15.08.2015 – 16.08.2015
After the great stay on Con Dao I was back once again in HCMC. Thankfully the plane arrived on time, and Pierre was waiting for me already. Great service.
Quick stop at Ngoc Luis Hotel to drop off my bag, and we quickly drove to a little bakery to get some fresh baguette – before I was treated to a nice breakfast prepared by Kim. And like the other food I was lucky to have before, it was a treat.
And it wasn’t the only great food I got during my last day – you could say it was a feast day. After breakfast I was back on Pierre’s bike to see a bit more of HCMC. First we followed the canal away from district 1. As usual I just enjoyed the crazy traffic here. After a brief stop a busy market near the rail track we went to probably weirdest café I have ever visited – a cat café called Neko No Uchi. The best way to explain is, that it is a normal café over two floors, where cats are roaming free (well, some are in a enclosed area). Even the mugs and doors are using a cat theme. If you like cats it is a nice place. Obviously you should stay away if you have a cat allergy.
The next stop was District 8 for lunch – another chance to have the tasty grilled chicken (the ride there is so worth it!!!). After the perfect lunch we headed back to district 1, as I wanted to buy another T-Shirt. On the way we stopped at a little cafe for some fresh fruit shakes, near Pierre old home. Even though it was a busy road it was a good place to stop, as it was great to watch the people doing their daily business, and seeing a chicken running around the bikes and cars. Not seen a free roaming chicken in a big city before. I also saw one the the thinnest buildings in HCMC – it is difficult to imagine that there even thinner ones. Unfortunately just when we left it started to rain, so we headed back to the hotel.
So the rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and getting a haircut at a local barber. 50.000 Dong for a haircut and a neck massage. Even though we only communicated through hand language I was rather happy with the result. And when can you get a haircut for about $2.50???
For my last dinner I was picked up by Tuan and Thuy again. They took me to a food place nearby that served nice barbequed food. We were initially sitting outside, but when the first dishes arrived it started to rain – but this is no problem. The staff made some space and carried the whole table with the food on it (!!!) inside so we were dry again. The food itself was great – though it seems Tuan and Thuy forgot that I am not Vietnamese and in addition of prawns, grilled meat and vegetables they orderd the squid quite spicy – I still manage to have some.
After the great meal I decided to do some exercise. One of the waiters left a bucket of ice at our table as he had to bring food to another table. So I just picked up the bucked and walked around the place to see if anyone else wanted ice for their drinks. While some looked at me as if I am crazy (well, they had good reason to believe that) most guest were just laughing at this silly foreigner. I ended up at one table for a beer or two. It was a great finish for dinner.
Afterwards the plan was to get back to the karaoke bar, but unfortunately it was too busy there. Instead we headed to a café for a smoothie. Thuy’s brother joined us with his wife, and it was nice just to have a chat. But unfortunately it was soon time to return to the hotel to pack my bag. It was not nice to say once again goodbye without knowing when we will be able to meet again.
Back at the hotel I was just on my way to my room when the son of the hotel owner invited me for a beer. Not being rude I joined him and his friend, who were sitting outside next to the canal with a few beer and a barbeque for a late night snack. Pierre joined us as well, so instead of getting ready I stayed outside next to the canal – drinking beer and eating again, nice grilled meat, enjoying the conversation. Seeing so many locals out in that late hours for beer and food just shows how nice it is to be outside the usual tourist areas – and for me it was the perfect end for a great holiday.
With 2 hours sleep I was picked up at 03:30 and was on my way to the airport. Check-in was easy, but at immigration I was in a queue with the slowest official I have seen. It took nearly 40 minutes to get through it. Though I was entertained by a conversation between a young backpacker from the US and NZ. I was biting my tongue when I heard the statement from the US girl that the food in Vietnam is not that great….the Vietnamese food in the US is so much better. Well, you can just shake your head and be happy not to meet to many of such backpackers!!!
Thanks to the slow immigration officer I made it to the gate in time for boarding, and unfortunately another three weeks in Vietnam was over.
Even though it was less than a day I enjoyed the end of my trip in HCMC, as I was able to catch up with the people that helped me to have such a great time during my last two trips. And it helped to have a chance to have four more delicious meals…I surely will miss Vietnamese food back home.
Overall I didn’t know what to expect from the second trip to Vietnam, especially after enjoying my first trip so much. But I enjoyed every single minute. I revisited some places again, and it was nice to be back in Hoi An seeing the family from the homestay again and to see new bits of HCMC as well, staying away from District 1. But it was good to be able to go to places that are not on so many itineraries. Travelling along the coast to Quang Ngai and Quy Nhon was just amazing, and really shows the hospitality of the Vietnamese people. And in Con Dao I got to know a little island that has so much to offer – the laidback atmosphere, and the lack of Western tourists makes it for me to the perfect place to escape the busy country Vietnam is. All the places were worth the visit, and I fell in love with Vietnam even more after this second trip. I am not sure I would feel the same if I would have stayed only on the beaten track, where tourists are popular targets for scams. But I didn’t experience any during my stay, instead I met great people I shared lots of beer and some good laughs with, making my stay so special. It is a shame that the attitude of a minority can impact the reputation of a whole country so much – and lead people not to visit this country.
However, I really cannot wait to return to Vietnam for a third time and exploring more of this beautiful country, and meet more of its wonderful people. The country and people got to me, and to be honest, I am glad it did.