Now I am firmly in the travel zone I thought, for my own pleasure, I would go back a few years to an amazing journey in 2008 through South Vietnam and Cambodia.
As it was to be my first ever experience of Asia and I was travelling alone I decided to have the hassle taken out of it and go with a tour company.
I flew out to Ho Chi Minh and met up with a small group as part of a planned trip with Travel Indochina, a tour company who specialise in Asia. You can visit the website here.
I had no idea what to expect, my first and only long haul trip had been to West Australia way back in 2000 and I hadn’t ventured very far since then, a few Greek islands, Tunisia, but nothing to prepare me for what I was about to land in!
From the minute I stepped off the plane and my glasses steamed up as if I was in a tropical butterfly house I knew this was going to be interesting and awful in equal measures!
Weaving in and out of traffic on the way to my hotel, with a taxi driver I could only, at the time, assume was suicidal (I later learnt this was just they way they drive) I was having second thoughts about coming to a country that still had negative connotations for older generations.
My mum, when I announced I was off to Vietnam and Cambodia, rather nervously ventured that maybe I could just go to Greece again . .
First steep learning curve. Crossing the road. Waiting, in true British fashion at what appeared to be a pedestrian crossing lead to a frustrating, endless wait.
Upon observing the locals, I soon realised that what I had once again assumed were suicidal tendencies, was actually the only way to cross a road. Namely, step out in front of the oncoming traffic, maintain eye contact with drivers and pray.
Just try to maintain eye contact. With them all . . . . . .
The first stop on our trip was the War Remnants Museum (formally known as the Museum of American War Crimes) This was full of graphic photos of war and the appalling effects of Agent Orange and Napalm.
It was an uncomfortable introduction to Vietnam, a reminder of the horrors of war.
We also visited the Reunification Palace. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed through its gates.
Then it was off to Binh Tay Wholesale Market, my first taste of what would become an obsession of mine, markets! It is a chaotic, hectic, hot maze of stall, selling every item under the sun, from dried mushrooms to ultra cute bike helmets shaped like ladybirds!
Here’s just a tiny selection of the host of weird and wonderful things stacked to the ceiling!!!
A boat ride down the mighty Saigon River took us to see the tunnels at Củ Chi. These are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war.
The tiny, cramped tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, through which they secured victory eventually. The tunnels were designed to be too small for the larger American GIs to be able to get into.
They are catastrophically small, here is the tunnel guide showing the entrance to one. It is literally an inch wider than him, you can’t fit in with your arms by your side, you have to lift the lid above you head and lower yourself down with your arms above your head in order to get in.