Halong Bay, Vietnam

I would like to formally welcome myself back to the blogosphere after a three week hiatus! Over the last 24 days I first traveled in Vietnam, where I began in Hanoi and slowly made it down south to Ho Chi Minh City in just two weeks. While I learned a great deal, I think the most important lesson was to never, ever ride an overnight bus again. 

Truthfully I am really happy I saw so much of Vietnam. My friends and I had the chance to see lots of historical sites from the Vietnam War– like the Demilitarized Zone, tunnels people lived in and the War Museum. I really learned a lot about what life was like for the Vietnamese and how so many people’s lives are still affected. I got to see not only Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, but also Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An and Nha Trang.

One thing I did not like about Vietnam so much was that stealing is a huge issue. I have been in Thailand for some time and never had any problems. I was in Vietnam for two nights and had my iPhone stolen. Along the way, I met so many other tourists who also had valuables taken– from cameras to Birkenstock shoes. And then on our last night in Vietnam, my friend had her entire handbag stolen. Two teenagers on a motorbike just drove up beside her, one hopped off, pushed her down, stole the whole purse, got back on the bike and the two drove away. I was only several steps ahead when it happened; and it happened so fast. I really don’t want to let these events affect my overall perspective of Vietnam and the people, but it is hard not to think about. Still, though, I had an amazing time.

Following Vietnam, a friend and I made a quick stop in Bangkok for Songkran, the Thai New Year. Picture a massive water fight that lasts for 3-4 days. Some areas of Bangkok were more chaotic than others. It was certainly memorable, but walking around in dripping clothes is not my cup of tea. If anyone out there is ever in Thailand for Songkran, do NOT bring any valuables outside with you. If you do, secure in a plastic bag because you are basically guaranteed to get totally drenched.

Finally, my friend and I made it to Koh Phi Phi island. You know, where The Beach was filmed. Koh Phi Phi is actually made up of several small islands. I cannot describe Phi Phi, but I’ll try to sum it up with some keywords — tourists, beach, sunburn, young people, overpriced, buckets, Slinky, party.

It’s like… spring break 24/7. I truthfully did not even feel like I was in Thailand. I’ve never been to Cancun, but Phi Phi was similar to what I envision.

Although I had an amazing trip, I am so happy to be back in reality. Tomorrow I start an internship at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Taking a vacation is nice for one week or maybe two tops. But I value working towards a greater goal, not just backpacking around for months on end (like many of those I met along my travels).

Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe because I am American I prefer working hard over laziness travelling. Either way, I am thrilled to begin a new professional experience tomorrow.


Image Credit – Photo of Halong Bay, courtesy of my pal Katie Ida Halper.