Tag Archives: Vietnam

Burned money in Vietnam

I learned why people burn money, bought a Lottery ticket and took a motorcycle tour which ended literally in hell.  Furthermore, I visit Russian holiday paradise Nha Trang and learned more about egg spas.

 

 

 

 

Da Lat is the capital of Lam Dong Province and carries the nickname “City of Thousand Flowers”. It is seven hours away from Saigon by bus, although it’s only around 300 km (186 miles) away. I took a sleeping bus over night. These busses are actually quiet comfortable (at least in my size) with padded leather seats which recline to around 80 degrees, on two floors. I was actually happy that I caught a seat on the bottom but there are actually safety belts on every seat as well. The feet go under the chair of the person in front of you which allows you to strech out your body, just moving around seems a bit difficult. But back to the ride. The next morning at 4.45 we arrived in Da Lat and the driver woke us up by honking and shouting. Oh man, I really wished I just could stay in my bed – but no chance.

DSCN0308In the beginning, I was actually quiet disappointed from Da Lat. All the nice sightseeing spots I herad about were not in the city but in the hinterlands and the public transport is not sufficient. I know many people rent a scooter and drive around. But I never drove a scooter before and didn’t drove a car for a few years. Maybe not the best time to start with it again, Vietnamese traffic is crazy ;).
Funny thing, in the end, I kind of coaccidently booked a motorcycle tour. Acutally, a man asked me if I’m interested doing a tour. But it was 30$ for places I didn’t want to see, so he started haggeling. I know, here people can be really persistent if they wanna sell you something. But in the end he acutally offered me a really good deal, the places I wanted to see for less money. Perfect!

Just one last thing was difficult. According to him, he was part of a really famous motorcycle company in Vietnam. But his papers looked really unprofessional and to be honest I was really not sure if I should take the ride. But luckily the concierge of my hostel – Tabe – also did some tours for that company and recognised my tour guide. I was really happy and the tour could start.

 

 
 
 
Linh Phuoc Pagoda
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Crazy House
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What means heaven and hell in Buddhism?

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In the next morning my driver picked me up from my hostel. Unfortunately,  I don’t know his name, cause when I asked him he just answered with ‘Yes’. I believe his English is as good as my Vietnamese. Our tour started at a tabaco shop on the street where he bought some cigarettes. He asked me a few times in a row if I also want a cigarette and in the end we were smoking together – I also didn’t want to be rude.

DSCN0186Da Lat has a few nice spots to visit as the different waterfalls, which are definitely one highlight, but also architecture and temples. For me an absolutely must seen is the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. The buildings there are designed with help from little mosaics made of broken pieces of glass and porcelain which make it unique and really pretty. The temple was built in 1949 and finished around three years later. The temple is ornated with different kind of dragons which are everywhere. Some crawl up the pillars, some just sit on the little roofs or frame the temple. The longest dragon is 49m long and is made out of 12,000 bottles.

DSCN0245I took a lot of time to explore all the ways and hidden corners, followed the spiral stairs and walk around the roof, notice all the little details and ornaments, visit the main hall with the golden Buddhas and different monks made out of wax. Next to the Pagoda is a room with different wooden furniture, a souvenir shop and heaven as well as hell. In one room are more wax figures of monks in green light with nature around, in the centre are three statues of Buddha. To complete these idyllic picture music boxes played the sound of a wood and the spalshing of a stream. But downstairs waits the hell guarted by an ox and horse with red flimmed eyes. Me and DSCN0255another guy (his girlfriend was to afraid and wanted to wait outside) went the stairs down and folowed a small labyrinth which gives an impression of the idea of the Buddhism hell. There were different scary scenaries behind bars which showed skeletons or human figures tortured by demons. The music boxes in the corners played a mixture of human screams and demonic laughter. Even if it was kind of surreal to me and remembered more to a ghost train in a theme park (and I really don’t like ghost trains), the thought that this scenario could mean the reality to beliefers made it in some ways even worse.

 

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Burn your money

At my last day in Da Lat I found a 100 US Dollar banknote on the street. Of course, my first thought was that it will be fake money but just in case I had to take it with me. I showed the banknote to the concierge of my hotel. Tabe was in my age. He laughed and said “No one can be that lucky and find a real 100 US Dollar banknote on the street.” (Two weeks later in Cambodia I had a real 100 US Dollar banknote in my hand and had to admit the fake was really obvious). Finally, he explained what the matter about the fake money is. In Vietnam and also other East Asian countries people sell and buy fake money (Joss paper) and burn them after someone dies. It is a way to send money to their ancestors for their after life but also to show respect to the dead ones. – And of course no one would ever burn real money.

Another thing I was really curios about were the little colurful papers which older women sell in the streets. When I asked Tabe about it he didn’t know what I was talking about. So there was no other way then to buy one of the papers. The woman laughed a lot when I bought the little ticket which made me even more courious. When I showed it to Tabe he explained me that I bought a Vietnamese lottery ticket. The jackpot are 2 billion VND (ca. 86.000 USD) and Tabe meant I could buy two houses and one car from that money – but yeah of course my ticket didn’t win ;).

 

Egg spa and Religion – Nha Trang

My stop in Nha Trang was more by accident than really planned. I wanted to go from Da Lat to Hoi An but the bus didn’t go straight. That’s why I decided to stay one night in Nha Trang. The city is full of tourists, especially from Russia. Nha Trang is directly at the seaside and offers large beaches. So in my opinion this city offers less cultural spots but more relaxing places, water parks and spa for Tourists. A little bit extraordinary seems the egg spa. But just because of its name it does not mean that one swims actually in eggs. The pools there are filled with all kind of mud and minerals to take a bath in, peelings, tubs full of herbs and essential oils, and jacuzzis.

 

 
Po Nagar Cham Towers
 
 
 
 
 
 

DSCN0490I arrived in the evening and enjoyed a relaxed night at the rooftop bar at my hostel with backpackers from all over the world and free beer. The next day, I started a sightseeing tour around the city with Dave from Canada. My day in Nha Trang was very hot but cloudy and grey – so not really the perfect beach day. But a little walk along the seaside was still one of our plans. We had a small list of spots we wanted to see, mostly religious buildings. The most famous spot is probably the Po Nagar Cham Towers, a Hinduism memorial site from around the 8th century made of sandstone. In the end of the day I ended in a inspiring photo gallery with impressive black and white photos of Vietnamese people. And thanks to a translation app I could ask a seamstress on the street to repair my bag. In the evening, my bus was leaving for the next stop – Hoi An.

 

 

 

222 days of Asia

Snorkeling with fishes, kayaking, Street Art, a lot of Buddhist temples, eating insects, public bath, vulcanos, motor rides, meditation with a monk, Full Moon Party, dolphins … 

 

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First of all, don’t get killed

“Oh, you really want to go to South Korea? That’s brave since North Korea has atom bombs and will for sure use them soon.”, “My uncle went to Cambodia but he died six months after this trip since he got cancer from there and the doctors couldn’t help him anymore.”, “I heard a lot of women get kidnapped in Vietnam.”, “Oh, you have really to pay attention. I heard a lot of stories where people got rob out in Indonesia.” Well, I heard a lot of stories like this when I told people from my plans to travel through Asia. I really don’t get why people can not just wish you a good time instead of trying to freak you out with the worst travel stories. Whatever, it couldn’t stop me and I’m glad I ignored most of the warnings and just enjoyed Asia.

Furthermore, a lot of – especially Asians – told me I am very brave because I travel on my own. But actually, I didn’t feel I’m brave at all at least not because of my travels. Nonetheless, there is a point where you need to overcome yourself and make the first step for your travel plans all by yourself. But fortunately, the curiosity was always bigger than any fear.  And in the end, most people were really friendly and helpful. I found people who hosted me, invited me for food or gave me a ride. It’s incredible and most places were not scary at all.

 

 

 

In 222 days I saw thirteen different countries. All started with my exchange semester in Seoul, South Korea in End of August. During my semester I traveled for four days to Tokyo, Japan and also visited different places in South Korea as the borderline to North Korea, the island Jeju, the second biggest city Busan and an island in a river – Nami Island. One day before new years eve I took a flight to Beijing and from there I started my travels through South East Asia – to Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapur, Indonesia and on my way back from Korea to the United Arab Emirates.           

But I will tell you more about all places piece by piece. So hang on and read about all my crazy, funny and adventures stories.

 

 

 

Tears in crazy Saigon

How I arrived in Saigon (Ho-Chi-Minh-City) and realised I am a multi-millionaire. I learned about the Vietnam War, visited a theatre where puppets dance over the water and took a boat in the jungle.

 

 

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My flight was from Hong Kong to Saigon (Sài Gòn), or how it is called nowadays: Ho-Chi-Minh-City (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh). DSCN9530Both names are still in common but the official name is Ho-Chi-Minh-City since the reunification in 1976, named after the further president of the Northern part of Vietnam. It is the biggest city in Vietnam with more than 7 million habitants and was until 1975 the capital of the Southern part of the country when Vietnam was divided.

My first impression when I arrived in Saigon was: The city is crazy. There are cars and especially motorcycles everywhere. The latter replaces the family van. Parents and three children fit easily on one motorcycle. It’s loud, it’s crowded and especially for a Westerner as me, it is confusing. When you want to cross the street there are often no traffic lights and if there are some there are still motorcycles which ignore it (They sell shirts in Vietnam with “Red means I can still go”). Especially Rush Hour is horror. People told me the trick – as pedestrian – is: Keep walking.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Oops, I am multi-millionaire

One other overburden thing is the money. The lowest banknote in Vietnam is 1,000 VND (circa 0.04 US$), the highest 500,000 VND (circa. 22.18 US$). So when I first came to the bank I took 2,000,000 VND (circa 88.70 US$) from my bank account – I never felt richer. If it is your first time in Vietnam, the money could be probably a bit confusing. The banknotes are high, all notes are colourful but have the same person (Ho Chi Minh) on it. A nice idea is to install an app for currency translation to make sure how much money you spend for something. A helpful rule of thumb is around 20,000 VND are one US-Dollar. Don’t get into a rush by paying because unfortunately, there are people who try to utilise the situation and get more money from you by not telling you that you paid one zero too much or giving the wrong change. But do not worry you will get used to it pretty fast.

 

Tears at the Sightseeing Tour
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The Old City Hall

In my opinion, Ho-Chi-Minh-City does not offer so many Sightseeing-places. They have some nice buildings in the French colonial style as the post office (built by Gustave Eiffel the engineer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris), the Reunification Palace or the old City Hall with a little park and a statue of Ho Chi Minh in the front. All the places are nice to see but you can not really spend a lot of time there. I would recommend the War Museum and the Water Puppet Theatre.

The War Remnants Museum costs only 15,000 VND (circa 0.65 US$) and shows different photos, articles from newspapers and some videos about the Vietnam War (1955-1975). They tell some really TitelbildWMpersonal stories about different people who got killed in the war or even crueller through war crimes as massacres. People, who were born in the last 35 years (some of them are in my age or younger) and have to live with worst deformation of their bodies as consequence of the toxic of Agent Orange. But also of victims of the war who lost their legs and/or arms and who are top athletes or painters today. I have to admit that I had more than once tears in my eyes. Tears because of the incomprehension how so many people can protest all over the world against this war but can not do anything against it. Tears because of the never ending possibility of the cruelty of people in killing, destroying and torturing others which make me feel sick and so angry. But also tears for the hope the people in these stories can give you about living a successful and happy life whether they have to live with diseases.

 

 

Dancing puppets on the water

One other highlight was the Water Puppet Theatre to me. The 20170115_191108tradition of the theatre goes back until the 11th century and is from Northern Vietnam. The show in Saigon was around 45 minutes long, cost 200,000 VND (on a Sunday evening, circa 8.90 US$) and showed several little stories about animals and humans in the water combined with traditional live music, singing and sometimes speaking (in Vietnamese). The puppets are made out of wood with lacquering and dance, swim and walk through a small pool. The puppeteers are hidden behind a drop.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Shipping through the dschungl

Many hotels and travel offices offer different kind of tours. Really famous are one-day-tours to the Mekong Delta or the Cu Chi DSCN9796Tunnels. I decided to do former. Some agencies already offer group tours for 10$. The Mekong Delta is a region in Southern Vietnam. The Mekong is a huge river which extend over six countries: besides the Vietnam also China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I would guess most Mekong Delta tours offer a similar programme. We went to a little temple on our way and at the Mekong Delta we took a boat, tried some tea and domestic fruits. We went to a coconut farm, rode in a horse-drawn carriage and of course the highlight – taking a rowing boat along the different canals.

After a few days in Ho-Chi-Minh-City I went on to Da Lat in a sleeping bus – travelling while you’re sleeping, that’s a nice one.