I arrived in Vietnam after 17 hours in transit to the hustle and bustle of Tan Son Nhat airport in Vietnam's biggest city.
I was hit immediately by two things, the heat was palpable and draining as well as the amount of locals trying to sell me taxi journey or otherwise journeys into the city.
Turning down all of these pesky invitations proved fairly draining but I managed to make it to my bus and headed into the city. The bus cost around 24p which was the first experience of the inexpensive nature of this beautiful country.
Getting off the bus I was struck by the inherent complexity of crossing roads in the country. Greens lights did not necessarily indicate that huge numbers of the motorbike traffic won't still drive straight at you and it is completely necessary to use your ears as well as eyes to cross roads. Arriving felt pretty exhausted and so stayed in and shared a few drinks with the other travelers, a mottled group of older, friendly people on a lovely rooftop bar with pool on the roof.
The next morning I set off to the sky roof viewing platform on the tallest building in the city: Vietnam Bitexco financial tower. While fairly disappointing and costly relative to other items I had bought, it gave a great view of an overcast city and helped me understand the lay of the land.
After this I made my way to the Vietnam War museum. This proved to be a very (understandably) one-sided view of the war and painted a very unethical view of the American intervention in the country. I was particularly struck by the bombardment carried out countrywide and the lasting, still to this day of agent orange. A lethal chemical weapon used to try and clear the dense forest that covered the forest and concealed the enemy. However the active component "dioxin" causes genetic mutations in biological life and since it got into the river supply, caused massive health problems to the largely civilian population. Still to this day, babies are born with birth defects from the chemical after effects.
Leaving the museum I encountered another phenomenon that I would soon learn the power of, the rains if the monsoon season. The mile long walk back to the hostel felt like an hour and I was completely sodden upon my return.
A few hours later I was joined by my travelling companions, Zane, Richard, Jenna, Theresita and Saumitra, all fellow UCL medics.
That evening I tried ... For the first time as well as Duran, a large very smelly fruit with a very strange texture and taste.
The next day we decided to go to Cu Chi, a tunnel system built to repel American invaders in the war, preserved from the war in very good condition. The tunnel system was extremely cramped and we gained an interesting insight into life defending from the foreign invaders from an informative video and our tour guide. The booby traps and techniques used to avoid detection were very interesting indeed.
In the evening we meandered to a local night food market, which had gloriously cheap, tasty food on offer and talked to some very friendly locals to try and improve their English.
After breakfast the next day and visiting the Catholic cathedral of the city we set of by plane to Da Nang.