Go to the Holiday in Vietnam 2018 photo album if you want to see the pictures.
This time I made a 11-day trip to Vietnam to visit my family-in-law in Dong Hoi for a few days and to spend Christmas with Vy.
Friday, December 21
After a long flight with Cathay Pacific with a stopover in Hong Kong I arrived at Tan Son Nhat Hoi Airport around 10:30 where I was welcomed by Vy. After collecting my tablet, which I had left on my flight from Siem Reap to Ha Noi in November, we had lunch in a Thai restaurant, together with her friend Binh and her daughter.
After a few hours Vy and I went back to the airport to catch my flight to Dong Hoi, where I said goodbye to Vy. I would fly back to Saigon on 24th of December to spend Christmas with her.
After a delay of almost 2 hours I finally landed at Dong Hoi airport where I was welcomed by Mai Phuong, who even hugged me before I was through the security check. Her husband Van Tung took my suitcase and guided me through the security check. They both work at the airport, so it was easy to get around the normal procedures.
Von, Hai, Chip and Lem also welcomed me and we drove straight to the house of their parents. After greeting everyone and talking with the family we visited Thanh's house to pay respect to her husband Hieu, who had died on 13th of September. From here we went to Von's house where I would stay for the next 3 nights.
Saturday, December 22
In the morning we went for a drink in the rooftop bar of a hotel that belonged to Hai's friend. From the bar we had nice views over the city, Nhat Le river and beaches.
Later that morning we visited Lan's house. Her son Dung had had a terrible accident some months ago, had a few serious brain surgeries and was just released from the hospital in Hué. He was able to speak and to walk around a little, but it will take him months for a full recovery. And he was extremely lucky to survive the accident at all! But is was good to see him, even he could not speak with me, but we will make up for that some day.
Lunch was in a newly opened restaurant with good food and drinks.
Sunday, December 23
After breakfast, fried eggs and beef with bread and served on hot stone plates, in a very popular restaurant, we (Lem, Chip, Hai, Hong and me) visited the same temple I had visited with Sisi in 2016.
Monday, December 24
Since I was coming back to Dong Hoi for Sisi's memorial service in February 2019 I did not stay long with the family. Hai brought me to the airport and a few hours later I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, where Vy was waiting again for me.
After checking in in my hotel Vy brought me to her house to meet her mother and also her grandparents who lived nearby.
In the early evening we visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon, situated in the centre of the city. The cathedral was beautifully lighted and attracted lots of people. Every where in the city Christmas trees were placed and in many small streets people had constructed small and big nativity scenes in front of their houses. Especially at night it was nice to ride around and to look at all the Christmas decorations.
In the evening we went, together with Vy, a friend of Vy, to Tan Phu church to attend the mass. The mass was held in the open air and lasted for about 90 minutes. Afterwards everyone took pictures of the nativity scene and the beautifully lighted Christmas tree.
After a midnight meal I returned to my hotel and Vy and friend to their houses.
Tuesday, December 25
In the afternoon Vy picked me up from the hotel for a nice Christmas dinner with her family, where I had to explain to the family why I come from Holland, live in the Netherlands and speak Dutch. Vy's niece and cousins could speal English, so I also learned a bit about Vietnamese history.
Wednesday, December 26
We took a taxi to the travel agency at Pham Ngu Lao street, where Vy had booked our tickets for a 2-day Mekong Delta trip. The group for the tour was about 25 people and the bus took us to My Tho where we boarded a boat to visit Unicorn Island. On this island we visited a small coconut factory where we saw how coconut candies were made.
From the factory we walked to a small restaurant where we could sample tropical fruits like dragonfruit, papaya and pineapple, while local musicians played and sung traditional songs.
It became a bit crowded when we joined another tourist group for a short boat trip in a small canoe. The small river was packed with boats paddling both ways. One way the boats were loaded with tourists and the other way empty boats paddled back as fast as they could to pick up another load of tourists. Big business in these waters.
We boarded our bigger boat again and sailed to Turtle Island where we had a great lunch. After lunch Vy and I walked around the island and Vy enjoyed feeding raw meat to some crocodiles that were kept in a small farm.
It was time to go back by boat to My Tho where we had a short visit at the beautiful Vinh Tranh Pagoda. Most of the group had booked only a one day trip, so they went back to Ho Chi Minh City, while we, a Vietnamese family and a young Vietnamese man and woman boarded a small bus that took us to Can Tho, where we would spent the night.
After dinner the Vietnamese family, who was living in California for more than 30 years and now showing their children where their family came from, invited us for a city tour in a open 10-seated taxibus. The taxibus showed us the nightmarkets and the main streets that were colorfully decorated with Christmas trees and thousands of lights.
After the tour the family went back to their hotel while the young man, Vy and I went for a stroll over the boulevard along the Can Tho river. We also ran into the young woman and together we walked back to our hotels.
Thursday, December 27
After breakfast we were picked up by the bus and brought to a boat to visit the Floating Market at Cai Rang. The Floating Market attracts still lots of tourists, but the number of boats that sell all sorts of vegetables and fruits is still declining. It is easier and faster to go by scooter to the (super)market to buy them. But is was still nice to see how people were making a living by selling items from their boats, although it is getting more and more a tourist attraction.
After visiting the market we went ashore to visit a rice noodle factory. Again Vy had great fun making ricenoodles.
Then we visited Ut Thien Homestay where you could walk around in the gardens, rent a bicycle, eat tropical fruits and eat fried rats, frogs and (shell)fish.
By boat we went back to Can Tho, where the bus brought us to My Tho where we changed buses to ride back to Ho Chi Minh City, where we arrived around 18:00.
Friday, December 28
I had lunch with Tam, an old schoolfriend from Hai, while Vy was busy working. Lots of customers had called her for an appointment while we were on the Mekong Delta trip. Vy runs a small skincare studio from home.
Dinner was at Vy's friend house. She was the friend whom I had met earlier at the airport. She had also invited some friends and we had great fun together. Her daughter spoke English, so they used her to ask me all sorts of questions.
Saturday, December 29
In the afternoon I was picked by Minh Tuan, the son of Sis's aunt. On the way to his house we first visited the mall in Landmark 81, the highest building in the city. It was a very modern mall with restaurants, coffee shops, a cinema, an ice skating ring and a playground for children. On the next 2 levels many shops sold expensive and luxury goods. A Bentley, a Porsche and a Ferrari were on display in a showroom. Ho Chi Minh City is still developing fast and people, especially the youngsters, can now afford to spend their free time drinking and shopping in luxury malls.
Minh Tuan's mother had to go to a wedding, so she could not cook for us. Instead his father, brother Toan Bu, Minh Tuan and I went out for dinner in a nearby popular seafood restaurant. It was fun to see the many guests eating and getting drunk on a Saturday evening
Sunday, December 30
This morning we took the scooter to ride to the travel agency at Pham Ngu Lao street, for a tour to Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, located about 40 kilometers southeast of Ho Chi Minh City and located on Monkey Island. It was a hour drive to the ferry across the Long Tau river. At the other side of the river the tourguide decided that Vy and I changed buses, because our bus had mainly Vietnamese tourists. The other and much larger bus had only international tourists, which was better for me, because the guide had only to converse in English. I did not like it very much, because Vy did not speak English. But in the end it turned out well for Vy, because there was another Vietnamese woman aboard and the tourguide was friendly enough to tell them about the trip in Vietnamese too.
Another hour later we arrived at Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, a huge mangrove wetland. We left the bus and walked to the entrance of the park. This was a popular daytrip, since we were not the only ones to visit the park. We already saw lots of monkeys on our way to the ticket booth where the tourguide bought boat tickets for us. After waiting for 45 minutes it was finally our turn to sail by speedboat through the mangrove forest. The waterways were narrow and winding and it was great fun to race through these waters. After some 15 minutes we were dropped at an island that contained a sort of open air museum dedicated to the Rung Sac War Zone. It displayed how the Viet Cong had used this place during the war.
From here we walked back through the mangrove forest over wooden paths, built about a meter above the ground. On the way back we encountered lots of monkeys who where all too happy to snatch the peanuts, bought by our tourguide, from our hands.
It was a short ride to Hang Duong market, an amazing market where all sorts of seafood was on sale. In Can Gio resort we had a nice lunch and after a few hours it was time to return back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Monday, December 31
Vy invited me for lunch with her family and in the evening we said goodbye to each other and I flew via Hong Kong, where the New year was welcomed waiting in front of the gate, back to Amsterdam, where I arrived in the early morning
On the map you can see all the places I have visited.