Vietnam Part One

I realize that my Hong Kong post was a little long so i’ll be breaking this part of my adventure into three parts – You’re Welcome

I’ll start off with saying that Ho Chi Mihn City is so much different than Hong Kong and i’ll be honest, it took awhile for me to adjust.

Hong Kong was sophisticated and Vietnam, while there are parts that are high end was mostly filled with poverty (more on that in another post)

The first thing I noticed was that there are hardly any cars in Vietnam and I learned that it’s due to the outrageously high tax rates that the government charges per car. Those taxes make the cost of getting a car often as high as twice or triple the original price. So the main source of transportation is scooters. This is all fine and good except for when you want to cross the street, then it’s a bit like playing frogger. There were many times I was sure I was going to get run over.  It turns out that the key to crossing the street is to just go for it, don’t change your walking pace, and they won’t hit you. Even when I had it figured out I was still very overwhelmed by it.

Secondly, there are lots of pictures of Hong Kong and very few photos from Vietnam but that’s because every-single-time I would take my phone or camera out to take a picture I would be warned to put it away and after the 5th or 6th warning I was pretty nervous and I think that this is why I had such a hard time adjusting. By the end of our stay in Hochi Minh City I was convinced that I was going to get shanked and robbed by a ninja on a scooter and I realize that it’s not right to judge an entire population of people based on the warnings of a few but it was a hard feeling to shake.

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One of the highlights of my Vietnam trip was Monkey Island or Can Gio.

Can Gio is a beautiful two-hour trip by motorbike or ferry and it sits on an island formed where the Saigon River hits the sea. The name Monkey Island is self explanatory – It’s overrun with monkeys. 

I did some reading about Can Gio and it was quite amusing, the reviews said that if you want to be assaulted by monkeys then this is the place to go. Assaulted by monkeys??  YES, Please!

Our driver (that sounds way fancier than it is) dropped us off at the end of a long road and pointed for us to walk down. Immediately I saw a few mischievous monkeys on the side of the road but I wasn’t seeing the abundance of monkeys that was advertised.  We arrived at a hut with two police officers who were wielding sticks – I didn’t know if the sticks were for us or for the monkeys but I was committed.. Even if that meant getting hit in the head with a stick.

The men in the hut were making a bit of side money by selling peanuts to feed the monkeys and that sounded awesome to me. We bought two bags of peanuts and as soon as I broke the seal on my bag a monkey leapt up, snatched the bag from my hands, and started to run away but was intercepted by a stick to the face and let me say this… I don’t condone hitting any animal unless your life is being threatened but the language barrier was too much to communicate my shock so I purchased a second bag of peanuts and was a bit more careful with how I was holding it so no more monkeys would get clubbed.  As we were feeding, other monkeys took notice and pretty soon Monkey Island was living up to it’s name and as we were handing out peanuts you could definitely see a hierarchy, the older monkeys would chase the babies away which was a little sad to watch because those babies were so damn cute and I just wanted to fill their little bellies with peanuts.

Speaking of babies here is a Side Story – A little ways down the road I could see a group of monkeys and went to check it out, as I got closer I saw that it was a group of moms feeding their babies…. “OOOOH Baby monkeys!” squeal! I started to approach them and was stopped by another stick wielding officer. Again, that pesky language barrier gets in the way so we started playing charades – he starts pulling his hair and chomping his teeth and my first  thought was, “The monkeys will pull your hair?”  and then I looked down and saw another monkey was missing part of his scalp (a very very big part of his scalp) and realized that he was telling me, “Don’t get close to the babies because their Mom may scalp you.” – Ok, that’s enough information to make me steer clear, back down the trail we go.

We headed to a gazebo off of the trail a bit where we noticed a lot of monkeys were just lounging around and they weren’t shy either, they would walk up and inspect your pockets for food.. One reviewer said that one of the monkeys stole his hand sanatizer and drank it. OOPS. I didn’t have any real mishaps like that but I did stuff my pockets full of peanuts to see if they were bold enough to take them which they were.. I cannot even express how giddy that made me.

All and all it was a very cool place to visit and I would do it again in a second! I am sure I was doing a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to like  kneeling down to approach the monkeys, to feed them, to take close up photos, which I suppose was making me pretty vulnerable to attacks but at the time my brain was overloaded with cute so caution and logic just wasn’t there. To be honest, I am not positive I wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes again.

Here is a video of my reaction to monkey island.

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Monkeys aren’t the only creatures on Can Gio, you can also fish for alligators… You’re handed a stick with a string and attached to the string is a piece of fish.. Now I didn’t think that this was smart or safe so I passed but Colin ended up doing it 3 times and I am happy to report that he was not eaten by any alligators.

IMG_1604 IMG_1594Stay tuned! Part two is the Mekong delta.