The answer has been surprisingly simple – follow the locals.
We flew down to Ho Chi Minh from Hue with 10 days left before departing for the Philippines. Off the plane and hit by a wall of warm, beautiful, humid air. The sun was shining as we followed our plane companions through the airport to the madness that was Ho Chi Minh. A short but slow taxi ride that made the M25 look like a deserted country road and we arrived to the party capital of Vietnam. The reason we hadn’t seen many hookers, drugs or behavior that some may naturally associate with South East Asian cities so far is because they were all congregating in this one street.
After finding our hostel in a quite back alley we headed out to find some much needed food. With Prevelly continuing her foreign relations to a wide variety of characters, we found her beloved mushroom rice soup and fueled up for our continued travels in the morning.
Off to the beach we go. Vung Tau was the destination and with some very mixed reviews online we thought it best to judge ourselves. With a 3 km stretch of beach on one side of the island and many smaller spots on the other, we knew we’d be in luck. The next 6 days were a beautiful mix of beach fun, moped exploration and sea food feasting. We also found an upside down house in the town and attempted the statuary photos when in such a place.
The town itself is set up mostly for locals on a weekend get away, with only a handful of Europeans and Americans among the mass crowds that swarmed the beach from 6 am. We nestled in between the locals and gave Prevelly her first travelling class room lesson in learning the alphabet.
Taking to it quite quickly she traded her writing shell for an inflatable duck and took on the waves. The sea and being in water has always been a favorite of hers but the lack of a bath is proving difficult in maintaining cleanliness as she is not a fan of showers.
After searching for a change to noodle soup and local dishes we managed to find one of Prevelly’s favorite cuisines – sushi. A family boat for £9 that boasted 40 pieces, selected randomly from the menu. The chop stick skills had developed by the second night and our little girl was blending in as if she were Chinese. Being the socialite that she is, we often found her walking to other tables to try her luck at nabbing an extra roll.
The best meal came on the last night of our stay as we made a fatal error when calculating the cost to weight ratio on the seafood. After a day on the moped and on the way back to the hotel, Daniella stumbled across a hidden gem as we drove down the mountain side. With a veranda that stood above the sea as the waves gently lapped over the rocks below, the moonlight shinning over the ocean, illuminating the old wooden boats in the bay, we knew we had found a winner. To top it off the crab and lobster were less than £3.5 per kilo. A kilo of crab, a kilo of lobster and 4 giant grilled oysters to finish it off. Washed down with a cold beer whilst some mellow music played in the background. Fun had by all and three very full bellys by the end.
The slight glitch in a perfect meal came when the bill was presented and the realization that there may have been a miscommunication when we were hand picking our soon to be feast. It wasn’t in fact 100,000 dong per kilo, it turned out to be 1,000,000. Fortunately the meal had been so good and we had laughed until we cried, which didn’t make the ten fold addition of the bill to painful. The only problem came when they didn’t accept cards and our wallets were shy of a million or so. This led to the most horrifying 40 minutes of our trip so far.
The ride from hell. Being on the other side of the mountain there was a shortage of ATMs. The manager insisted that she drive me to one as it would be quicker. Not even giving me time to put on my helmet, we took off as if we had just robbed the place and the police were hot on our tail. The only time she took her hand off of the horn was to text as she weaved in and out of traffic. We went on to and off of sidewalks, disregarded all light systems in place and could have easily been mistaken for filming the next Jason Bourne movie.
As I contemplated whether or not to leave a video message for my loved ones we found the ATM. Never before have I been so happy to pay the fee for the local bank charge. Whilst all of this is going on my beautiful partner is planning how to carry my ashes on the rest of their trip and what to tell family and friends back home. Fortunately we were all reunited, a few million down but still laughing.
Ho Chi Minh was our last destination for the remaining few days. A chance to do some much need washing and to soak in the craziness of the city. We ventured into Ben Thanh market for a browse but with limited space in our single case we held back from buying anything that could increase the load. A few parks for Prevelly and a spot of swimming in a resort pool and our time was up. We fully intend to come back to Vietnam in the summer months and do a full historical tour of the country. It’s an incredible place that has so much to offer. The cities come to life at night and the locals start the day early with their breakfast on the side of the roads. An extremely welcoming environment from top to bottom and traveling with our daughter has opened us up to a local community that we may not have seen otherwise.
Being Millionaires, has been a refreshing change but now we change our dongs for pesos and see what the Philippines has to offer.