The last week of January and first week of February were filled with moments I will never forget, but on the 8th of February it was finally time for a friend and I to set off on a new journey towards Vietnam.
About a year and half has passed since I have seen my family in Vietnam, and this year I would finally get to experience Lunar New Years in my home country. My mother has always wished for me to experience this holiday in Vietnam, so seeing as I was only a five hour plane ride from Vietnam I thought, “Hey, let’s just go for it!” For starters, I highly recommend flying directly from Vietnam Airlines to your destination, that is, if you are traveling from Japan. The price is a bit more expensive, but what is one hundred dollars compared to unreliable, terrible plane service? This is me complaining; however, just a warning to those out there, do not travel through China Eastern Airlines. Any how, off the ranting topic of bad airlines, let us start with a little journey through Vietnam!
February 9, 2015 – Bình Dương, Vietnam
The plane landed in the city at around 4:40 AM and quite honestly I was ready to sleep for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, this did not happen since we were supposed to find tickets for a Cambodia trip. Due to complications, this trip was cancelled so a second plan was in store. Though, why rush leaving immediately when I still had a whole day of exploring left to do before the end of the day? I started off by heading towards a coffee shop, (of course I would go here first), and talked with my uncles about random topics. Who knew five months of living in Japan would make my Vietnamese a bit rusty? Anyway, as I was having a pleasant conversation with them I remembered the street which we were located. A year has gone by, yet I still felt as if I never left the city. This could be my old memories tugging on me, but the sight of motorbikes, coffee shops, food carts, bicycles, and cracked sidewalks made feel relaxed and free from my worries. Realizing school will start back up soon was immediately pushed away, and the constant shivering of my future just disappeared. At that moment, all that mattered was a cup of coffee and a feint smile of happiness.
February 10, 2015 -Bình Phước, Vietnam
Early morning catches the worm, well in this case early morning catches the taxi. Acquiring a taxi during the time of Lunar New Years was next to impossible, but luckily my uncle has a few taxi numbers up his sleeve. Around 10AM my uncle, Katy(friend), and I left for my Aunt’s house in the Bình Phước Province. After a good, oh I would say four hours, we finally arrived in Bình Phước. The last half hour of the car ride was breathtaking, and for those who know me, you could just imagine what I saw. That is right, mountains and nature!
Goodness, the area reminded me so much of Chattanooga’s mountainous areas and no longer could I close my eyes from this beautiful sight. This was the first time I had been in my Aunt’s city and I had heard there were sights like this; however, I did not realize how amazing Bình Phước was until seeing it with my own eyes.
Of course I was known there, and you could just imagine the amount of questions and excitement everyone had that I finally got to visit them. We were greeted kindly with food and drinks and even had a small party near the end of the night. Though I will have to say, my stomach was filled to the rim, but I am glad to have met everyone there.
February 11, 2015 -Bình Phước / Vung Tau, Vietnam
The following morning was supposed to be a day of mountain climbing; however, once again, this plan was cancelled with the difficulties of it being the Lunar New Years holidays. Our next destination, since the cable cart was closed off, was a little park where you could pick fruit off from the trees. Yet again, the park was open but not many people were there because of the holiday season. I was able to take a few photos though for future references! Though I am not complaining since I had the chance to talk with my extended family. Even though this was a reunion of over 10 years, the conversations were never awkward and were quite enjoyable. I wish I was able to spend more time with them, but sadly it was time to depart for another city. Hopefully next time I can stay in Bình Phước for a few days to get the full experience!
Our next destination was Vũng Tàu which took about 5 – 6 hours to travel due thanks to poorly given directions and a stroke of bad luck. Nonetheless, no matter how long the drive I was excited to be back in my birth town. Strange, I never grew up in this city, but every time I travel to Vũng Tàu my body feels calmer and I feel much happier being there. Even when I am sleeping, if we are just half an hour out of the city I will wake up and look out the window to see the familiar sights which are engraved into my memories. Since we arrived a bit late, the morning would be the beginning to another adventure.
February 12, 2015 -Vũng Tàu/Ba Ria, Vietnam
Well, hello there beautiful ocean of Vũng Tàu. Goodness, it really has been way too long since I have been here. There is nothing better than the feeling of being in your birthplace, especially when the city really does describe all the things you love. I mean,Vũng Tàu is filled with amazing seafood, great scenery, wonderful weather, and mountains everywhere! All the things to make me happy, oh and let us not forget the great coffee places here. However, we will have to save this town for another day since now I was off to Ba Ria, a town close to Vũng Tàu and where my mother spent most of her young adult years at. Here in Ba Ria you will get the experience of seeing crops of rice, field rats, farmers, salt fields, and many different types of fruit trees. Depending on the season, you could be lucky enough to arrive in the summer when markets are filled to the rim with delicious fruits! Anyway, once we reached my aunt’s house I forgot how much work was needed to be done by the Vietnamese everyday just to earn a living. In developed countries such as America and Japan, you do not see many houses built from sticks, hay, or even floors made of clay. Here in Ba Ria, many houses are still in their early stages of reconstruction, though there are still some even without electricity. It’s incredible how much we take things for granted, but this is also a chance to be grateful for the things which we are given. I often forget myself, and I hate to say that it does not hit me until I visit family in Vietnam. Despite some their living standards, my cousins, uncles, and aunts with not so much money still live their lives to its fullest extent. Smiling brightly to the world ahead of them, they are some of the most hard working people I know, well some of them. After visiting other extended family in the area, I returned back to my aunt’s house for some home cooking. Now, if it is anything I miss since being in Japan is a nice home cooked Vietnamese meal. The flavors are different from any other cuisine, and your bowl is never empty until you are filled to the brim, well this is the rule in my family. I was exhausted from the day, and after dinner we set up a bed and a net for the night and slept quite soundly in preparation for tomorrow morning’s plan!
February 13, 2015 Vũng Tàu, Vietnam
If you visit Vũng Tàu, I highly recommend asking around for temple locations. Unlike Japan, the temples in Vietnam are typically located atop mountains and many small statues inhabit the area. Sometimes you can even see Cambodian temples during its time of monk prayer. The Vietnamese people tend to lean towards two religions, Catholicism and Buddhism.If you do not go to church, than you go to the temple; if you do not do either, than you are more than likely an atheist or agnostic. Currently the younger people of Vietnam lean towards being agnostic, but people born before 1970s are the ones to be more religious. I noticed in tourist cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Vũng Tàu the younger generation show no interest towards religion; however, in smaller towns or villages most people tend to be Buddhist more so than Catholic. Recently I wrote a report on Catholicism versus Buddhism in Vietnam, and what I noticed was the correlation between non touristic cities and touristic cities is the same between Vietnam and Westerners. Up until the early 1900s, Catholicism was associated with Western philosophies and culture and Vietnam was in its time of becoming its own country. Cities which are hidden away from immigration development still practice its old traditions, Buddhism being the main religion and philosophy for his or her way of living. However, in the cities where tourism has become its main source for business, Western thinking and new theories float in the minds of the younger Vietnamese generation. I do not accept this, nor do I believe the Vietnamese people should throw away the things which were once taught to them. People around the ages of 15 – 26 are the young adults which will carry on what was taught to them, which is why I believe a new era will begin in Vietnam in the next ten to twenty years. While this change is inevitable, I believe this could be a great development, but the Vietnamese people should also remember their sense of its country’s pride and carry with them towards a greater future.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day back home! Today would be my last day in Vung Tau and I was sure to visit an area which was way too familiar, the dock. Back when I was four years old, my parents owned a boat and we would always visit this area when we had the chance.
The dock in those days was not meant for cruise ships, but now there is an office where you can purchase a ticket to go around the surrounding the areas of Vũng Tàu. My cousin works at one of these offices along with her father, so hopefully one day I can experience a Vietnamese cruise! Although I did not set off to sea, I did get to experience the inside of these massive ships. Quite the difference it was from the ones in America; nonetheless, it was a fun time jumping around the ship to go exploring.
With that little ramble done, this is the end to part one of my Vietnam update. The next part will cover all my adventures going towards my grandmother’s house; I will also let you all know how Lunar New Years went!
Until next time~~