From May 22nd to June 6th, I was in Vietnam. I went with a coworker named Huy who is on my current project. He was born in Vietnam, and came over to the U.S. when he was a kid, some time after the war. He had not been back since, and he asked if I wanted to join him. I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity! He also brought his parents along, and another coworker sent his sister Mina with us. Additionally, we met up with Huy's cousin in Saigon, and also the cousin's daughter.
We spent the first few days in Saigon, and afterword we toured the entire length of the country, all the way up north to Hanoi and Halong Bay. The sights were wonderful, and I always enjoy experiencing new cultures. As this was my first trip to Southeast Asia, it was truly an eye-opening experience. As one of very few caucasians, the locals certainly paid a lot of attention to me. We also met Huy's family in the town of Hue, where his aunt and uncle put us up in their hotel. They pampered us incredibly, and we had a grand time there. The town itself was also quite nice, with plenty to see. It was easily my favorite city that we visited.
All the attention I received, of course, had its up sides and down sides. Everyone there was very friendly to me. I even had one couple ask to take a picture with me. On the other hand, though, it was painfully obvious that the locals were always trying to overcharge me for things. Negotiation is a must, but a white guy in Vietnam can only get the prices down so much. Of course, even with the white guy tax, everything there is still incredibly cheap for someone travelling from the United States, so I didn't mind terribly. Even the government gets in on the action. Most government-owned sights and parks have a "foreigner" rate, which is usually double or triple the normal charge. With Huy's cousin Khan buying most of our tickets for us, we did avoid it some of the time, but sometimes the guards at the gate sent us back to the ticket booth. This annoyed me much more than getting overcharged by some local.
Overall, though, the trip was absolutely fantastic, and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Huy certainly showed me a great time! Also, I of course took many photos. I have them all posted now, along with some from a recent stint in San Diego, and a short excursion to Red Rocks and Mount Elbert.