I left Austin, Texas on the morning of May 28, 2011 with my mom, sister, and grandma. We made stops at Los Angeles, Tokyo, and then to our destination at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was an incredibly long flight but I could not hold in my excitement as the night lights of the city came into view and we finally landed on the grounds of my parents’ home country. We were picked up from the airport by relatives and went to eat at Hu Tieu Nam Vang at 11 p.m. After long hours on the airplane, we were ready to shower and get a good night’s rest. We arrived to Mimosa Hotel on 276 Cong Quynh District 1. Lucky for us, our family’s house is right next to our hotel so we would be able to spend time with them as they sold food in vendors every day in front of their house for a living.
On our first day in Ho Chi Minh City, we unpacked and got settled. Many relatives and friends came to visit us and we gave out gifts to them. Later in the day, we went to An Dong Market and looked for fabrics to bring to Thuy Tien shop to be made into ao dais (traditional Vietnamese dresses). Then we went around the city to places such as Co-Op Mart and Cho Benh Thanh.
Our first trip was to My Tho, Vietnam. This was the actual city that my parents grew up and got married in. We stayed at Chuong Duong Hotel for 1 night. My mom was able to see her old friends and socialize. The next day we went to visit my uncle’s mother-in-law who lived in Ben Tre, a place in the countryside. We had to walk miles to get to her house. The dirt path was extremely small and it felt like were walking in the midst of a tropical rain forest. When we arrived, I was appalled to see an 89 year old woman living in what appeared to be a shack. I was extremely moved by how anybody could survive in such a place they call home and still be happy.
Our next stop was Cho Lach, the country side where my grandpa’s family lived. There, they showed me how to pick fruits right from their backyards. There fruits such as rambutans, grapefruits, oranges, durians, we even got to drink straight out of coconuts and gnaw on sugarganes! Afterwards, we went to Vung Tau and visited Duc Me Bay Dau and Jesus on Nui Tao Phung. We went swimming on beach after climbing 2 hills as a reward.
The best part of the trip was going to Nha Trang. It is known as the place of Miss Universe 2008. During the time we were there, the Sea Festival 2011 was taking place. There were lights and concerts every night on the streets. We stayed at Hoang Tung Hotel across from the beach. We walked out to the beach every evening for the 4 nights we’re there. We visited Suoi Giang Bay. That was the most beautiful waterfall I’ve seen. We also went to Suoi Nuoc Nong, a hot spring. There we boiled duck eggs in the water and waded in the warm water. Everything was just so beautiful and I saw many other tourists just like myself.
I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to travel back to Vietnam. The memories of people and places will always remind me of the wonderful culture I’m a part of. It was an experience never to be forgotten.
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