Never in a million years did I ever think work would provide me the opportunity to see Vietnam and Cambodia. This year it happened and I want to tell you all about it, starting with Vietnam.
Well, well here we are. My vow in my New Years Resolutions post was to travel more and I think I may have just achieved that on the halfway mark this year.
I am very blessed that I work in the area that I love, being in Travel. I studied it for 6 years of my life, I got a First Honours Degree in it and now I get to sell people holidays that they will remember for the rest of their life. Now, everyone probably thinks selling holidays can’t be that hard. Maybe you’re right but selling people holidays to places you’ve never been can be difficult.
I had never done any kind of long-haul trip before and I knew at some point this had to change. Whether, that be on my own back or through some kind of work trip. The bonus of being in the sales team is that we need experience to better our knowledge. An opportunity came up at work through Vietnam Airlines and due to many people having done the whole ‘gap year’ trip through SE Asia already and others having been to this area with work before. The trip fell down in my lap. It did not really sink in before as the furthest i’ve been on a flight is to Florida when I was 1 years old and I do not remember it (apart from the fact apparently I screamed the whole way…yes, I was that child).
I returned from my holiday in Cyprus with my family on Monday 10th June, then on the Tuesday evening I travelled down to Heathrow.
I had never really done a long-haul flight before, never mind 12 hours on the same mode of transport. We were extremely lucky however as it was a sales trip, Vietnam Airlines hooked us up with Premium Economy Seats. Goodness, they made so much difference it meant I had space to relax and stretch out. I napped once or twice, had food and watched a couple of movies. I loved watching the flight trail as seeing us flying over Russia and China gave me goosebumps as it’s the furthest I’d been in the world when I can actually appreciate it.
We arrived in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh to be exact. The humid air hit us all immediately and was weirdly a refreshing change to being on the aircraft although we all knew it was going to be a sweaty trip…
Day 1 – Our journey to Can Tho
On arrival, we all were a little tired however we met our guide from AIC Travel and were taken on a little journey on the Mekong River. His English name was Mervin and he was absolutely hilarious, definitely professional comedian standard. We were all exhausted but we forgot about the fact we had just been on a 12 hour flight and wanted to power through and do some sightseeing.
We hopped aboard our little boat and ventured over to Coconut Island. An Island, named that way for quite an obvious reason which now is home to the amazing locals making coconut candy. We watched them make it all by hand and in such strong heat, I feel like I could never complain about working in an Air-Conditioned office ever again.
After Coconut Island and trying many of the delights…including strangely enough Snake Wine. I know, it sounds awful but to be honest it just tasted like a really strong whiskey. We ventured on over to Unicorn Island…this one the name unfortunately doesn’t have the same meaning. It is absolutely stunning, a maze of canals take you through where the locals live and work. Most of the locals have a career in beekeeping, living from the fruits of the trees and fishing.
You can do a little Mekong tour across the several islands – Phoenix, Dragon, Turtle and Unicorn.
It was so lovely experiencing the islands across the Mekong River to get a taster of the Vietnamese lifestyle. We then headed to Can Tho to our hotel and had lunch halfway.
We arrived at the Victoria Hotel in Can Tho, with a lovely warm welcome. It is a 4-star property in a very typical French-Colonial style, located along the Mekong River. My room was absolutely stunning with an amazing view and I immediately felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
Now we were quite tired on that evening but dinner was so lovely at the Sao Hôm restaurant in Can Tho, afterwards we went to the very popular Karaoke area. Karaoke is massive in Vietnam and we went to the Karaoke Hotel. It was the most bizarre experience but this fancy hotel had all of it’s rooms converted into Karaoke booths, it was hilarious and such a good ice breaker for our group.
After a karaoke session with the Brits vs Vietnam against our guides we went back to the hotel and relaxed ready for the next day.
Day 2 – Cai Rang and back to Saigon
After a perfect sleep I was up and ready to head downstairs. We were really lucky as the Victoria Hotel is located on the Mekong River and have their very own boat. It is a renovated rice barge and they use it now to take cruises down to the floating market.
We had a breakfast buffet on board and what a way to start your morning. We sipped fresh juices and ate fruit as we gradually edged closer to the iconic Cai Rang Floating Market.
It was like a completely different world. Locals just arrived next to our boat with cold drinks, fresh coconuts, mangoes and let me just put this into perspective 1kg of Mango or 1kg of Lychees were only $2.00 it was unreal and the freshest fruit I had ever seen.
A lovely couple welcomed us onto their boat and they had all fresh Pineapple, they were cutting and carving them all by hand and we got to try some. I don’t think I can ever have pineapple at home ever again as it will not go anywhere near that.
We hopped off our boat and went to witness how Vietnamese Rice Noodles are made and headed back to the boat. We were so grateful to have spent our morning visiting this iconic area. However, something really did strike me as we passed a lot of slums; it was very clear how poor a lot of the community are and there was a lot of rubbish and plastic waste at the side of the river. The locals were all so welcoming and smiley to all of us that it would not even cross your mind the conditions they live in.
After we got back to the hotel we had time to swim in the pool, get ready and head onto the coach ready for our coach journey back to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon).
It took around 4 hours and luckily I napped most of the way so I got to relax. We arriving into Ho Chi Minh and drove to our hotel named the Nikko hotel Saigon. A 5-star property, a modern Japanese style located in the business district. It was absolutely beautiful and this may be too much information but frankly, I don’t care. I even got to try one of those Japanese toilets in my room for the first time and it was brilliant, especially the heated toilet seat.
What I enjoyed about staying in Can Tho is that it was not really busy and I quite liked the tranquil feeling it had. Yet Ho Chi Minh and this hotel had such a modern metropolitan feel. On our evening after dinner we went to the Ben Thanh Market and my colleagues did some bargaining for some ‘cheap designer fakes’. We were all quite tired from the travelling so we went to bed early, not before a cheeky night cap at the Nikko Hotel.
I went to sleep in my humongous bedroom and I even slept with the curtains open as we had a great view over the city.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh is a bustling metropolitan city, a perfect spot to see such a mixture of architecture from French Colonial Architecture to the modern Reunification Palace and Traditional Pagodas.
I woke up and we all gradually went down for breakfast and I have honestly never seen anything like it. Endless sections filled with fruit, pastries, yoghurts, noodles, traditional english breakfast options and even fresh pancakes and waffles. It was absolutely incredible and we all filled ourselves up ready to say goodbye to Vietnam.
After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed out to explore the iconic landmarks of Ho Chi Minh. Starting with the Reunification Palace, also known as the Independent Palace which was home to the South Vietnamese President during the American Vietnam War but rather than being known as the swanky home of the President. It is better known for the Fall of Saigon in 1975 when the tanks crashed through the gates.
After our tour around the Palace we headed over to the 19th Century Post Office, one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh and the most lavish Post Office i’ve ever soon. Not like our Post Office in the back of WHSmiths…
After our fleeting visit around Ho Chi Minh it was fascinating to see how much variation there is in the city and I would definitely love to go back to explore even more.
We couldn’t believe that was it, Vietnam was over and it was time to head to the airport ready for Cambodia. We were all so excited for a change of scenery and to start our next step of the journey. I could not wait as secretly Cambodia was the one I was looking forward to the most.
I was amazed, Vietnam Airlines made it so easy and with just a 1 hour flight we were in Cambodia it passed in barely any time at all. On board the flight we filled in our visa for Cambodia and got our visa on arrival at the airport. It cost $30.00 each and was really straight forward, you can do it online for around the same price but it was a quick process and we could not wait to get started.
From Vietnam to Cambodia in a hop, skip and jump…
I would love to tell you more about Cambodia…but that is for next time.
I can not quite believe that I am writing posts on Vietnam and Cambodia that I never saw myself visiting this year. I really hope you enjoyed reading all about my 48 Hours in Vietnam. My next post will of course be my 48 Hours in Cambodia. They were so vastly different in my eyes and I honestly had goosebump moments in Cambodia.
I have so many more posts lined up so if you subscribe you will get to hear all about them, there are so many saved in my drafts that for some reason I have had no motivation but time to kick myself in the butt and I will get them posted. Also, follow me over on Twitter and Instagram at @bookitblogger to see even more of my images and updates.
Thank you for reading,