Lisa's Vietnam Adventure

Bikes, Tanks and Oxmobiles...and mmm delicious Vietnamese coffee
Lisa and Mum's Intreprid Vietnam journey

I went on a Vietnamese adventure with my Mum in 07. Some of you may have followed our safari on the message board, if you did, then you'll know what a hectic and mad place the country can be.

Mum and Lisa @ 11th Century temple in Tuy Hoa, Vietnam

The reason why we went to Vietnam was to revisit some of the places my Mum worked in when she was in the war between 1967-1969. She was a nurse (the first NZ nurse to go to Vietnam in fact, go Mum!) on the border close to where the main fighting took place in a town called Tuy Hoa where the Americans had a camp for their soldiers and also where the refugees were living.

See and hear the sights and sounds of our Vietnam Adventure here

As it had been over 40 years since Mum was there, we didn't know if we were going to find the place where she lived in Tuy Hoa or the camp where she worked. So we went to Vietnam filled with adventure - although not adventurous as she was back then travelling by herself to Vietnam via Hong Kong - into a warzone no less!

Landing in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was like a warzone to me with a sea of motorbikes gunning for us with no sign of veering away. But somehow the traffic seems to have a mind of its own and they seem to manouvre themselves around each other instinctively without crashing. Lucky for us the taxi drivers and cyclos (check out the video of our cyclo ride - mad!) also were part of the mindframe and managed to take us place to place without too much drama. Although it did take us awhile to get our heartrates down after every trip.

07-vietnamIndependence 07-vietnamcuchi 07-vietnambuilding
Ho Chi Minh's Independence palace. At Cu Chi tunnels with manniquins in liberation army gear and the mad buildings of Vietnam where anything goes.

While in HCMC we took in the usual tourist sights of Notre Dame cathedral, Indepence palace (or reunification hall) where Ho Chi Minh ran the country after his uprising. The palace is quite decadent with plenty of kitch red and gold decorated rooms, very sixties.

We also took a trip out to a provice called Cu Chi around 40min out of HCMC. This is the place infamous for the Cu Chi tunnels, a series of underground tunnels ranging from 3 metres - 10 metres below the rice fields where the Vietnamese liberation army had built a system of mazes to fight the Americans. Cu Chi stood between the Americans getting further into Vietnamese north so it was a significant sight. And the Cu Chi really disliked the americans! they invented an array of spike traps that would seriously mame and ofcourse kill the Americans as they tried to enter the tunnel. I think many American soldiers got lost down there, what a way to go. We went down into one of the tunnels and luckily they widened one for foreigners as they're very tight, original tunnels were only 3metres in circumference. I should've dieted for this!

07-vietnambike2 07-vietnamdogs 07-vietnambikeoverload
Vietnamese love their bikes, there are over 2 million in HCMC alone. They carry anything and everything on their motorised or pedal bikes. We also saw some pets for sale on the side of the road, hopefully they weren't for eating as they're way too cute.

After a couple of days in HCMC we took a 1 hr flight up to Nha Trang then 2.5 hour drive in an air conditioned (thank goodness!) mini bus to Tuy Hoa with a maniac bus driver. Mind you, every driver seems to be a manic. They drive on the right hand side of the road but spend most of the time on the centre line and going at break neck speeds trying to pass other buses...even on windy mountain passes alot! nevertheless we made it to Tuy Hoa.

A Million to 1 chance!
Our mission was to book into the hotel. Then find the house Mum had lived at while she was here. I wasn't going to look forward to that part as its been hot and walking round the streets looking for this old house, which may not be standing, was going to be a real challenge of mind and body.

But low and behold! we found out after checking into hotel from the Manager was that THIS IS THE HOUSE THAT MUM LIVED IN! and he had bought it and renovated it. THE UNIVERSE WAS LISTENING TO OUR CALL!! Well you should've seen my Mum's joy, she was over the moon and gave him a hug (not a done thing in Vietnam but she did anyway). She then had a good look round the hotel and now recognises the old landmarks around the hotel and pointed out what she remembered about the place. After 40 years and a trek half way round the world it was a million to one chance that we would find this place and I'm glad I was there to share the experience with her.

In front of our hotel which
was her old house!


Above: one of many rice fields
left: drying rice on the side of road
is the norm in the country

Even luckier!
Our next challenge was to find her interpreter, a guy called Long, who used to interpret for Mum in the hospital translating English to Vietnamese to the people that came into her care. Mum had an old envelope from 30 years ago with the address of Long in Tuy Hoa. So off we went wondering the streets of Tuy Hoa, which was reasonably modern but they don't get many tourists there so we got heaps of stares. And whereever we went we'd attract a crowd. They couldn't make out where I was from as although I look bit asian, I came out with my kiwi/mulicutural accent. They were very friendly and were keen to test their english, although we did use sign language alot!

But we didn't have good luck, the place we went to didn't know where he was and their english wasn't great and we didn't understand them. While we were away, the Hotel Manager who has great English, had rung around and found Long for us! and said he'd come over early evening. You should've seen the smile on Mum's face and needless to say we weren't going anywhere until he got there.

Mum and her interpreter
long lost 'Long'

A few hours later we got a knock knock at the door. And guess who was at the door? long lost Long! talk about an emotional reunion. The 2 hugged and chatted about the old days as if it only happened yesterday. They talked about where the people are that they worked with and Long told me about the great work Mum did during the war.

I knew what she did but probably undertold us what she did like setting up the TB programme in Vietnam. As it was getting late, Long said he'll come back tomorrow to take us to the location of the old camp where Mum worked. Wow thanks again Universe!

So the next day we hired a taxi for an hour to take us out to the hospital location. But alas, progress has meant all that area has been built up but we did go to the general location where the camp was. But Long had another surprise for Mum, he had found a Vietnamese nurse called Hua that worked alongside Mum during the war! so another emotional reunion as all 3 reminised about the old days.

We were on a tight schedule so we only had the morning trekking around Tuy Hoa but the 3 of them vowed to stay in contact from now on. Mum hopes to be back in a couple of years to take in other parts of Vietnam and ofcourse drop in on her old friends.

I was noodled out!

Vietnam is a great country and friendly people. Eventhough we may not be able to communicate with them, they'll also smile and say hello. The food was great although by the end I was sick of noodle soup!

The country was beautiful and the towns, like Tuy Hoa, and its surrounding rice fields still exist as they did hundreds of years ago using ox to transport their rice and other produce.

The best part of the trip was to share Mum's joy and listen to her stories about her time in the war and see where it took place. I think it was good for her to go back after all these years and for her to have closure of those times, and not still wondering what happened to the area where she worked and people she worked with. But I'm sure she'll be back, and won't leave it for another 40 years!

p.s the other great thing about Vietnam is the way they have their Iced coffee. you really have to watch the video as I show you the process they have it. Mmmm

Some of the Friendly locals

07-vietnamgrannies 07-vietnammarketkid 07-vietnamkids


07-Vietnamgrannylift Vietnamese Strong Woman
This is weight training Vietnamese style. I spotted this lady in Ho Chi Minh, who must be all of about 45kg ringing wet but as you can see she's lifting and moving at least 2 times her bodyweight. Plus she looked about 80 years old! so plenty of strength in them muscles.

I'd imagine she'd walk round the streets all day collecting her bits and pieces, so she must be super fit as I can't see myself walking round with that weight on my shoulders all day. Just 4 sets, 8-10 reps of squats is plenty for me thanks!

How strong is an Ox?!

07-vietnamOxrd 07-vietnam2Ox 07-vietnamcountryRd

Go on facebook!

Follow us on facebook
and keep up to date
with latest news
and activities

You are now being logged in using your Facebook credentials