In 2014 we set off on a Year of Nomadic Family Travel and it has been one of the best experiences in our lives. It was all about change, risk, adventure, and discovery. We took, what some would consider, a crazy leap of faith, and although we can’t say what the future holds, we wouldn’t change a thing. The experiences that we’ve had in the last year are more than most could hope for in a lifetime. We are amazed and so grateful when we look back on it all.
When you decide to travel long-term, many wonderful experiences lay before you, but you must also be willing to leave behind the comforts of home and loved ones. We enjoy seeing what everyone is up to on Facebook and scheduling calls with friends and family, but the absolute best treat is hosting friends while traveling abroad. We love it when people come to visit.
When you’re in Saigon with kids and they are hot and tired after a long day of sightseeing, it is a nice treat to take a cool swim. But what if you don’t have a swimming pool? Well, there are plenty of hotels with pools in town that allow day passes to visitors. We chose the May Hotel because of the location and the reasonable price.
When we were visiting friends in Ho Chi Minh City, we asked them to take us somewhere that our 8-year-old could run around and play outside. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we figured that we’d be happy with any open greenspace that had shade. We were very pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Van Thanh Park. It was huge, with over 13 acres of land and 6 acres of water. It’s a wonderfully green, tranquil, and well-designed space with plenty to keep both kids and adults entertained.
When we travel, we prefer to stay in vacation rentals whenever possible. It’s just more comfortable, it’s a better deal than a hotel, and it makes you feel like a “temporary local”. So, not surprisingly, we ended up renting an apartment in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).
We found an apartment on Airbnb and rented from a great guy named Tram for our 6 night stay.
Some of our friends in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) took us to 5KU Station for Vietnamese BBQ. It’s a popular open-air restaurant filled mostly with locals, but there were a few tourists and expatriates there as well. Our table included all of the above.
The menu included both BBQ and hotpots. It was reasonably priced and varied. Tons of options from safe to adventurous. Diners have the option to cook their own or let the kitchen do it for them. I thought it would be fun to do it ourselves, so we opted to have the small clay pot grill brought to our table. This small table-top grill was filled with very hot coals, the real thing not charcoal, and then topped with a removable metal rack.
When we were visiting Ho Chi Minh City, some of our local friends took us to visit the Thien Hau Pagoda in Chinatown.
Also known as Chua Ba, this beautiful and popular Saigon pagoda was built by the Chinese in the early 19th century and dedicated to Thien Hau, goddess of the sea and protector of sailors. It is believed that Thien Hau can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to save people in trouble on the high seas.
We have some friends from Portland that had plans to visit relatives in Saigon (the center of Ho Chi Minh City) at the end of June. Since we’d been hoping to visit Vietnam and we were already in Southeast Asia, we decided to meet them there. Our son went to school with their son. At the tender age of 8-years-old, Ethan is an intrepid traveler, but he does miss his friends. There was only one thing to do… Video Games in Saigon!
There is something about sharing a meal that is universal. In every culture and throughout history this simple activity has represented friendship, peace, and hospitality. There’s a beautiful reciprocal nature to it – giving and receiving, generosity and thankfulness, and sometimes, even teaching and learning.