We did not go to Bien Hoa. We contemplated just getting on the train in the morning and enjoying what the day brought us. But honestly, we were kinda over the element of surprise. So after water puppets and an incredibly tasty dinner at a ridiculously overpriced tourist village that night we checked online to see what wonders Bien Hoa would have to offer us. This is what we found:
Bien Hoa is now an industrial center of southern Vietnam, and many factories and warehouses…… Construction has increased rapidly (with many Western-style houses and villas under development), and the real estate market has experienced a series of boom cycles since the mid-1990s……
During the Vietnam War the United States Air force operated Bien Hoa Air Base….
Factories, construction, abandoned airforce bases. Pass. I have never in my life possessed a desire to visit factories and warehouses on my vaction. I have lived in Hong Kong for 10 months now, during which time there has been construction outside of my window every single morning for ten months. And the national war museum was in Ho Chi Minh City – no need to travel to an abandoned air force base. Pass.
So, we decided to just eat the $1.25 train ticket loss and make do with Ho Chi Minh. We mapped out the next day with a couple of museum stops, a trip to the zoo, a visit to the Jade Pagoda – the pagoda to see when you’re pagoda-ed out according to our travel book – a Banh Xeo dinner and maybe even a trip to the spa!! So, despite being sent to the wrong city, and buying train tickets to a dud of a city, we were determined to revive this trip and make it awesome. Too bad Ho Chi Minh just doesn’t do awesome very well. The museums were closed. The zoo was so sad with is crazy and possibly blind elephants we couldn’t handle it. And the Jade Pagoda wasn’t even a pagoda!!!!! The Banh Xeo dinner was tasty, but overpriced and not as exciting as we were expecting (apparently, Vietnam stops serving dinner at 8pm. Anyone after that just gets the leftovers.) We did however make it to the spa, but only after searching without luck for nearly half an hour for a working ATM. At the spa we submerged our travel weary bodies in the relaxing hot tub swirling in rose petals, relaxed in the eucalyptus-scented steam room, and enjoyed an hour and half full body massage. Ahhhh – now that’s something I could get used to!!
Our last evening was spent trying to find a chill bar or coffee house to hang out in, with hopes of some possible live music and interesting locals, of course, to no avail. We tried three different places that were either closed or empty or playing Hootie and the Blowfish. We finally asked our cab driver to take us to where he would hang out and he dropped us off at what we thought was a karaoke house. Oh no. It was a club. Complete with DJ, strobbing lights, bad cognac, short dancing Canadian-Vietnamese men and gross wood-fish appetizers. Thirty minutes later we made a mad-dash from the dance floor to the exit, throwing ourselves in a cab and decided to call the night a bust and just go home.
As we packed up and left the next morning, I found myself only partially imitating Robin Williams when I said, without a tear, “Goooooodbye Vietnam!!”
Hong Kong has never looked so good!