More things I’ve learned in Indochina:
- If a waiter says they’re gonna check back with the kitchen you will most likely never see them again.
- Being a millionaire in Vietnam means you have more than 38 euros (equals 1 million Vietnamese Dong).
- Each of the countries I visited has one famous Hollywood movie: The Beach (Thailand), Good Morning Vietnam (Vietnam) and Tomb Raider (Cambodia).
- It’s okay to light a cigarette in a Chinese Buddhist temple but only if it’s a sacrifice for the god of wealth.
- Exotic fruits do NOT taste completely different than the fruit sold in European stores.
- Crossing a border and being treated like a criminal is not fun.
- Coming home after a month means there are a lot of shows to Netflix.
- However, there’s still the same shit on the radio.
After Hanoi, we went to Hoi An. Hanoi, Hoi An – as you see, Vietnam has majorly creative city names. Hoi An is a beautiful small town. It was perfect after the chaos of Bangkok and Hanoi. There’s little to do but it has a lot of charm! Also, I wouldn’t have had any clean laundry if it weren’t for this place.
Before we went to Hoi An, we’ve also been on a boat to Halong Bay. I’d highly recommend doing this if you’re in the area. It’s not even that pricy and the view is amazing. On the way to the bay, you will see a lot of overgrown, beautiful cliffs. A truly remarkable view literally anytime you look out of the window. We also went swimming and kayaking in Halong Bay. The next morning, we had the chance to do Tai Chi while watching the sunrise. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than stretching my body while the sky is changing from cold to warm colors in a million gradients at 6 AM. Well, I could: sleeping in on a boat. #sorrynotsorry
Back to Vietnam, our next stop was Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, now named after their beloved communist leader († 1969). It was also one of the first times I truly got to enjoy some good ol’ Asian propaganda establishment-positive advertising. On the night train to Saigon, we were woken up by an insane morning announcement. As I have a deep sleep, I didn’t get to hear the first minutes and I can’t even begin to describe the over-the-top-positive mood of the speaker. However, in the end, he concluded that ‘(…) Saigon is now the worthy and proud holder of the name of uncle Ho!’.
That was about it with the good news on Ho Chi Minh City. Out of all the stops, it was my least favorite. It’s busy like most of the other cities and it’s dirty and loud too. But on top of that, Ho Chi Minh City just wasn’t beautiful or charming – there’s literally nothing to see! We took part in a city tour and the best stop was a copy of Paris’ Notre Dame. If you’ve seen the real thing, this copy is just a bad fake. On top of that, I lost a little (more) faith in humanity when I saw the pigeons in front of the building. For some reasons, Vietnamese youth started painting some of them with spray paint. Might look cool, but is also so cruel and nobody cared.
Our last stop of the trip was in Angkor (Cambodia). Angkor is the place most people stop at to see the large temples of Angkor Wat. Angkor itself is a small city seemingly relying 100% on tourism. There’s nightlife and night markets and everything, but it doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ place where real people live. It seems like a façade. A layer over Cambodia’s highly interesting culture. I can’t say much, but Cambodians seem so chill, so nice, so relaxed. It seems as if they’re all just trying to make a living and find their inner peace. Many of them probably are.
More exciting are the temples near Angkor, Angkor Wat being the most important and the biggest one. I’ve dreamed of seeing this place, taking a picture in front of it (title photo of this post) and I’m so happy I’ve been there. It is also quite a spiritual place. Lots of tourists visit these huge places but they still have a mysterious aura. I can’t even imagine how these temples were built in the middle of nowhere with tons and tons of stone and lovely carving artwork. On a side note, the temple where Tomb Raider has been filmed, Ta Promh, is near Angkor as well. Some Cambodians even call it the Tomb Raider temple.
After a couple of days in and around Angkor, we got back on our beloved bus we almost missed because we were five minutes late (not gonna indulge in that story…) and got back to Bangkok. On our last day in Bangkok, we did some more sightseeing and shopping. All in all, I was ready to get home but if I could have chosen to be back on the road a week later I would’ve done that.
First thing I had to do after arriving in Munich was to dig deep in my suitcase to find a sweater I stuffed in there. In Asia, I often wished for cooler temperatures but back in Europe I wished back tropical climate. You never know what you have until it’s gone.