Two Backpacks

Cables HCMC

Chapter 16 - Ho Chi Minh, Mue Ni and Dalat, Vietnam

            We’re on our way to the Vietnam border. As we near the border crossing, dilapidated bamboo shacks are replaced by enormous, glitzy casinos.

            ‘For Vietnamese,’ one of our fellow Cambodian travellers tells us. ‘Gambling illegal in Vietnam, so people cross border for a day in casino.’

            Our border crossing is uneventful, and we’re back on our bus and heading to Ho Chi Minh in thirty minutes.

            The bus company’s drop-off point is located a block from our hostel; no having to negotiate transport or haggle over prices for once. Our double, en suite hostel room is spacious and clean, a welcome relief after the Kangaroo Bar at Sihanoukville.

            On our first full day, we walk to Reunification Palace. The serenity of Serendipity Beach seems a million miles away as we make our way along crowded streets clogged with motor scooters, tuk-tuks and cars.

            As with Cambodia, Vietnam is part of my history, my time. I remember newscasts of appalling casualties, atrocities, and heart-breaking pictures from those on the war front. The Vietnam War wasn’t one that the British were directly involved in, although the government did supply weapons, equipment and advisors to the United States. The British Royal Air Force also flew combat missions from Thailand against targets in Laos and North Vietnam.

            Wandering through the Palace brought back the terror of those times, my fear that the war may escalate and spread to other parts of the world.

            The war rooms are fascinating, with notations giving a timeline of the history of a war between North and South Vietnam that began in 1955. Ron and I walk through the corridors onto the balcony overlooking the main street that leads to the Palace.

            ‘You can imagine the chaos forty-five years ago, the fear as bombs rained down on the city and tanks rolled through the streets.’

            Ron’s right. I can.

            The following day we visit the War Museum, which gives an overview of the war from the South Vietnamese perspective. Details of troop movements, politics of the time and the atrocities that took place are detailed in various rooms of the museum, while in the grounds outside stand relics of the weapons of war, including restored American armoured vehicles, ground artillery, fighter planes and helicopters.

            I’ve never known war, not one that was fought in my country. I can’t imagine what it must be like for soldiers and civilians to be faced with attacks from such monstrous weapons of war.

            We take a boat trip along the Mekong Delta on our final day. Crowded with boats, people fishing on the shoreline, and ever-present rubbish, the river slowly opens as we cruise downstream, passing small villages. Girls in white tunics and straw hats mirror the images we’ve seen on posters advertising trips to Vietnam.

            ‘It’s good to get away from the crowds for a while. The city is manic!’ I’m not sure Ron’s heard me. He’s gazing out to his left at a beached boat where children play.

            I touch his shoulder to gain his attention. ‘It’ll be good to be near the sea again,’ I say. ‘It’s been an interesting visit, but I’m ready to move on.’

            Ron remains silent for a short while, deep in thought. ‘Me too,’ he replies. ‘Me too.’


            Our two relaxing days at Hoang Kim, a hotel on the beachfront at Mui Ne, have been fantastic. We’ve recharged our batteries and are keen to get moving again.

            We’re now on a bus heading towards the mountains and the town of Dalat. The roads are almost non-existent at times, and our progress is slow along the rough surfaces. The only plus point is that the views are stunning.

            Four hours after setting off, we alight from our minibus in the town centre. It’s five in the afternoon, and the light is fading; dark grey clouds shroud the mountains, heavy with a promise of rain to come.

            Our home for the night is a guest house – Thien An. Our room is spacious, clean and comfortable, plus there is excellent Wi-Fi, which cheers Ron up no end! The owner welcomes us with a steaming mug of English tea and a wonderful smile.

            We spend the following day roaming the quaint streets of Dalat, the town untouched during the Vietnam War. We head back down the mountain the next day; our next destination the town of Nha Trang.

            Located on the coast, Nha Trang is a holiday destination with crowded bars, clubs and music that continues into the early hours. It’s not our scene, and we decide to cut short our stay and continue our journey north to Hoi An.An