Vietnam: A Country Full of Surprises!

Let me preface what I’m about to share with you by saying that I really enjoy surprises. I think you could probably place me in the upper tier of “surprise lovers.” However, two out of the three surprises listed below certainly made me question my love for surprises in a very big way.

Surprise 1: Ho Chi Minh City

The infamous stomach bug. Most travelers making their way around Southeast Asia are bound to fall victim to some type of stomach bug. In Brian’s case, his stomach bug was as resistant as they come. Brian was left with agonizing stomach pain that was exacerbated by eating. He also had little to no appetite. After experiencing these awful symptoms on and off for the better part of two weeks, I convinced Brian that his body wasn’t going to be able to fight this bad boy off on his own and it was time to see a doctor. As it turns out, the amoeba had superpowers unlike any other as it managed to show several antibiotics who is boss by not succumbing to them.

While we certainly enjoyed our time on Cambodia, I was very relieved that Brian didn’t require any medical care during our time. Many of the doctors in Cambodia allegedly attend medical school and purchase their degrees without having to study, intern, or pass any sort of board exam. Corruption in Cambodia seems to be an unfortunate trend now doesn’t it?

Come to think of it – for a brief period of time growing up, I had aspirations to be a dermatologist. We may have to make our way back to Cambodia so I can become a dermatologist and make my childhood dreams come true (in no time at all). Pretty scary thought, right?

Since most medical care and hospitals in Cambodia do not meet international standards of care, I wasn’t going to let any “medical professional” touch Brian with a ten foot pole. Thankfully after two weeks in Cambodia, where Brian’s symptoms manifested, we then traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam where we were able to find a western style family medical clinic. Although, I still had my hesitations. Even here in Vietnam we were warned to be wary of which pharmacy we get prescriptions filled at because sometimes they will say they are giving you an antibiotic or other medication when, in fact, it’s just placebo pills under another drug’s name.

With all that being said, we were truly blown away and impressed with the doctor that Brian saw and the medical care he received. His doctor was fluent in English and was extremely professional. Not to mention he was very knowledgeable. My concerns about finding good medical care for Brian were quickly put to rest and I couldn’t have been happier and more thankful for the surprise!

Surprise 2: Mui Ne

Our first day in Mui Ne we grabbed lunch and then headed to this amazing beach club we stumbled upon called Sankara, which was close to our guest house. We found some lounge chairs on the beach and retired there for the afternoon. It honestly felt like we were at a five star resort!

Sankara Beach Club

Sankara Beach Club

We even got to enjoy a kite surfing show while we were lounging on the beach as there were probably 50 kite surfers riding the waves and showing off their ridiculous athleticism by doing tricks in the air (as if kite surfing alone wasn’t impressive enough)! It apparently takes a solid week of lessons before people typically learn the basics of kite surfing. During our fairly short stay in Mui Ne we didn’t have that much time to dedicate to taking up a new hobby but maybe one day!

Kite Surfing

Kite surfer gearing up for the ocean.

Kite surfer gearing up for the ocean.

The sand dunes in Mui Ne were quite spectacular. We rented an ATV and took turns driving over untouched territory on the massive dunes! Brian was also really excited to go sand boarding and conveniently they offered us a sand board for free if we rented an ATV. Unfortunately, the sand board didn’t work out too well when Brian attempted to go down the dunes. Maybe that’s why they threw it in as a free extra? Brian wasn’t about to let the sand board disappointment rain on his parade though. He opted to jump down the dunes instead. He probably jumped down the dunes about ten times and he would have happily jumped down the dunes ten more times had the sun not been setting. He loved every second of it! We both agreed that the dunes were one of the neatest experiences we’ve had so far in Vietnam!

Brian cruising around on the dunes!

Brian cruising around on the dunes!

Brian attempting to sand board down the dunes!

Brian attempting to sand board!

The sun beginning to set over  he streets of Mui Ne.

The sun beginning to set over the streets of Mui Ne.

Due to Brian’s lingering illness, we hadn’t done much in the way of being physically active. With our flight to Nepal coming up in only a few weeks, it was time for our feet to hit the pavement so we don’t find ourselves huffing and puffing up the mountain as we trek. The next morning we grabbed breakfast and came back to our room to get ready to go on a run. I grabbed my shoes from the floor and as I put my left shoe on I realized I couldn’t fit my whole foot in the shoe. Thinking that I had left a sock in my shoe, I reached into my shoe to grab my “sock.” After feeling something that was clearly not my sock, I freaked out and immediately withdrew my hand from my shoe and out popped a slimy frog! Brian said he’s never seen me so scared. Well, I’ve never been so surprised!! It’s not every day you find yourself blindly grabbing at a slimy animal that’s hiding deep in your running shoe!

My unsuspecting shoe...

My unsuspecting shoe…

The  frog that decided to make my shoe h's new home.

Where the frog landed after jumping out of my shoe. How he made it into our room is still an unsolved mystery…

Surprise 3: Hoi An

Later that afternoon we hopped on a bus and headed north towards Na Trang and then from Na Trang we traveled to Hoi An. All in, we’re talking about 18 straight hours of travel (we had 30 minutes in Na Trang when we switched buses so we scarfed down dinner). When we finally arrived in Hoi An the following morning I was tired, disoriented, and hungry. While the name “sleeper bus” implies sleep, the accommodations are not exactly conducive to a good night of sleep but it’s all part of the fun of traveling!

Our sleeper bus

Our sleeper bus

The best part of the entire sleeper bus experience was actually when we got off the bus. We got our backpacks from the luggage compartment under the bus and I came to the quick realization that the entire front of my backpack was soaking wet and my backpack reeked of dead fish. Keep in mind, I’m hungry and functioning on maybe 3 hours of sleep at this point if we’re feeling generous. Thank you, Mr. Bus Attendant, for placing my backpack on a large box of frozen fish that wasn’t in a freezer or temperature controlled environment. As a result, the ice and frozen fish had no choice but to melt. My backpack enjoyed a nice, long fishy marinade during the second leg of our trip which was a 12 hour journey. Come to find out, the damage didn’t stop with my backpack either. Half of the clothes in my backpack, my make-up bag, and my toiletry bag were all soaked in the pungent marinade as well. I wish I were lying…

Perhaps these were the fish that made the bus trip up to Hoi An with us. I guess there is no real way of ever knowing!

Perhaps these were the fish that made the bus trip up to Hoi An with us? I guess there is no real way of ever knowing!

After three days of a dual effort in diligently scrubbing and soaking my backpack with every kind of soap and laundry detergent available, I’m very happy to report that people can now stand within a five foot radius of me without gasping, wrinkling their faces into a disgusted look, covering their noses and mouths, and quickly walking away. Brian even gives me hugs again so all is right in the world!

The way I see it now is that the fish ordeal was a very small price to pay to travel to Hoi An which is, hands down, our favorite city we’ve visited thus far!

2 thoughts on “Vietnam: A Country Full of Surprises!

  1. Pingback: Hoi An, Vietnam: your new retirement destination | Beaches & Backpacks

  2. Pingback: How to spend time in Purgatory…I mean Kathmandu | Beaches & Backpacks

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