Venturing Out: Vietnam 2015

9:22:00 PM

Over the past few years I've been saving up money in order to travel and explore different countries with my Mom and sister Trina. I think I realized quite a bit back that at the end of the day, to go shopping and buy new things is great and fun, but to be able to go off into a new country, explore and experience a new culture and make so many fantastic memories is priceless. With that being said, my family and I jetted off to Vietnam for a couple days last March.

Going to Vietnam was truly an eye opening experience. From the busy streets that were filled with motorcycles (that didn't know when to stop- Pedestrians beware!) to the delicious (and quite deceivingly strong) coffee and healthy noodle soups- the vacation was a true test of my Faith and willingness to "explore."

Visiting Vietnam made me realize just how blessed I truly am. And no, I don't mean the "rich kid" #BLESSED on social media (although I have annoyingly used that hashtag in past posts) but blessed to have been born and raised in the Philippines. As poverty stricken our country may be, I couldn't believe my eyes with what I saw in Saigon. 

Yes, not every Vietnamese person is having a hard time but the fact that the cost of living is so high and the salaries are so low made me feel the injustice that the people there face. Can you believe that, as per our tour guide, the price of a square meter of land to build a house is $6,000 dollars?! That's Six thousand US dollars. How crazy is that?! Which is why if you go to Vietnam you'll notice that the houses are slim/narrow but very tall, some even 5 floors high.

Despite the hardship, I must admit that Vietnam has one of the richest histories I've ever learned about. From the war, to the political explosion and division of Saigon and Hanoi, I was always so engrossed at our tour guides stories.

We got to visit the Mekong River as well as the Củ Chi Tunnels- both of which were very interesting (but I personally enjoyed the tunnels more). 

What I finally got to experience when traveling was making new friends during the trip. Since our Mom wasn't feeling too good (due to what we believe was our French Fiasco Feast- more on that later) Trina and I ventured off on our Mekong River tour just us two. 

Funny side note story: On the way to the port to Mekong River, the tire of our van blew and we were stuck on the freakin freeway! It was both hilarious and horrifying as Trina and I watched as the frantic driver and tour guide started speaking in Vietnamese, calling God knows who on their phones as we continued on the road and the grand speed of 2 km per hour. No joke. I could walk faster than the speed we were going (although I do walk pretty fast- just saying ;D)

Long story short we finally made it to the Port and our official tour began. We ended up getting along with 3 other foreigners in the tour- Rose and her mom Marga from Holland and Bryn from the UK (you can imagine my excitement and millions of questions for him).

Our beautiful boat guide :)
Bryn with Kitty and Bert

Rose is studying to be a doctor while her mother is in Vietnam helping out in the improvement of one of the libraries in one of the Universities in Hanoi. She also helps out in a lot of underprivileged countries in Africa and around the world. Bryn, is an officer for the British Army and is taking 3 months off from his last stint in Afghanistan.

How cool is that?! Another eye opening experience- getting to know new people and seeing just how differently brilliant their lives are from your own. It was mind blowing! :)

The next day we had our tour of the famous Cu Chi tunnels with a different tour guide (much funnier and easy to talk to) and thankfully, a different tour bus! 

Our SUPER FUNNY tour guide! He was amazing!
Authentic Vietnamese Rice Cakes drying out under the sun
Learning all about the rubber trees

Our tour of the Tunnels was a morning one- we ended up choosing the half day tour also because we were leaving that night (it honestly felt like the amazing race!) but Trina and I were very excited to crawl underground- I was determined to face my claustrophobia head on! Our Mom chose not to go on this tour either- she still wasn't feeling too well. :(

Show off...

At least Bert enjoyed Haha!
We were able to learn a lot about the war that happened between Saigon and Hanoi- how communism was the main goal of Hanoi and the rebels and how the Americans tried to step in... it was a bloody story of epic proportions.

Now we go inside an actual tunnel... underground. Take note though that this tunnel was changed to fit WESTERN size. So it is actually SO MUCH BIGGER than the original. Which is crazy because it was still pretty narrow in there! But we could just squat and move whereas during the war they crawled through most of the tunnels. #wild

Tours and culture aside, one thing that really made our Vietnam trip super memorable were the meals we shared as a family. One of the nights that we were there, Trina treated my Mom and I to a Degustation Dinner at a fancy French restaurant called La Villa. OH. MY. GOSH. 

We ended up all getting the Chef's Specials which amounted to around $100 dollars a person. The price alone is enough to leave you full in the tummy but boy was it worth it! As Trina always says- Never scrimp on food. YUM YUM YUM.

The Cheese Trolley... of DOOM! You could pick as many different kinds of cheese as you wanted! OINK!!!
With the Chef himself!
Had to hold my tummy in there HAHA
I know the portions look small but trust me when I say around 4 plates in you're clothes will begging for mercy! Every dish was cooked to perfection and had such an elegant French touch to it. It was such a luxurious experience! :)

Dinner at Blackout was the dinner that changed my life. Leave it to Trina to find such unique and interesting places to dine at. These are unfortunately the only pictures I have at Blackout because, well, you eat in the DARK. Yup, you read it right. You literally eat your food in total darkness

The idea came from two men who wanted to change the way we, able bodied people, treated and saw those who are visually impaired. By creating this restaurant and hiring visually impaired/blind staff, we, the customers, would then have to depend on them in order to eat properly in the restaurant. Since it's pitch black, you literally feel as though you've gone blind. There are utensils and glasses but I ended up eating with my hands since I couldn't feel anything. You don't even know what it is you're eating.

You simply choose one of the menu options and then after the meal you will be brought outside to discuss what exactly it is you ate. All three of us had the Mystery Selection. We all felt like crying at one point during our meal. I, for one, did cry. It was so humbling and "eye opening" (I know, right?) to be able to experience what it's like for those that are blind. It isn't easy and even if I was with my family it felt so, lonely. I quickly said a prayer thanking God for my sight. Being able to see is something most of us take for granted on a daily basis. We're so used to looking at our phones, watching TV and doing such mundane things with our sight. I couldn't help but feel so grateful and at the same time I admire all those who suffer from blindness. It's such a tough thing to live with but you do it so well. Cheers to you all! Oh, and I'm not going to reveal all the dishes you eat in the Mystery Selection but I will tell you this... Kermit wouldn't be too pleased Haha :)

All in all our Vietnam experience was fun and exciting. It was great to explore yet another country that we've never been to and bond as a family.

I can't wait for our next adventure! :)

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Thanks for reading my entry! I hope you enjoyed it. :)