One pleasantly warm evening, we were sitting by the Sword Lake while Su Su was singing for us. Meanwhile, in the red glow reflected from the nearby temple, some couples were learning how to dance.
Su-Su must have thought that we were a couple, since there is no reason why two middle-aged men travel together other than they are gay, to Vietnamese people. In fact, I was with one of my old friends. My friend, Jimmy, is an Australian who has written about Vietnam, and organized several tours for veterans of the Vietnam War.
Su-Su was an excellent tour guide. She always knew how to end a day in a delightful way. I bet that you’ve never heard the song Frozen in Vietnamese backed with the sound from the ukulele and the noise of the city. I can still hear the song when writing these words “Let it go, let it go…”
It was our first night in Vietnam. Jimmy and I realized that whether we were crossing a street in Saigon or clambering in a cave, ‘let it go’ was the best way.
We explored Hanoi through a street food tour. Hiring a tour guide didn’t cost that much while it enabled us to socialize with the local. It was quite funny to have some school children asking us to correct their English homework.
Su-Su is a university student whose major is tourism. She took us around the Old Quarter. We ate on the pavement, down side streets or some food stall which looks like a garage. In the six places that we had been, we had spring rolls, something made from rice and all types of “pho”. We also drank sugar cane juice, coconut milk and egg coffee.
The food may not have been that delicious without fish sauce. I cannot imagine a meal in Vietnam without this aromatic fermented fish marinated with sea salt. However, not fish sauce but motorbikes are the most memorable thing about Vietnam. More than 2 million motorbikes are on the road and I felt like they followed us everywhere. But whatever, “let it go’.
Vietnamese use their motorbike as the way Texan use their trucks. Cumbersome furniture or even the whole family can be put on a bike. We were once shown by one of our tour guide a photo of a man riding a Honda cub with a living cow fastened into the back seat.
From Ho Chi Minh city, we took two more tours. We rent a bicycle to cycle around the paddy fields and to local markets. We could barely stand seeing how local people prepare to cook frogs.
In the Minh Dam forest, we followed to stone paved path that leads to the secret base of Viet Minh, constructed inside a cave. It is quite amazing!
We also joined some other popular tours. Halong bay is so beautiful that you just want to laugh out loud as soon as you set your foot there. One the way to the south is Hoian old town where temples, and old houses built several centuries ago are located. You can have nicely tailor-made clothes by the skilled tailors there. Further to the south is Saigon and Cu Chi tunnel. Try a boat trip along the Sai Gon River at James Bond’s speed.
If you think war museums are pointless, the War Remnant Museum in Saigon will change your mind. We stared at all the photos of the war and were deeply moved by the bravery and skills of the photographers.
If something happens on the way and you have to change your plan when travelling in Vietnam, let it go. You will be surprised how much fun it would turn out to be.