Jill Higson is a guest who traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia with Journeys Within over the holidays (you can see her itinerary here) and has blogged about it to share her experience with family, friends and future visitors. Here she talks about her time in the busy metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City and her bond with guide Luc…
From motorbikes coming in every direction to pedicab and cab scams (which I fell for despite prior warning — that is what the heat and no sleep will do to you!), exploring Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city, can seem overwhelming.
Traveling with Journeys Within Tour Company, I was fortunate to have Luc as my trusted guide for the majority of my time exploring this buzzing city. He kept me safe, while smiling and enjoying every minute we spent together. From racing around the city’s streets on a motorbike to gobbling down our favourite shrimp rolls at every restaurant to paddling down the countryside’s river in a sampan boat!
Being with someone new is never easy, especially in a foreign country and for two days. However, Luc’s kindness, easy going manner and humor, help put me at ease and start my journey off on the best note.
Our time together started in the evening with a private concert at the Truc Mai House, where stories were told by the beautiful and talented Mrs Ngo and her son using traditional Vietnamese instruments. After enjoying the performance, we even got to try the instruments and though we failed miserably at mastering this new talent, we had a good laugh!
The show was followed by a delicious dinner of fried spring rolls (a popular food in Vietnam and served at most meals), rice and other tasty vegetables, sauces and all the extra condiment’s that accompany a traditional Southeast Asian meal.
Day two in the city was enjoyed from the back of a motorbike with Khiet as my driver and Luc by our side.
We stopped and saw some classic historical sites such as China Town’s bustling Binh Tay Market, where locals stop to shop and eat. We also took in the beautiful Holy Lady Temple, along with an Oriental Medicine Museum, local pagodas (tall, ornate buildings used for religious worship, with each floor having its own curved and decorated roof) and Notre-Dame Cathedral, where we congratulated a bride and groom after their wedding!
We ended the day with a traditional Vietnamese coffee (individually filtered by cup with thick cream added — a delicious treat that became a favorite drink of mine!) and drive along the Bach Day river side as the sun set.
After two days in the city, we drove 2 ½ hours out of the city to Cai Be Village in the Mekong Delta. We took a private traditional Vietnamese boat to explore the Cai Be Floating Market, one of the largest in the world. We watched rice paper and candies being made and of course got to sample them too. I got in the spirit of shopping and not only bought the homemade candies and honey, but some other non-handmade beauty products as well. The local hawkers made a killing from this New Yorker that day, who paid full price no less!
To recover Luc and I were rowed in a traditional sampan boat to a private lunch in a local garden house. We were treated to local dishes including Elephant Ear fish rolled in rice papers, pancakes and some exotic fruits and vegetables from the garden, all of which we enjoyed. Our host also celebrated doing a few shots of homemade Logan wine with Luc! It was a memorable and enjoyable day spent on land and water, one I won’t soon forget thanks to the bond I developed with my Vietnamese guide Luc.