March, 06 2018

Hey everybody,

If you caught our last post, Vietnam Is Ok, you've already read about our time in Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An and Hon Chong (a suburb of Nha Trang). With a lifestyle of walks on the beach, caramel macchiatos and sushi almost daily, I'll happily admit that Hon Chong was our favorite thus far. It's no wonder Russian tourism is so big there. Seriously, even the locals spoke to us in Russian. After that, we headed for Dalat.

The Waterfall Capital Of Vietnam

Ok, so that's not the official title, but with 12 majestic and fairly non-commercialized waterfalls within a short driving distance, it's deserving. We booked a "taxi" with a private company to take us the 6 hours from Nha Trang to Dalat. It turned out to be a limo-ified sprinter van equipped with lighting, stereo and all of the other things that make a sprinter van seem more like a limo; and we had it all to ourselves. The road was windy, but every street corner in SE Asia has a pharmacy and the ones in Vietnam sell Scopolamine patches for motion sickness. We were a little hesitant after watching the Vice Documentary "The World's Scariest Drug", but they sure did take the edge off and allow us to arrive at our boutique hotel in Dalat sickness-free.

Our balcony in Dalat.

After settling in a bit, we decided to go out exploring. We saw a supermarket on our way in that wasn't too far away, so we figured we'd take a long walk and sightsee on our way to there. From cool plant sculptures to the random bridges, deserted tourist traps and a massive man-made lake  - the place was absolutely bizarre.

Vespa planter in the middle of a busy intersection - why not?

Recycled car parts for farm advertising - of course.

This glass onion thing/coffee shop.

A super busy courtyard.

And finally, the entrance to the grocery store - with zero signage.

It sort of felt like we had the whole town to ourselves. While on our walk, we noticed a small path through a park-like area and decided to walk down it. There was a coffee shop and, naturally, a VietJet office to buy airline tickets - about an hour away from the airport. Naturally, we bought our tickets to Saigon and checked that off the list while we were out and about.

After getting back to our room, we decided to plan our assault on the places we wanted to see. After all, we only planned on staying 4 days in Dalat. There was a place called "Crazy House", which was designed as a passion project by an architect in the 90s, an old church, and tons of waterfalls. We still had work to do, so we opted to only visit a few of the sites in town.

The church was beautiful.

And the Crazy House was crazy. Imagine a Flintstone's treehouse mansion.

Everything in Dalat is pretty close together, so we spent most of our time just walking around the winding city streets and taking in the culture. There were a few markets selling winter wear and flip-flops, and some nice cafes to work from. All in all, it was a nice quiet place to see some sights and get a little work done. On our third day, however, we headed out chasing waterfalls as TLC intended (never tell me not to do something). The waterfalls were amazing!

Pongour Falls! This was about the time Trista wept; because beauty.

Right before I snuck up and photobombed some asians.

Buff Trista in her natural habitat.

Elephant Waterfall - That spot was not easy to get to.

The next day, we took a taxi to the airport and headed to Ho Chi Minh City - formerly known as Saigon! We were pretty excited about Saigon because there was so much history and we'd done a bit of research on places to see and things to do. We were living right on the edge of Districts 1 & 3 above a little place called Poto Cafe. It was nice, because we were outside of the tourist area just enough to be living around a bunch of locals, and the staff at the cafe were all awesome people. As we do when we first arrive anywhere, we dropped off our bags and headed out exploring. We did not realize just how local of an area we'd chosen.

A canal just down the street from our place.

A bunch of hourly rate hotels - also just down the street.

It was really interesting because if we walked one direction, we'd see places like this, but if we walked the opposite direction, we'd be at tourist hot-spots in no time. It really showcased the district structure of the city. On one of our first days there, we stumbled upon a little slice of heaven. A artisanal hotdog stand called Sot Stand - it was incredible! The owner, Thanh, made the best dogs either of us had ever had! We talked for a while and told him how well his stand would do in the United States. He was astonished. Apparently, Vietnamese people don't traditionally like hot dogs. He said that his regulars were mostly college kids and that his online representation was almost non-existent.


Eating our first of many Sot Dogs!

Now, I don't consider myself a web developer, but after seeing how much people over here can do with just a little bit of help, I had to do something. I took a day off of learning and surprised him with his very own website the following day. We went back almost daily for the remainder of our trip, and even went out with Thanh and his friends one night to Bui Vien Walking Street. It’s a very cool street.

The view of Bui Vien Street from a speakeasy I sniffed out on Reddit.

There's a reason they call it a walking street. (not my picture)

As usual, we mostly worked from the cafe we lived above, or in one of the many coffee or tea shops near our home. The best thing about Vietnam for remote workers is the data plans - hands down! For $20/month we were able to tether to our phones and pick up 50mpbs speeds everywhere we went. We decided not to rent a scooter while in Saigon, so when we pulled away from work, we made sure to make a full day of it. We only spent a few days like this, but there was no shortage of places to see when we did!

We saw some amazing markets, churches and historical landmarks; experienced the traffic and craziness of big city life; and even made it out to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, which were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war.

A massive food market.

Ben Thanh- a shopping center with every knockoff you could imagine.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Tan Dinh - "The Pink Church"

Independence Palace - the former presidential residence and location of the American soldiers' last stand.

The Saigon Opera House.

A former apartment building for U.S. Troops that's been converted into cafes, restaurants and boutique shops.

Wiring in SE Asia - it's pretty much like this everywhere.

Getting at drawn on at Tadashi Tattoo - The best tattoo shop in Vietnam!

Typical Saigon Traffic. We took a bus ride to the Cu Chi Tunnels to soak up more of the sights. 10/10 recommend.

Trista coming out of one of the tunnels.

Walking up stairs in the tunnels, the only place we could stand.

Our time in Vietnam wasn't as relaxing and inspiring as our time in Bali; it wasn't as intentionally focused or eye-opening as our time in Chiang Mai; we simply woke up each morning with our own routines, I furthered my development education and put together more pieces of my project, we met some nice people, went exploring, fought, made up, worked out, went on dates, ate street food...it was the closest to 'normal' we've seen in some time. If we'd come here on a short vacation, it would have been amazing, but living here for three months was a little longer than I think either of us ended up wanting. That's why I can say again, with absolute confidence, that Vietnam is just ok.

Till next time,

Erik

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