Location: Phu Quoc, Saigon, Mekong Delta
Fun Fact: The Mekong Delta flows through 6 countries ↠ Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to cross off from my bucket list two countries I had never visited before (everywhere is on my bucket list) ↠ Vietnam and Cambodia. I was invited along with Daria and Valerie to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN alliance!
Since I have so much to write about for both places, I'll be dedicating a separate post to Cambodia.
Before getting into this post, I'd just like to put it out there that this was a press trip to Vietnam and Cambodia to promote tourism; however, this will still be an honest review of where we went and what we saw, good and bad.
Let's get started!
After a total flying time of roughly 18 hours, I finally made it to Saigon (a.k.a. Ho Chi Minh City). Our first stop was an island called Phu Quoc - just a 45-minute flight from Saigon. We hopped off the plane and hopped right onto a boat and geared up for some snorkelling! Although we did see some marine life and coral, I think this day is best spent on the boat or playing in the water. Most of the coral is unfortunately dead, apart from a few areas, and it's hard to enjoy if you have a love for the ocean. The water was still amazing to swim in though and the perfect temperature!
After snorkelling in a few different areas, lunch was served and it was so fresh and delicious. The seafood was caught that same morning and seasoned to perfection. It was my first real meal after flying and eating crappy airplane food so I basically inhaled it.
Before making our way back to the hotel, we made a small detour to Sao Beach because we had heard it was supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Parts of it were stunning with crystal-clear turquoise waters and white-sand beaches, but to get to those spots we had to walk over a ton of garbage and pollution. Overall, Phu Quoc was beautiful and is a great getaway from the hustle and bustle of mainland Vietnam.
After flying back from Phu Quoc to Saigon, we had lunch at Bún Chả Vân Anh - one of those places that you only know about if you're a local. Bún chả is a Vietnamese dish consisting of grilled pork over a bowl of white rice noodles and herbs with a side of dipping sauce and pickled vegetables. YUM. The food was so simple but so delicious!
With full bellies and a food coma on the way, we drove to the famous Củ Chi tunnels: a massive network of connecting underground tunnels that are now part of the war museum. These tunnels offer us insight into what life was like for the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war. My favourite part of this was learning all about the booby traps and crawling through the tiny tunnels. I was literally on my hands and knees crawling through some of them!
Day 3 was definitely one of my favourite days. In the morning and early afternoon we sailed along the Mekong Delta, passing by the floating market. We watched how rice paper and coconut candies (I bought three bags - oops) are made and learned that "cheers" in Vietnamese is "yo"! Definitely going to be saying that from now on! Lunch was amazing and easily one of the best meals I had the entire trip. We ate at this traditional Vietnamese house built in 1838 that was converted into a restaurant and the food was incredible! I had to try really hard to stop eating at one point because of all the food I knew was coming that evening. We alternated between chaotic Vespa rides and four or five restaurants throughout the night. We stuffed our faces at every single one of them (oh my god the Vietnamese pancake though!) and I was very grateful for the loose dress I was wearing.
This was our last morning in Vietnam before heading off to Cambodia and we finally got to see some of the famous French colonial architecture. I definitely recommend going to see the Saigon Central Post Office (super impressive), the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Saigon (across the street from the post office and fun fact: the red bricks used to build the cathedral were imported by the French occupiers from France), City Hall (around the corner) and of course Tan Dinh, the famous pink church. Before catching our flight to Siem Reap, we had one last amazing meal at a restaurant called Propaganda. Oh man, was the food good here! This was definitely a place I would go back to if I'm ever in Saigon again!
All in all, Vietnam was amazing and I will 100% be back one day to visit the rest of the country (and eat all of the food)!