Vietnam was interesting. I booked a Viator tour to take us from the port to Vung Tau, Vietnam, where I put my toes in the South China Sea for the first time! We had the most incredible tour guide, Kim who taught us so much about the Vietnamese culture. (She didn't hold back and I loved that about her)!
One the way from Phu My Port, Kim stopped at a rural local outdoor market for us to see. I've never seen so many fresh fruits and vegetables! (There was a lot of fish and meat too... but as a vegan, I steered clear of that part of the market). We definitely stood out in the crowd there... Kim said that the Vietnamese in rural areas don't encounter Westerners very much. My blonde hair was definitely getting a lot of looks. ;)
Something I noticed immediately about Vietnam is that there are motor bikes everywhere. Kim said that many people unfortunately cannot afford a car, so they get around on motorbikes. In fact, it's not uncommon to see a family of 3 or 4 squeezing onto one motor bike! However, she said there are rarely any accidents... and I didn't see any stop signs anywhere! I witnessed their driving and although its chaotic with so many motor bikes, everyone is courteous and waits their turn.
Kim took us to some incredible historical sites including the Whale Temple, the 19th century White Palace and Buddha of the Sea Pagoda.
Unfortunately, while on the grounds of the Buddhist Temple, I came across an injured kitten. (If you know me, you know how much I care for cats). It appeared that the kitten's mouth/jaw was attacked, possibly by a monkey. :(. It was hot and the poor kitten appeared to be unable to drink. I felt helpless because I wanted to help the kitten, but I was in a foreign country where many don't hold pets in the same regard. I was visibly upset and alerted the woman who lives on the grounds. The woman didn't speak English, but Kim was able to translate for us. The woman told Kim she would try to call a vet.
We continued on the tour of the grounds, but 'cat-loving me' couldn't stop thinking about that helpless kitten in the heat. I asked Kim if she thought it would be a nice gesture if I gave the woman some Vietnamese Dong (local currency) to help the kitten. She said yes, so I went back to pet the kitten, say a prayer and gave the woman some money to help pay for a vet visit. She told Kim she would ask the vet to come by that evening. I did all I could and I hope that kitten got the care it needed.
While walking around the rest of the Buddhist Temple, a Monk stopped me and said he wanted to give us Buddhist Monk bracelets as a gift. Followers believe that the Buddha bracelets attract health, wealth, and good fortune when worn. The bracelets are also believed to purify thoughts, enhance spirituality and bring peace of mind.
Maybe that was karma.
Kim also took us to visit the giant statue of Jesus Christ. This statue, with its arms outstretched roughly 61 feet across, is one of the tallest statues of Christ in all of Asia... and we had to climb 800 steps in the blazing heat to get to it. Phew!
The view from the top was worth the climb though.
After that workout, it was time for some food. Kim won my heart when she took us to the most delicious vegan restaurant! Have you ever tried lotus? It's a popular Vietnamese vegetable and it's in almost everything. Lotus soup, lotus in salad... and it was delectable!
No question, this was the best meal of the entire trip! The food was so good that I asked for a take-away box to bring the leftovers back with us on the cruise ship. The leftovers made for a yummy snack that night!
You may have heard that 2023 is the year of the rabbit. However, in Vietnam, they have their own calendar, and 2023 is the year of the cat. Of course, I had to get a photo with this display.
It was hot outside, and what a treat it was when we got back into the van and our driver had fresh coconuts for us to drink! Yummy!
Our last stop was the beach, where I dipped my toes in the South China Sea. Kim said that most Vietnamese people don't like to go to the beach until after 4pm because they want to have porcelain skin. Kim went on to say that they view the level of tan as indicative of class in society. She said "if you have porcelain skin, you’re believed to be richer because your light skin is believed to be light because you have access to indoor air conditioning."
The beach was nice, but I was surprised at the amount of trash there.
Kim shared a lot of interesting information about Vietnam with us. She also said:
"Roughly 70% of Vietnamese have no specific religion.
Southern Vietnam still refers to Ho Chi Minh City as Saigon.
Southern Vietnam is more open-minded than northern. Some women have boyfriends in addition to their husband. Some men have girlfriends in addition to their wife.
The main place women would like to move is the USA. Some find an American man to marry.
Cars don’t move over for ambulances. Scooters have their own lane on right. (We witnessed this)!
They love coffee.
Many are more interested in the results of a US presidential election, than Vietnam."
This was certainly a full-day adventure!
My next is post coming soon...see where we go next. :)