Experiences of a med student with an incurable travel bug.

I loved Vietnam. The food was fantastic, my favorite spot being Lam Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City; I had seafood laksa there before catching the bus to Cambodia, and it was the perfect sendoff. The accommodations were great everywhere we stayed; the receptionists were all very friendly and helpful in planning activities to do in the city as well as transportation to and accommodations at your next destination, always willing to call ahead and book you a room. In fact, the majority of the people I met were all very friendly, tourists and locals alike. There were also always a variety of things to do, whether you just wanted to wander around or take a guided tour, eat from a street-side stand or get western food and go clubbing, there was something for you. Of course, there were regular power outages in every city, but that never posed much of a problem (though the rooms did get toasty if it was off at night).

Transportation was, overall, fantastic. Every bus was spacious, comfortable, and even stopped regularly at bathrooms while still managing to stay relatively on schedule. The sleeper bus from Nha Trang to Saigon was particularly good, I actually did manage to sleep for a decent amount of the trip. Furthermore, the ride was usually a smooth one; the roads were all paved with very few potholes, and even in the most rural areas, including the stretch from Dalat to Nha Trang where the road wasn’t even finished, the roads were fairly well maintained. In the cities, there was always, always a plethora of dirt bikes/mopeds/motorcycles to choose from if you didn’t want to walk. Traffic was chaotic, but after a while, it became clear that there’s a language of the road through which the flocks of cyclos, buses, cars, and bikes manage to communicate. Through honking, gesturing, and flashing lights, traffic tends to flow almost seamlessly with few mishaps. Hopping on one of those cyclos could be intimidating at first, but they really are the most efficient way to get around and actually quite safe — they even carry helmets for you to wear! Of course, I’m comparing this to Uganda, where I rode the same style cyclos (called boda-bodas) on roads that had potholes opening down to the sewer, more dirt and gravel than pavement, and the bikes rarely came with helmets for anyone.

Our last few hours in Vietnam were spent wandering the backpacker district looking in all the shops. I had all but given up on finding a dress when I went into a silk tailor shop for the second time. This time, I found a beautiful, red silk dress with green, gold, and many other abstract-shaped accents. It’s more fancy than I had in mind, but I really like it and it adds another outfit to my limited supply. Finally, we had one last meal at Lam Cafe (the laksa soup plus a dragon fruit shake, both of which were fantastic) and then hopped on the bus to Cambodia.

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