opt to have their feet “massaged” for a half hour. Amazingly cheap, right?! Probably because these little guys were going to be our masseuses.

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You see that right.

Fish. 

I’ve heard of these “Doctor Fish” before. They exist in the States, although they’ve been banned in many states for health and humanitarian reasons. Vietnam, it seems, doesn’t care much for strict regulations. Here, we paid our dollars and stuck our feet straight in.

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Having fish nip at your feet tickles like no other, man. We soon started a contest of who could attract the most fish to their feet– the fish swam away if you moved, so to accumulate a lot, you have to stay completely still. That’s no small task if you’re tickle-sensitive.

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I eventually got the hang of it, though.

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We left the amusement park entertained, but a little confused.

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Indeed, a lot of the places we saw in Vietnam felt a little like that. Children’s rides rusted and broken down by the street. Entire shores full of crumbling, vacated resorts. Other spots of eccentric, disjointed entertainment clearly targeting your wallet.

No matter where we went, though, it was always intriguing. Behind every shooting gallery, every rusted children’s ride, was a person trying to make ends meet. And where else could you get a $10 horseback ride? The amusement parks really were, well, amusing. 

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Tourist traps usually have a negative connotation. They lack authenticity. They’re designed to take your money. All of this is true. Yet sometimes, they become an experience all their own. When I think about it, I sure wouldn’t be able to find any of that stuff in America.

Yes, I’ll admit it: I was ensnared in the Vietnamese tourist trap. And I’d gladly be caught in it again.

Grocery shopping in Vietnam is a little different from the States.

I love open-air markets. Boston’s Haymarket, for instance, is one of my favorite places in the whole city. Where else can I get (sometimes) fresh produce at ridiculously low prices?

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As much as I go to markets, though, I hadn’t yet seen them all.

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Cần Thơ, a city in southern Vietnam, is located on a bank of the Mekong River. There, my parents told me, was a famous floating market. Apparently early each morning, hundreds of Vietnamese venture out on boats in order to buy or sell produce.

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Boats seem to be the thing around Cần Thơ. Or, at least, Cần Thơ tourism. Tons of tiny, natural canals branch off the river there. Tourists can hire small boats to traverse these canals, boats that are often propelled by hand.

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We took a larger boat out to the floating market, however. It would be more comfortable, the tour guide told us. I was okay with that– since we had to wake up before dawn in order to make it to the market, a little more comfort was a-ok.

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The sky was barely beginning to light up as we sailed down the river.

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We reached the main marketplace just as the sun showed its face.

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If we had arrived too late, I would have never known. The place was organized chaos. Dozens and dozens of boats putted along, covered in people and produce alike.

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I’m sure there was a system to the madness. In addition to the numerous homes set up by the shore…

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…it was clear that some had made themselves at home right in their boat.

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Much of the produce was being sold wholesale to locals. Yet there were also many smaller boats catering to the large flow of tourists visiting the market. Several vessels approached our tour boat, yelling in Vietnamese about their fresh mangoes, delicious steamed buns, or excellent bananas. Some came equipped with hooks to latch onto the railings.

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Often the boats were a family affair.

This boat had a lady, her husband, and her adorable child.

This boat had a lady, her husband, and her adorable child.

Heck, people had full-on floating kitchens set up.

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So basically? It was

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I love marketplaces on a normal day, and this was taking it to a whole new level. First of all, we were on a boat. Secondly, both food and produce were totally fresh. Thirdly, you didn’t have to shop– people came and brought their stuff to you, leaving you to just sit back and barter.

Well, sit back isn’t really the right way to put it.

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My family has never been one to sit back, anyway.

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So we might have went a little crazy on that boat. But why not? The whole place was a little crazy. Tanned men, sleeping in a hammock on a boat that is both their storefront and their home. Floating huts where fishermen’s wives beckon you to come and take a look at the day’s catch. Your favorite foods delivered to you fresh. All this as the sun is rising over the Mekong delta.

Thus, at the conclusion of our trip, my family ended up like this:

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And we carried that bag halfway up Vietnam.

Air Asia totally pwned me.

Flying makes me nervous. Not because I’m afraid of crashing, but because I’m deathly afraid of missing my flight. I always try to get to the airport abnormally early.

And for some reason, I had a bad feeling about my flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney. I don’t know why. Maybe it was my cousins’ stories:

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It started when I realized that the checked bag weight limit for Air Asia is 20 kg, or 44 pounds. That’s 6 pounds less than the 50 pounds I’m used to.

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After I stuffed all my excess stuff into my carry-on, my family kindly dropped me off at the airport. I checked in:

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I also had a small suitcase and a backpack, as those were complementary on my flight from America. However, apparently it wasn’t for this one.

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WHAT?!

Oh-my-god. That’s, like, a month’s rent. I didn’t have that kind of cash on me! What do I do?! 

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She directed me to the other side of the airport, where supposedly there were phones. I ran through the terminal…

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I desperately asked a man at the currency exchange booth where the phones were. Perhaps sensing my panic, he lent me his own cell phone.

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By some miracle, the phone had enough juice for me to place my call. I called my uncle– but, by this time, my Vietnamese had flown out the window.

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Luckily, his son (my cousin) speaks English, so I was able to explain the situation more coherently. He told me to wait– they would drive back to the airport to get my bag. The drive takes 20 minutes, though, and by this time I only had an hour left before my flight.

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I handed my cousin my Australian address and my bag, then sprinted off.

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Of course, I still had to go through security.

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I flat-out sprinted to my gate.

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I arrived at my gate RIGHT before boarding… or so I thought.

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I spent my 12-hour flight in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. Oh, Air Asia. How I look forward to riding with you again at the end of semester.

Though I did make it to Sydney in the end, where I probably made a great first impression.

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Vietnam is breathtaking, in more ways than one.

Boy, have I been neglecting this blog lately. I’ve been wicked busy what with flying to Australia, moving in, and registering for classes! Sorry about that!

Vietnam is a country of both incredible scenery and unbelievable pollution. As I mentioned previously, the roads are so smoggy that it’s common to wear masks while driving around. Tap water is not safe to drink. I was shocked by some roadkill I saw on the street:

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But Vietnam, for all its problems, is an amazingly beautiful place. My family here was kind enough to take me to a beach resort in Bình Thuận, a province north of Ho Chi Minh City. We rented a bus with another family and enjoyed the 4-hour drive through the countryside.

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A dragonfruit farm.

A dragonfruit farm.

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The word “resort,” for me, at least, implies a sort of luxurious hotel where all entertainment is provided. Our resort was more of a hotel, though it did have some fun features that we certainly enjoyed.

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The area is famous for its beaches, so I was very excited. I was a bit surprised by the amount of litter on the beach, though.

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And the ocean was completely filled with odd red bits. I’m not sure if this was from human or natural causes, but either way, the murky water left your body unnaturally sticky.

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My family quickly tired out the pool and karaoke, so we decided to sight-see elsewhere.

Luckily, nearby was Núi Tà Cú, or Tà Cú Mountain. The mountain is about 2,129 feet tall and is a popular tourist attraction. And I was about to find out why.

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Tà Cú Mountain is home to a Buddhist temple, though it used to house a previous queen. If you can get up the stairs…

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…you’ll be welcomed by three large statues…

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…and this incredible temple.

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What amazed me the most, though, was this 45-meter long statue of a reclining Buddha. I honestly thought it was a building at first.

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Afterwards, we paid a visit to the Ke Ga lighthouse. Since the lighthouse is on an island…

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…we stuffed what was probably too many people into one of these traditional fishing boats.

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In order to get to the top, we had to climb up a rather intense set of stairs.

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But the end definitely paid off.

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How can such unbelievable natural beauty exist in the same place where we found dead cockroaches under the bed…

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…or pay for a hot spring where, upon entry, we found most of the pools totally empty?

A hot spring for feet-- completely empty.

A hot spring for feet– completely empty.

I was only there for a week, but I already sensed it: Vietnam is a country of contrasts. There’s abject poverty and extreme wealth. I saw equally shocking beauty and squalor. It’s a country struggling with its chaotic history and difficult government. It’s a country still growing into its own.

And when I was there, I also sensed without a doubt: Vietnam was my country. For all its problems, Vietnam is an incredible place– and I admit, I’m proud to be of Vietnamese descent. I already can’t wait to return in December!

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Though I can stand a few more months of listening to people with Australian accents.

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(Australia’s pretty cool, too.)

Sayounara, Weight Watchers. Vietnam’s got you beat.

I’ve long since bid a temporary farewell to Weight Watchers. It just isn’t possible with my generous family here in Vietnam.

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My family here in Vietnam has been set on feeding me pretty much all of Saigon. This is no easy task, as this place is teeming with all sorts of Vietnamese cuisine. I’m Vietnamese, but there’s stuff I’ve rarely seen or never even heard of. My family here likes to eat at the various vendors that line the roads. Food carts will often offer seating:

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Or, if you’d like to be a bit more comfortable, you can enter a street restaurant:

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The plastic stools may be flimsy, and the tables may be simple steel or plastic, and you may have to wipe down the chopsticks before using them, but man. So far, I’ve been able to ignore all the cons for two huge pros: first, the cheapness–

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–and second, the deliciousness. Honestly, I’ve found that the cheaper the food, the tastier it is!

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Of course, I’ve also been quite lucky. Street food, while delicious, is treated with caution even by native Vietnamese. I’ve been warned not to eat any uncooked vegetables and to check any produce before purchasing it.

But that hasn’t held us back. My family here doesn’t cook much– since it’s so easy, for every meal, to go out and grab some cheap grub. Typical breakfasts have included:

I believe this is called... "hu tieu"?

I believe this is called… “hủ tiếu”?

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And this one was ” bò kho mì.”

Bún bò Huế.

And finally, bún bò Huế.

Street food is often fatty or oily, but never fear! Just make up for it by picking up some of the various exotic fruits, sold cheaper and fresher than in the United States! Interestingly enough,the apples and oranges and pears that are so commonplace in America are “exotic” in Vietnam.

Rambutan.

Rambutan.

Dragonfruit.

Dragonfruit.

Mangosteen.

Mangosteen.

Vietnam is pretty hot, though, so sometimes all you want is a cold beverage. Hey, no problem! You can find various types of chè, a sweet dessert drink typically made from mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, tapioca, and fruit, all over the city. There are a million different varieties to try!

This type just happens to be green.

This type just happens to be green.

My cousins here really like getting nước mía, or sugarcane juice. Vendors will squeeze fresh sugarcane right on the streets.

A lady working the sugarcane press.

A lady working the sugarcane press.

The resultant juice.

The resultant juice is sweet and citrusy.

My favorite will always be cà phê sữa đá, or Vietnamese iced coffee. It’s made by brewing finely-ground, dark-roast Vietnamese coffee in a drip filter and then mixing it with a bunch of condensed milk. Then, add ice and you’re golden!

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Before…

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…and after!

I admit, not everything’s to my taste. A lot of our dried fruits and candied spices are often a bit tangy for me.

Mystery dried stuff.

Mystery dried stuff.

Though most of the time I find the food impossible to resist. The seafood here! It’s so fresh!

Grilling some scallops.

Grilling some scallops.

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Crab.

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I honestly forget the Vietnamese name for this, but just know that it is delicious.

So, in all this food-tasting, I may have put on a kilo or two. Which is unfortunate, since I’m already a size XXL in Vietnam and all the clothes here is so darn cute.

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Shh. Don’t tell my doctor.

If I don’t get run over by the end of this, it’ll be a miracle.

Rules of the road in Vietnam: there are none.

One of the things I resolved not to do in Vietnam was ride on a motorbike. The US government travel website advises strongly against it: traffic signals are rare, the roads are congested and polluted, and helmets are flimsy and insufficient.

I can confirm that all of these are true, and can also give several more reasons not to ride motorbikes. For instance, motorbikes don’t have seatbelts.

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Since there are no turn signals, you turn left by slowwwwly nudging your way into the opposing traffic lane until they have to stop to let you go.
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People weave crazily in and out of traffic.
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The roads are always cramped– so some cyclists will cut onto the sidewalk…
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…or into the lane of opposing traffic.
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Pedestrians here cross the road much like cyclists do left turns: they slowwwwly walk onto the road until cars are forced to stop for them. (And, similar to the US, everyone jaywalks.)
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The roads are so smoggy with exhaust that everyone wears masks.
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I’ve even heard that people will grab your handbags and purses as you ride on the road.
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And finally, the tropical Vietnam is prone to sudden and intense rainstorms. Since everyone litters here, every time it rains, tons of garbage are caught in the water. The trash then clogs the sewers, causing muddy water to flood the streets:
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So, all in all, riding a motorbike in Vietnam should be a hair-raising, terrifying experience. We’re not quite up to American standards, that’s for sure. I shouldn’t even want to go near the things.
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So why is riding motorbikes here so damn fun?
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It’s honestly my favorite way to travel.
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How to survive a long flight

HOW TO SURVIVE A LONG FLIGHT

(By Vy)

1. Sit impatiently as the plane is delayed due to technical difficulties.

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2. Run the battery out on your phone playing Candy Crush Saga.

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3. Watch the plane take off.

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4. Ask for tea from the flight attendant. For some reason, it tastes like seaweed.

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5. Stare out the window for at least 3 hours. Once in a while, glimpse a nice view.

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Clouds over the Midwest.

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Mountains in Alaska.

The shoreline of what I'm pretty sure was an Alaskan island.

The shoreline of what I’m pretty sure was an Alaskan island.

The Japanese countryside, near Tokyo/Narita.

The Japanese countryside, near Tokyo/Narita.

Pretty clouds are pretty.

Pretty clouds are pretty.

The sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

The sun setting over the Pacific Ocean.

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6. Discover that your flight entertainment system has J-pop. Jam out.

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7. Watch the obligatory crappy rom-com, then watch it again.

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8. Realize that your flight’s only halfway through.

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9. Go to the bathroom when you don’t really need it. Discover that your legs are painfully asleep.

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10. Constantly check the time in both your starting point and destination. Get confused over how many hours are left in your flight.

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11. Resign yourself to the fact that your flight it pretty much going to go on for infinity, so there’s really no point in trying to calculate this anyway.

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12. Arrive at one of your layover points a half hour before you need to catch your next flight.

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13. Discover your next flight is another 6 hours long.

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14. Finally manage to fall asleep…

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15. …for 15 minutes.

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16. Wait.

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17. Suddenly realize, 10 minutes before landing, that this is really happening. You’re about to go to the country you’ve been the most scared to visit. Your heart rate goes up. You get the butterflies. Your knees go weak.

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18. And away you go.

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By the way, Vietnam is freaking awesome.

Looks like it’s time to visit the homeland.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to Vietnam! For the first time!

That’s right. I’m Vietnamese but I’ve never actually been to Vietnam before.

That’s about to change, though.

You know how I’m going to Sydney next semester? Well, my parents decided that if I went to Australia, we would all visit Vietnam once my semester was over. I mean, if one kid’s already at that side of the world, they might as well follow suit, yeah?

So we decided it would be cheapest if I got round-trip tickets in and out of Saigon, and another set of tickets from Saigon to Sydney. Therefore, I’ll be visiting Vietnam both before and after my study abroad!

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Ok, so “scared” is a little dramatic.

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And not without cause. There are exactly four things that are making me fret:

1. My grandmother.

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When your mom wants to buy you diarrhea relief medicine, it’s probably not a good sign. Speaking of my mom…

2. My mom.

My mom and dad had very different reactions to me traveling to Vietnam.

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My mom, the ever-protective mother bear, has given me wonderful tips about traveling in Vietnam.

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3. The U.S. Government travel website.

I read through the US travel advisory for Vietnam, where I found lovely quotes like these:

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Well, at least the advisory wasn’t as bad as the travel notice for Nigeria.

4. I’m Vietnamese and my Vietnamese sucks.

My Vietnamese is rudimentary at best and heavily accented. I can understand Vietnamese better than I can speak it, a fact that some of my more-distant relatives didn’t realize when I was a kid.

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If I was of Caucasian heritage, being able to speak any Vietnamese would be impressive. However, since I’m Vietnamese, my lack of skill opens me up to criticism and judgement. Better yet, I’m staying with family. Family that I’ve never met before and who speak a different dialect of Vietnamese. Whelp. I’m sure it’ll be interesting.

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Well, I’m sure we’ll communicate somehow.

And nervous or not, my tickets are booked. Tomorrow, I’m heading off to Vietnam!

By the way: Rumor has it that WordPress is blocked in Vietnam. If that’s the case, I might not be able to post anything until I arrive in Sydney, which will be on July 20th. So an extended absence from my blog either means I can’t get onto WordPress, or I’ve been kidnapped by some Vietnamese ruffians. Cheers!