Was my Vietnam trip worth it?

That is a pretty hard thing to answer.

Let me start it with what I did in Vietnam.

It started out with something really simple – I was getting bored with life. Don’t think me crazy (actually you can) but life was getting too comfortable for me. I was working in a good company, awesome boss, awesome colleagues, the office is 2 kms from my place, great teamwork but something was missing – the challenges that I love. I was getting bored with the same old story – wake up, get ready for office, reach office, work the whole day, return, rest, repeat. I was getting into the comfort zone which I was always scared of. I get super un-productive while I am in the comfort zone.

So, I had to break this. So to do that, I took a step that I never thought I would be brave enough to take – I left my full time job to backpack Vietnam. How everything was planned and all is another tale to share – which I am writing in-depth in my book about my whole experience in Vietnam with all the required information that you will need in Vietnam – from my personal perspective.

I spent 84 days in Vietnam, which might sound a lot but really, trust me, I needed more. In those 84 days, I tried to go out of my comfort zone as and when I could. In this blog, I will just mention the main experiences and will not go into details – as this blog has the possibility of turning itself into a huge book. 

Just after reaching Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City), the first thing I did was stay with a local. That was a huge advantage for me and I consider myself extremely lucky for that opportunity. I did CouchSurfing (got a tremendous help from Miss Mai – in searching for a host; her real name is Mai Hương but I prefer to call her Miss Mai). I stayed with Hoàng Nguyễn and his lovely family and had the first hand experience of Vietnam’s culture – with great food and out-of-the-world hospitality. 

The same day of reaching, I went out to meet Anastasia and Thanh and the team of Totbrand where I was helping out with the photography of a workshop they were organising. It was a great experience. Here is a glimpse of that event and the team behind it –

It was on the same day, I made a plan to visit my sister’s childhood friend, Daisy baa, who fortunately was in Vietnam in a small city called Vung Tau – with her husband, Kunal da. A great decision because although a lot of people do not talk about it, the city is a really peaceful one – with a good beach and so less people. I saw a drastic difference in population in just a few hours drive from HCMC.

By that time, I got one invitation to join a Charity Event from Miss Mai in a small school in Tây Ninh province. Wonderful experience to be able to spend the whole day with kids – who didnt understand me and whom I didnt understand – but we connected with the universal languages – smile, music and dance. Yeah – it was a wonderful day well spent.

Amidst all the good food now and then at my host’s place, I got the chance to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels with Miss Mai. Yes, she was my main tour guide + my awesome sister in my HCMC trip. I went into the tunnels like the soldiers in the Vietnam War. It was a great experience to be able to see how the soldiers lived and spent their days during the war.

A few days in, I was travelling the whole city, going into the nooks and corners of the city and exploring the Vietnamese culture. I was meeting and making new new friends along the way, which was giving me enormous exposure to the Vietnamese culture and customs. I was learning about the new food habits of the region and the bits and pieces of the language – which I tell you is hard – because while most of the languages that I ever came across focussed on the words only, Vietnamese language has a base in its tone as well – I mean to say, if you say the same word in a different tone, it might mean something else or maybe no meaning at all. So it was an interesting language to get your grip on.

Next stop was Da Lat – a hill station you can say, with cooler climate and nice people. Had a few adventures there but that is another story to discuss in some other time. Now I am focussing on the main parts. I was planning to stay for 2 days but ended up staying there for more than 2 weeks because I was loving the people there – especially the hostel owner, Dalat Note Hostel, who helped me a lot in learning about the Tet festival – Lunar New Year – which luckily was at that time. He introduced me to his family, the food that is eaten at the time, etc. It was a fun time.

Then Da Nang happened. This place is one of the highlights on the whole trip. I stayed there for a month. I was teaching there. So the story goes like this – I found Đô Đô through a mutual friend. He has one English centre where he lets in foreigners to stay at his place for free and in return, he asks help from us in helping his students with conversations in English and the pronunciations, like spending an hour per class as and when necessary. This way the students get to practice English with travellers like us – get a new perspective on travelling, about other countries, about the cultures, etc. Such a sweet concept. I tell you that this concept is being used in almost the whole of Vietnam, especially in the major cities of Vietnam – which is a pretty cool way to teach.

The classes were fun, we had sessions on Music, on Relationships, on Food, etc. The topics can be about anything as long as the students are getting enough chance to speak up their mind – in English. This also helped me get in touch with like 100+ students which did let me know more about the Vietnamese people and the culture. A Golden Opportunity. The students would take me out for coffee, to play with them in the university, for lunch, etc and the best part – to show me Da Nang. Da Nang gave me a lot of friends, a lot of travel, a lot of learning.

It was during those times, I got the opportunity to join an open mic – where I mustered up the courage to sing in front of people from different countries – one Hindi song and one Assamese song. It was huge for me. I never sang publicly – expect in those school functions when I was a kid.

I went to attend 2 campings in 2 secret beaches with DoDo (he is an awesome organiser) – so secret that the whole beach would be just for us – just us. No one else. In both the campings, there would be like 20 people – some foreigners and all students and DoDo himself. There was food, music, dancing – loads of wood and food again. It was fun. It was the first and second time that I ever slept in a beach – under the open sky – with waves crashing just 50m away from me. It was one hell of an experience. I would definitely do that again – given the chance.

During Da Nang, I also had the opportunity to go to see the amazing cities of Hue and Hoi An. Such wonderful cities. Wow!

Hue is a drooling city for those who are into ancient culture and architecture. It was the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty emperors with main attractions being the 19th-century Đại Nội Citadel, it encompasses the Imperial City, with palaces and shrines; the Forbidden Purple City (Tử cấm thành), once the emperor’s home; and a replica of the Royal Theatre.

I did the Hoi An trip with Persi – right after we had a class at DoDo’s. Just one hour drive from Da Nang, Hoi An is an old city with mixed eras and cultures from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese tube houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge with its pagoda. The iconic look of the Hoi An city is the streets with lamps everywhere.

Fast forward to a few weeks and I was in the interesting city of Vinh. Vinh is a small city with very little to see, to be honest and so attracts a much lesser travellers or tourists but it was one of the main highlights of the whole trip.

Without going into details of this trip, here are the highlights – I stayed at Vien Quang pagoda at Nghệ An province, interacted with the monks, practiced Phat Quang Quyen with them and shared Muay Thai with them, cooked food with the people in the pagoda, got taught about breathing techniques from an 80 year old sweet lady, made 100s of friends and got loads and loads of love and care from them – at one point I was like – “Do I even deserve so much love?‘. I was even invited to another pagoda by some of my friends that I made there – I was literally feeling like a celebrity when 10-20 people were waiting in queue to take a picture with me while others standing in front of me to take pictures. Woah! It was wonderful 🙂

Let the pictures speak for itself –

It was just 4 days in Nghe Anh province but it was just wonderful. Really!!! Next time I am in Vietnam, this is the place that I surely wont miss visiting.

The next and long stop was Hanoi. When I first came to Hanoi, after Vinh and Da Nang, Hanoi didn’t actually interest me at first but then it got hold of me pretty well. I started with Couchsurfing with a Senior Game Designer from India, Aman – great guy. Then I was staying in Homestay Prime where I was helping with English in exchange of free accommodation and lunch. Made friends with Raul, JoJo, Alex etc (sorry for not naming all here but all are in my heart) and aaah – the students there – cannot stress how lovely they all were – Wow! I had a great time teaching them, long music sessions, banh mi and nem nuong eating all the time, a lot of midnight ice creams, made friends with birds, etc and etc. In between, me and Alba, the aSpanish girl (Alba – you will get the joke here) went to Cat Ba Islands and skipped Halong Bay. We hitch-hiked (thanks to her), stayed at a hospital waiting room because we had no where to stay, walked for hours, travelled the whole island, met Piotr – the Polish guy who cross oceans now and then, returned to Hanoi.

After some weeks, it was time for me to leave. Reality hits hard.

So coming back to the main question – Was my Vietnam trip worth it?

You be the judge!

Feel free to drop your comments down below or contact me for any further information about Vietnam.

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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Traveller

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