Any excuse to leave the smog filled city of Ho Chi Minh City awaits. Saturday 27th October was the day for the monthly hike organised by La Holista – a company promoting Health and Wellness in Ho Chi Minh City. Myself and Jonny both love the outdoors and also any form of exercise so this was the perfect weekend plan. Our friends Danny and Airlie also joined for the day out. The day was all organised for us as we joined a group of other keen hikers early on Saturday morning, 7am to be precise. We had paid 500 VND for the day out which is equivelent to around £15. This included the transport, guided hike, water and packed lunch.
The journey there was pretty painless, an air-conditioned bus full of eager expats looking for an enjoyable day out. The journey took just under 2 hours total with a loo stop included. We arrived at the start of the hike in the Nui Dinh area of Vietnam, south of Ho Chi Minh not far from the coastal town of Vung Tau. Here the organisers (Rob and Chiara) dished out the packed lunches and snacks – 2 homemade peanut butter, cashew and date protein balls and wholewheat pesto pasta pot. They encouraged everyone to fill up their water bottles with the water they had brought, so everyone was fully stocked and ready to go.
The hike itself was mostly uneven paths and tracks through forest. We hiked for around 1.5/2 hours on the way up to reach a viewpoint where we were to have lunch. Whilst walking as a group we met some great people. Chatting with people from all over the world is really liberating and enjoyable, just to hear some of the stories they have and advice to give. One man we met was Larry, a Canadian guy in his 30s who is also teaching internationally over here with his wife and young family. This guy has been everywhere! He had so much to say about different countries he’d been to, do’s and don’ts and recommended areas to see. He was a very humble man who obviously sees the world with his eyes wide open. It was great to hear some of his stories. He too finds teaching in Vietnam pretty difficult and incomparable to anywhere in the western world, as its all done so differently. I guess it’s partly down to the international schools we teach in, as there are better ones. He too is looking to move on next year or move home so his young family can be educated in Canada. He opened our eyes to some of the things that go on behind the scenes in the international education system in Vietnam. The fact is that really its not all about the children, its about the money!
Others we talked to were other travellers who were living and working in Vietnam temporarily. One was an event manager from the UK but she had been living a pretty cool life in Hong Kong for 6 years and has recently been between Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam working. She too was a very open minded and friendly girl who later invited us to her work launch party in December, winner! We also met a girl from New Jersey, USA who was spending 6 months in Vietnam as part of her masters project. She was working for the WWF over her as well as studying and researching for her project. She too had a passion for travelling, she had a very sweet innocent nature and obviously cares about the world around her. I was particularly interested in her journey from her university in Monterey, California back to New York state to fly to Vietnam. She drove the whole way! Stopping in various exciting places along the way, the journey took her 8 days in total. How cool would that be!? Travelling more of America is definitely on my list.
As we got nearer to the top, we walked through some small settlements. These were the homes of some buddhist monks who lived there. Living off the land in a very peaceful and simple way. They had plenty of dogs and puppies also living with them. How cute is this little puppy!!??
Within their settlement we had to walk over a beautiful bridge with Chinese dragons painted either side, quite the designers these monks are! One of the hike organisers told me that they are organising a hike in early December to go up to the settlement and take some Christmas themed food to share with the monks. The hikers always walk through their settlement and they never mind, always smiling and allowing hikers to use their toilets, what nice people! La Holista want to give something back. I will definitely be joining the Christmas hike.
Once we reached the top we all took photos of the breathtaking scenery and sat down for lunch on the rocks. The sun had been shining all day, however the areas we had been walking were mainly in trees and shaded so it felt hot when we reached the top.
Nevertheless the clear conditions made the view much better and worthwhile. We sat in the shade and scoffed down our pasta and protein balls whilst enjoying the new people and environment around us before beginning the 2 hour hike back down. Full of food and fluids the way down was very quick and painless and the good conversation made time fly by.
As we reached the bottom we knew there would be some waterfalls for us to cool down in. Everyone stripped down a layer and jumped in the nice refreshing water, an experience not to be missed. We swam around in the lower plunge pool before deciding to climb up to the pool above for a quieter surrounding. We splashed around and chatted with Danny and Airlie for a short while before getting ready for the final 10 minute walk back to the bus.
Sleeping and listening to some good music were the activities to take us back into the big smoke that is Saigon. Jonny and I then enjoyed a filling curry before hitting the sack. Without even knowing it had been a pretty exhausting day, but one that was thoroughly enjoyed and we can’t wait for the next one. A Saturday well spent 🙂