Growing up in New Zealand, I didn’t travel other than around my own country. I use to fly from Christchurch to Auckland pretty much every summer to spend time with my grandparents. It wasn’t until I was about 26 that I had my first overseas trip… to Tasmania!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Tassie – I have been trying to get back there ever since. But going from NZ to Australia is really like going from the South Island to the North Island – there isn’t much in it. By the time I had moved to Aussie in 2002 I had only ever been to Australia about 5 times. It would take another 4 years before I would actually go any further!
Every holiday I had, I would jump the plane and head back to NZ to visit the folks, even though I had wanted to travel the world since forever! I remember being about 13 or 14 and going to this Kingdom of God seminar in the old Christchurch Town Hall. They talked about and showed images of Petra in Jordan, Since then it has been the number one place on My Bucket List. Then of course I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – which cemented my need to go to Petra and my created my love for Crusaders – but that’s a whole other story!
So anyway, the opportunity to go to Vietnam presented itself in 2006 when my brother got engaged to a Vietnamese girl and was getting married in Ho Chi Minh, where she was from. I had never really been interested in going there if I’m really honest. Nothing against the people I’m just not interested in the culture – or I should say I’m more interested in other cultures.
I thought, however, that since I have the opportunity then I might as well make the most of it. So with that, I packed my bags and along with my nephew and his two daughters flew from Brisbane to Brunei and had a night there, then over to Ho Chi Minh to meet up with the other family members from Christchurch for a two week holiday with a wedding in the middle of it.
We had about 4 or 5 days in Ho Chi Minh before the wedding and I spent most of it either shopping (I discovered that my bartering skills were none existent!), spending time with the family or trying to escape the monsoon that would come pretty much every afternoon. I didn’t really head out much further than the hotel as I wasn’t really completely comfortable in that environment. I did go to the main post office one day – about a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel on Nguyen Sieu. I had gotten some postcards inside and was taking some photos outside of the Post Office and Notre Dame opposite – I was pretty impressed with the architecture in Ho Chi Minh and rather surprised at how European it was. A little Vietnamese lady wanted me to buy some postcards from here, telling her as best I could that I already had some she then proceeded to scream at me, what I assume were obscenities in Vietnamese and then knocked her stand of postcards over causing a rather large scene! So yeah, after that I quickly walked away and proceeded to not leave the hotel much after that. I realise now of course that I missed out on so much because of my own insecurities.
After the wedding we all jumped in a van (when I say all, there were about 15 of us in there!) with a Vietnamese driver and ‘assistant’ for lack of a better word and headed the 4+ hours from Ho Chi Minh to Mui Ne where we were staying right on the beach… it was awesome! Getting up in the morning and sitting on the balcony with real toast, strawberry jam and NZ butter! Maybe a bit unadventurous of me but oh well. It was wonderful sitting there watching the fishermen do their thing, it was quite fascinating trying to figure out how their ‘helmet’ boats worked. While at the beach, we would go for walks, some would swim or hire scooters and go off exploring. We discovered an ice cream parlour that had NZ ice cream, it was quite something to have hokey pokey ice cream when you were in the middle of Vietnam! We also discovered a wonderful oasis of a spa resort where we could get pampered. My mother & I headed there one day for a facial, it was bliss!! Then one night after dinner a few of us decided to go back for a late night pamper session, some got full body massages while I chose the foot & leg massage. The pamper room was the the top of this 3 or 4 story house and as I went up the stairs I stubbed my toe. Of course when my foot was being massaged, it was rather painful to say the least!
After spending a few glorious days lounging at the beach, we headed in land and up into the hills to Da Lat. I loved Da Lat! We stayed in this place called the Pink Lady (where I’m not entirely sure but I think I may have gotten engaged.. much like my nephew at my brothers wedding, but yeah that’s another story for another day!). We visited the Crazy House – yes, it really was crazy and totally awesome! We also went to a lake where some of the guys took boats over the other side and road elephants etc – three of us stayed behind, we didn’t know they would be gone for hours and basically just sat around doing nothing but eating Cornettos – it was a long few hours! We also went up a mountain on a cable car, practically scaring my poor 2 year old niece to death! We also visited the Valley of Love and an awesome embroidery shop. I really, really enjoyed Da Lat – it didn’t have the big city craziness of Ho Chi Minh. It was full of charm and character.
All too soon it was time to head back to Ho Chi Minh for a our last days before flying back to Brisbane. Honestly, it wasn’t my most favourite holiday ever but after hindsight and reflection, it wasn’t all horrible. I really loved the architecture in Vietnam and the people were so lovely. Being able to have a holiday with my some of my family and sharing this experience with them was beyond priceless.