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March 2017

Hanging around in Hoi An

Going from a Long Island Ice Tea, to a bottle of still water can be a big contrast and change. Comparable to going from the hectic Ho Chi Minh to the ancient town in the countryside of Vietnam; Hoi An – or as I would call it, the Venice of Asia.

On TripAdvisor it’s ranked the 5h “best” place in Asia which hints that it should be somewhat nice here – and it is. I never really trust those surveys, but after spending 2,5 days here I can confirm that it’s really nice and definitely a “must-stop” if you are traveling through Vietnam. There are some OK beaches here, which is always nice, but the thing Hoi An is famous for is it’s ancient old town, which is also an Unesco World Heritage – and those places usually are pretty nice. The old town itself has no traffic, which is big contrast to the rest of Vietnam where there are lots of hectic traffic and scooters everywhere.

On the other hand, there isn’t really a lot to do here. Some tours in the countryside, cooking course and an island tour for snorkeling etc. (did not tempt after Australia since every snorkeling would be worse than it was there) so I just spent the days how I like them; relaxing, working out, enjoying the weather and the vibe. Also met some funny people on the bus here so we were a group of 4 representing Togo, India, Germany and then myself. Will definitely keep up with the funny Indian guy, since I’ve decided to go there after Nepal. It wasn’t in my initial plan, but I just found out that it’s now possible with an online VISA to India. God bless the future and technology!

Now, another bus, before I plan to change the way of transportation.

Good morning Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh

Imagine a city with 8 million people (about twice of Norway btw). Then imagine that there are 8 million motorbikes in that city. Add this up and we get one word: chaos! That’s actually one of the things Ho Chi Minh City is known for now in recent days, but there is also a lot, and I mean a lot, of history in this vibrant city.

Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the locals call it, used to be the capital before the Vietnam war. I’m not gonna pretend I’m your history teacher, but I find myself over average educated and found out I didn’t really know much about the Vietnam war, so why not share a few of my learnings?

So, the Vietnam war explained in one minute:
1. The northern Vietnam was communistic
2. The southern Vietnam was capitalistic
3. The northern declared war in 1955 wanting Vietnam to be communistic lead by Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader
4. China, Russia and North-Korea supported the north (total army of 460 000 soldiers)
5. Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and the US supported the south (total army of 1 860 000 soldiers and much more modern and better weapons)
6. The US were afraid that if Vietnam turned communistic, the rest of south-east Asia would too, and the US don’t like communism and thought it would hurt their business deals in oil.
7. The north were also supported by the southern guerilla army. Guerilla is an army independent of politics and usually lives in the jungle fighting really dirty and nasty with traps, ambushes etc.
8. The war lasted for almost 20 years, 1955 to 1975.
9. Huge losses, both military and innocent civilian on both sides. Lots of torture, chemical warfare, rapes and really nasty things.
10. The communists won, if you can say a war has a winner – I would say only losers. Anyway, Vietnam turned communistic and Saigon changed name to Ho Chi Minh City – after the communist leader. The withdraw of the US armies and eventually losing the war was a big bummer for America. They thought the Vietnam war would be an easy and quick fight, but they didn’t only fell victim to the communists; they fell victim for their own underestimation as well. The communists were a lot fewer in numbers, technology, weapons etc. but they still beat the Americans since they were not used to fight in these kinds of circumstances. Heat and jungle were home for the communists, and they knew every trick in the book and performed them to chock and outrun the Americans.

History lesson over for this time, but what struck me the most was how brutal this war was. Definitely can be compared to the WW2 when it comes to torture and killing innocents.

Now maybe Ho Chi Minh sounds like a really bad place with just chaos and war? It’s not. I found the people here super friendly and it’s very cheap. Usually I don’t appreciate super busy cities, but right now I’m in such a good mood and flow that everything is just likable. I spent 2 nights and 3 days here, which I found was a perfect time. If you want to go to the Mekong Delta on a day tour, you might add an extra day, if not 2-3 days are perfect.

Time to hit the road, this time by bus, not less than 12 hours night bus ahead of me. Luckily enough it’s a sleeper bus with some kind of “beds” and they say to be somewhat comfortable. Unfortunately, Asian people are short – and I’m not.

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