Even if you weren't forced to play Russian roulette against your mates or to endure other fictionalised horrors of war, Vietnam isn't one of those countries you forget in a hurry. It's no Brunei. While I mostly enjoyed my 10 days in the Socialist Republic the first time around, my memories of majestic landscapes and incredible coffee evidently soured over time to leave only bitter recollections of scammers and a stress attack so intense, I thought I had malaria.
For my changing opinions of Vietnam, you only have to dip into my blogs over the last eight months:
'This might be one of my favourite South East Asian countries as well as one of the worst'
21 October 2012
'I'll come back and do the south some time'
15 November 2012
'For all [Cambodia's] faults, I'll probably come back some time to stay slightly longer again. I can't say the same about Vietnam'
30 March 2012
'Every traveller I've spoken to about the international scam capital of Vietnam since experiencing it myself has said they won't go back there for that reason alone, and I have to agree with them'
11 May 2013
So when Jackie and I were debating where to spend a couple of weeks in-between Thailand and a return flight commitment from Singapore, Vietnam wasn't exactly top of the list (I really wanted to go to Sumatra, but the risk of actual malaria put Jackie off. Maybe when we get divorced).
After weeding out places I'd been to and had no real need to see again this lifetime, the undiscovered south of Vietnam somehow ended up being the least unappealing. I did it for you guys really, I know you like it when my life's difficult.
Things I forgot I liked about Vietnam
The money is called 'dong' (enough in itself)
and you can be a millionare for just over 30 pounds
Double strong, double sweet coffee is the standard.
No wonder the drivers seem so wired
Ho Chi Minh City
(Saigon for the stubborn)
Reunification Palace. Definitely not photographed from between fence posts, I definitely wasn't too stingy to buy a 30,000 dong ticket (about 94p)
Notre Dame Cathedral. Good to see those Vietnamese plagiarists are up to their old tricks
This Post Office is a bit old, which is enough to make it an essential stop on city tours. Yeah, this place isn't exactly brimming with significant landmarks. You can thank the People's Army for that
Opera House and some art thing. Who am I, Neil Buchanan?
(If you're googling yourself, hi Neil)
If you head to the Saigon River hoping for elegant Singapore-esque quays or relaxing riverside views, you'll be disappointed. But look, there's a boat with a shark's face at least. Not good enough for you?
Most people would take a photo from the high, purpose-built viewing platform rather than a photo of the platform itself, but at this point how are you still under the delusion I'm most people?