A Travellerspoint blog

Dalat

Dalat, Vietnam

semi-overcast 27 °C

Dalat is located about 7 hours north of Saigon, and is a small “European” type town. The local Lat tribes/Vietnamese folks had been living there forevers but then some french dude came along and “discovered” it about 100 years ago and called it “Le Petit Paris” or Little Paris. That’s so dumb. Because of this there is a strong european influence that can be seen in the architecture and in the various sites that well cater to foreigners.

Dalat’s climate is surrounded by mountains that is reminiscent of Seattle and Yellowstone National Park, with lots of green and deep valleys. This keeps Dalat much cooler than the scorching weather we experienced in Saigon (which was hotter than Cambodia btw). Although there are a lot of tourist attractions within and around Dalat, it was impressive how much of its nature is preserved. It hasn’t become polluted and trashed like we’ve seen in many of the other cities we’ve visited so far. Dalat with Koh Kong close behind it was our favorite destination so far b/c of the tranquility and fresh air it provided. We packed everything in a one day tour (only $5.50/person) – a great value since this included transportation (no rigged taxi meters), visiting 8 different sites, and entrance fees. This allowed us to relax and enjoy the experience instead of being on guard about getting ripped off or getting lost.

The hotel we stayed at was a bit away from the City Centre, but we didn’t mind that at all b/c we wanted to be away from the busy-ness. Worth it for a nicer spot. The hotel staff were the most helpful evers, arranging the tour for us, calling for our ride over to our next stop. I’d say this was the best hotel we’ve stayed at – except one dude (of course) had to go and ruin it at the very last minute. It would have been a practically perfect visit otherwise.

Keeping up with their customer service, the hotel insisted on helping with our bags AND waiting the entire time at the bus stop as we waited to go to our next city. The luggage/bellhop person tried to engage in conversation with us which was fine, up until – “So, do you have a boyfriend?” This is so typical in heteronormative conversation starters/gettin to know folks – so ppl don’t think twice about asking or answering. Not cool for me and K – b/c that assumption is oppressive, and in this specific instance in my mind – “wtf do u wanna kno for and isn’t this inappropriate for u to ask a hotel guest/customer?” K and I turned to eachother, thrown off/upset about the question and tryin to figure out how to respond. We both just told him “no” hoping that he would drop it and move onto another topic. Instead he persisted with “really? why not?” aarrrgghh. I was like “we’re just not interested” with which he looked a bit confused for a sec, but then sensed the akwardness and started looking around hard for the bus that was late. We hated it. In that moment we felt closeted, uncomfortable, when throughout our time in Dalat we were happy, peaceful, and out.

Aside from that bad experience though, it was a wonderful visit. So beautiful!

Posted by lesbotravels 08:30 Archived in Vietnam Tagged taxi hotel koh kong dalat yellowstone european homophobia bellhop Comments (0)

Can Tho

Can Tho, Vietnam

semi-overcast 30 °C

In my opinion the 4hr/$4 minibus ride was totally worth it I liked Can Tho. We decided to come here b/c I was interested in seeing/experiencing the Mekong from a different perspective. We didn’t know at the time, but it turns out K’s parents were both born in Can Tho with her dad actually growing up there. I was happy she learned a little more about her family history in this trip.

Can Tho is a smaller city near the Mekong Delta, neighboring the Khmer Krom towns of Soc Trang and Tra Vinh a couple of hours away. The Can Tho river connects to the Mekong, and is known for its fresh fruits/veggies and fish sauce (this is where the majority of Vietnamese fish sauce is manufactured supposedly). There is a daily floating market on the river where farmers/vendors barter and sell fruits and veggies (Cai Rang Market) in the early dawn hours until mid morning. There is another floating market that sells snakes, both dead and/or alive, poisonous or not (Phung Hiep Market) that we didn’t get to visit.

In an attempt to catch the Cai Rang floating market (it’s hard b/c we like to sleep in hehe), we decided to catch a boat ride. Always looking for a bargain at K’s expense (j/k) I opted to take the janky small boat with the mini motor as opposed to the bigger more sturdy ones that cost more haha. $30/2ppl/2.5hr ride as opposed to $40/2ppl/3hr ride to the market and a visit to a local fruit orchard and animal farm. Both prices are prolly 2-3X higher for us tourists than what it’d usually cost I would say.

IMG_0599.jpgIMG_0600.jpg

Yet again heteropatriarchy at its best, most of the smaller boats that are more difficult to maneuver and maintain are operated by womyn, while the easy to steer and stable larger boats are operated by their husbands/men. Our guide was cool, friendly, and spoke some English which is different from most locals in the area. Her poor boat kept getting pollutants stuck on it’s lil propeller that she had to remove by hand, and it’s tank was so small she kept having to refill the tank with the gas she kept contained in an old plastic soda bottle. K had another brief moment of hatred towards me. Ooops! All in all though, a nice trip and we made it back to the dock safely.

We stayed at a hotel managed by this really nice womyn, with all womyn staff. No bugs, helpful, safe, totally lesbo/womyn friendly. I liked Can Tho b/c it’s not yet touristy (kinda like Koh Kong) although it is starting to develop in the area of tourism. There aren’t ppl pestering you to buy items or lotto tickets which is common in parts of Vietnam. It’s small enough to get to know the streets and pretty peaceful. The waterfront at night was beautiful.

IMG_0680.jpg

I do have a couple of gripes tho:

1. Getting out of the Can Tho Ben Xe Khach bus station made me flinch. I hated it! As soon as your bus rolls up into the lot there are a bunch of men running alongside it, creepily looking into the windows. They’re motobike drivers looking for passengers, and they hella hound the tourists. Which is expected, but at one point there were like a half dozen men that followed us to the sidewalk where we were gonna catch a cab, circled around us and STARED at us for the longest. Gross. Was so happy when the taxi came.

2. But not for long. In Can Tho we were scammed by like 9/10 taxi rides we took. Either they “didn’t know where we wanted to go”, drove hella slow, or rigged the meter to jump up every .1 kilometer when its supposed to go up every .7k. So annoying.

3. There are so many cockroaches! That one K was talkin about in my hair was about the size of the end of my lil pinky. The ones around Can Tho are about 2 inches in length and fat. They run around at night along the sidewalks, which I don’t mind as much. What’s not cool is seeing them when you’re tryna eat. Even I have my limits ewwwl. K made this scene at this one recommended restaurant (Lonely Planet folks are on crack sometimes) b/c soon after we ordered there were a couple just scurrying around next to our table. She freaked out and had them cancel our food order, and we had to hurriedly pay for our coconut drinks and ran out.

So as much as I liked Can Tho, I was happy to return to Saigon/HCMC after the 3 nights. We took the full-sized bus back, fully equipped with A/C, toilets, free bottled water, and perfumed hand wipes. Most importantly – no bugs.Turned out it only cost 50cents more than the miniexpress bus. My bad!

Posted by lesbotravels 04:37 Archived in Vietnam Tagged coconuts taxi restaurant bus river lonely bugs station pollution planet cockroaches motobikes heteropatriarchy lesbian-friendly Comments (0)

Practicing Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh

En route to Can Tho, Vietnam

sunny 34 °C

My partner unexpectedly got us into this “express” minivan instead of a regular bus to go on this 4 hr trip to Can Tho. It was only $4 instead of $8. But daaang, it was hella hot (no AC) and cramped the whole way there. Also the driver was hellla crazy felt like he was going 90mph, weeving in and around motos and slamming on the breaks. At one point my partner was complaining about her back and getting whiplash. We even got pulled over by the police! But the worse part was the cockroaches! This is where the Buddhist mindfulness comes in. So this is what happened. About 30 minutes into the van ride and gripping for our lives in this bumpy hella hot minivan with 10 other ppl and I looked over and spotted a cockroach in my partner’s hair. I totally freaked out. I got up out of my seat and started saying “bug, bug” and pointed at it to tell her. She was all calm and flicked it out of her hair and onto my bag which freaked me out even more so I climbed next the ppl in front of us. I tried to point at the creepy crawly bug running around to the other ppl but no one seemed to care, they just all stared at us blankly. Then I spotted a couple more crawling in and out of the cracks of the van. Ugh. It was the worse 4 hr ride ever.

I tried to make the best of it thinking about what Thich Nhat Hanh would say/do in this situation. He would say something along the lines of “smile at the bug” “it is connected to you and all of nature” blah blah blah… So I actually tried to do that. Whenever I saw a cockroach crawling out of the van crack, I tried to smile at it and think bugs are my friends…for 4hrs! 4 HOURS! Freaking A, the cockroaches didn’t seem to phase my partner at all. Instead she was all happy. I hate her so much sometimes.

Posted by lesbotravels 04:31 Archived in Vietnam Tagged buddhism meditation bugs cockroaches minivans mindfulness Comments (0)

Fall of Saigon, Celebration of Independence

HCMC, Vietnam

sunny 34 °C

We unknowingly arrived in Vietnam on a major holiday – what we later found out to be the reunification of Vietnam/Fall of Saigon… in other words, the end of the Vietnam War. The impact of this war is so intimately tied to us today. My mom fled Vietnam with my dad because of this war. I was conceived in the refugee camp in the Philippines because of this war. My mom later met my stepdad who also fought in the war. Amerikkka bombed Cambodia during this war. The Khmer Rouge was strengthened because of this war. The Vietnamese invaded Cambodia right after this war. Made me think about the trauma that all our families have gone through. When G's family was with us, it was really apparent how the trauma still exists in their everyday life. For example, during a power outage the lights went out and what seemed to be normal or not that scary to me, g and her bro, her parents were really freaked out. Later they shared that that was what happened first during the Khmer Rouge - the lights went out. Over 30yrs later, the trauma still exists and gets triggered. I think of my mom and my stepdad and how the war still impacts how they respond or avoid certain things automatically as a learned coping mechanism for survival. Our families have experienced so many people dying, loud bombings, being torn apart from their family members, etc… All the while having to start over and learn a new language/system, facing discrimination and holding all of this trauma. Sheesh.

Posted by lesbotravels 04:26 Archived in Vietnam Tagged cambodia vietnam holiday family america language rouge saigon war khmer discrimination survival dying celebration trauma Comments (0)

Goodbye Cambodia, Hello Vietnam

Phnom Penh ---> Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 35 °C

We left Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon a couple days after my family went back to the States. I really liked Cambodia and wouldn’t mind living there for a bit. It was nice to be around so many other Khmer peoples and hear/speak the language. We are so cool. Our time there was brief but there were some things I found interesting:

1. Bathrooms/toilets are different. Here is the standard toilet setup, squat style, no tp:

squat toilet

squat toilet

This one is tiled so prolly nicer than most places/homes in Cambodia, although not as clean as some of the more established restaurants/public places. Bebe abstained from using these hehe. The more tourist areas and all the hotels we’ve stayed at have western bathrooms with flushing toilets.

2. Always get a receipt if you can, especially for big purchases. We stayed at a hotel with some of my cousins b/c they didn’t have enough room for all of us at my uncle’s house in Mongol Berei (north of Battambang). Heading there late, one person in our party asked for a receipt but the hotel receptionist insisted we didn’t need one. Too tired and also flustered about what was going on exactly since it was late, we all went up to our rooms. The next day en route to Siem Reap my cousin-in-law got a phone call from the hotel manager demanding payment b/c we left w/o cashing out. After a few harsh words from my parents it got squashed thank goodness, but it stressful for a few mins and a good lesson learned.

3. Don’t ask the tuk-tuk driver how much you owe, they’ll quote you up to 2-4X the going rate. Either establish a price before you get on, or hand over the amount you think is fair at the end of trip w/o saying anything. This leaves no room for the driver to try and negotiate. We refused to get in a tuk-tuk in front of Soriya Mall (a westernish/expensive mall for rich kids and tourists) that offered us a trip for 4X the amount. As we walked off his price dropped lower and lower, but we were already on our way. In his frustration of losing a customer he yelled and cursed at us, but whatevs the next tuk-tuk driver offered us the fair rate.

4. Khmer ppls are so resourceful. This is what I call a full-load (sorry haven’t figured out the panorama feature on the camera yet):

IMG_0434.jpgIMG_0433.jpg

5. Always bring a map/address. Most drivers are from outside provinces tryin to make a living in the city and don’t know the ins and outs of town.

I miss Cambodia at times. It’s been different for me being in Vietnam cause it’s one of the few times where I don’t understand the language. In Saigon it was helpful to have K’s family help us navigate (they speak Cantonese in addition to Vietnamese). Her family was very nice and cool btw, and it was nice meeting one of K’s cousins during our travels. It was my fave part of Saigon, to see them bond/interact. They actually kinda look alike. More on Saigon another post tho.

We are truly on our own now in Can Tho >.< (K’s parents’ birthplace!)

Posted by lesbotravels 01:53 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia vietnam map family transportation toilet language vietnamese khmer tuk cousin drivers parents cantonese Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 14) « Page 1 [2] 3 »