Ho Chi Minh City (The Final Days)
These last couple days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) have been pretty relaxing. Because of Tet, the Chinese New Year, there is hardly any traffic. Tet is the biggest holiday of the year in Vietnam and most people leave town to go to their home town in the country. Because of this, I am not experiencing the crazy Saigon experience. I was going nuts in Hanoi and expected worse, but luckily that has not been the case.
Hannah and I decided to go to the market to see if there were any shops open for souvenirs. When we got there, there was hardly anything open. We bought a few things, but security was shutting the whole place down. From here we walked over to the Independence Palace. This was the South Vietnamese Presidents home and workplace during the war. This was also the place that was stormed by the North Vietnamese tanks to end the Vietnam War in the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
The rest of the day I pretty much laid around waiting for nightfall. At midnight, there is fireworks to start the New Year. I met up with an old Korea buddy first, Jay, and had a few beers. We watched the fireworks together with his girlfriend and we then headed back to the backpackers neighborhood to drink more. This pretty much concluded my four weeks of travel, Tet in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)!! Happy Chinese New Years^^
The trip I have wanted to take through South East Asia, for about the last four years, is now complete!! The reason it has taken so long to do is because of the graduate school studies I’ve had the last three years. In a way, this trip made up for that time lost traveling because of studying and it was a pat on the back trip for completing my schooling. But, this is just the beginning!
When I started this trip, I decided to keep it as open-ended as possible. The only planning I did was having the route idea in my head and I bought tickets for my entrance and exit to and from the region. I also chose not to buy a travel book, like Lonely Planet, which at times I regret. A travel book can really help a traveler get to difficult destinations, avoid getting cheated, and give guidance on prices. But I also learned not rely 100% on “the book”!! I did download and purchase a few apps for some of the places I went through. Some of them were helpful while others sucked. A friend asked me, “How can you possibly travel for four weeks without planning your trip in detail?” Well, the experience I found when planning every step of a trip is that it weakens the experience. It doesn’t leave the traveler open to the possible experiences he/ she may have on the road. It doesn’t allow other potential paths to open up. If I planned my trip in detail, I would have missed out on a load of experiences I had not anticipated and the time I spent with new friends I made on my trip may have been shortened.
In the future, I do feel I will do a little more research on the places and regions I will visit, if I’m not feeling to lazy, so as not to get taken advantage of. Also, a little research like Googling the place and looking at the destination’s photo gallery may have been helpful! I almost missed a huge destination sight in Laos because I had no idea what I was going to look at in the first place.
In the end, I would have to say I have probably had one of the most memorable solo backpacking trips to date. The people I met made this trip epic!!! I ate way more foods, saw more places, had a ton more laughs, and felt bonds that can only be made between kindred spirits. Some of the people I met and traveled with will be people I will see again. Even if our paths don’t cross again, at least we have other travel experiences to share between each other for future adventures.
Until the next big trip!! At the moment, it’s looking like Mongolia, the Trans-Siberian, and Russia this summer. This one will take more logistics planning because of visas and potentially meeting up with a hometown friend. Hopefully we can make it happen this year!!