They said, split your days in Cambodia and visit Vietnam as well. It will be worth it they said. I did as they said and with a heavy heart I left Europe aka my first leg of this Girl Takes Mundo trip to make my way to Vietnam and begin my Southeast Asia leg. After a will she make it, will she not journey of delayed flights resulting in short layovers to an already 24 hour journey I was next in queue at customs in Ho Chi Minh airport in Vietnam. As the customs officer reviewed my passport he said what no traveler wants to hear; “where is your visa”? My heart sank as I swear I looked online if I needed a visa when I deiced to add this country into my trip and it said no. In hindsight I don’t recall the date of said article so definitely mistake on my part. I also blame the airline as the ticket agent in Poland assured me I didn’t need a visa. Additionally, in Abu Dhabi which was the final leg of my journey to Vietnam said visa should have been checked as I boarded the plan and it wasn’t. (Tip: Look directly on embassy’s site for the latest and greatest travel requirements for each country you plan to visit. Many countries now allow you to submit your visa application online which is very convenient.)
So here I am, in another area of the airport being asked why I don’t have a visa and being told I may have to be sent back to Abu Dhabi. A travelers worse nightmare. Thankful they sensed I wasn’t a threat to their country or wanted to immigrate to their country that the customs main officer allowed for an emergency visa to be issued to me. It didn’t come cheap especially for a country like Vietnam. $170 to be exact. Gulp! While the price was hard to swallow, keeping my trip going was far more important and at this point I didn’t have much of a choice.
So here I am finally in Vietnam and ready to explore as I only have 4 days here. The upside as I discovered is that Ho Chi Minh is easy to explore with not many tourist attractions which makes it easy to cover in a short time. See map below.
Additionally, get ready to experience playing hopper in real life as you cross the streets of the city since motorbikes and cars don’t typically stop and there are so many motorbikes here. Enough that you can easily be picked up by Uber with a motorbike. After Ho Chi Minh crossing western streets will be oh so dull.
Don’t forget to get Pho while you are here and you will have many options. Speaking of food, Vietnam was where I decided to go 100% vegetarian especially in Southeast Asia when I began to notice the lack of dogs. As I suspected, Vietnam is a country where people eat dog meat as it’s seen as a delicacy and is available in many restaurants. When I did cross paths with adorable dogs they where puppies which I’m going to assume people were waiting for them to grow. This is not to say that all dogs in Vietnam have this fate but asking someone didn’t come off as correct in my eyes since while I don’t like the fact that this is even a thing especially since I’m a dog mom, I have to remember that for other countries other animals that western people eat are revered as sacred as is the case with the cow in India.
Besides exploring the city day trip are also options if you have already explored the city. Keep in mind that options are limited as the more beautiful areas in Vietnam are in the north but they do exist. Many head to see the Cu Chi tunnels and/or the Mekong Delta. I opted for a 2 day Mekong Delta trip which covered not only the Mekong Delta but the floating market as well. If you do the home stay option which is staying in a bed and breakfast so to speak, a small cooking class of spring and vegetable rolls is included. Be warned though that this tour is very slow and it starts feeling like a tourist trap as many stops on this tour are meant for you to buy whatever it is they are selling like it was at the coconut candy workshop and rice noodle factory. If not ask my mate from Australia.
While I know I didn’t do Vietnam correctly as I would have liked to have visit Hanoi and Ha Long Bay I did enjoy my time here and it was nice to see another country and culture even if I don’t condone the eating of dogs part. I think Vietnam didn’t want me to leave as on the day I was leaving to Cambodia I forgot to pick up my passport when I checked out and only discovered when I arrived to the airport. Resulting in having my cab driver do a hopper mission of his own to get me back to the hostel and return to the airport just in time to catch my flight. (Tip: Arrive minimum 2 hours in advance at Ho Chi Minh airport as customs and security check points are extremely slow. Even when I managed to get to the airport after my passport ordeal with an hour 1/2 before my flight and the gate being very close to the security check point I still got to the gate during final call.)