When I talk to friends who’ve never visited Southeast Asia about my life in Vietnam, they’re often surprised by some of the things I take for granted. Reliable WiFi in every cafe and restaurant, modern shopping centres, cinemas that show English language movies, even an ice rink. But that’s Vietnam for you…full of surprises.
Most people who think of Ho Chi Minh City imagine streets teeming with motorcycles, the clank-clank-clank of new hotels and skyscrapers going up and a never-ending whirl of locals and tourists caught up in the energy and excitement of big city life. And you can certainly find that here. But there’s so much more to Ho Chi Minh City…
“Is this the biggest Jesus in the world?” That’s the question I found myself asking as I marvelled at the imposing statue standing 32 metres tall and spanning 18 metres wide, perched high on a hilltop before me. This impressive Christ the King statue is even larger than Rio de Janeiro’s famed Christ the Redeemer but, as it turns out, it’s not quite the world’s biggest Jesus, it ranks third.
Hoi An is just 30 minutes south of Da Nang. This small city is home to about 300 expats, including many Australians. Hoi An is full of businesses that cater to the large number of international visitors who come to see its historic communal halls, temples and residences—preserved for centuries following the 16th and 17th century settlement of Chinese, Japanese and European traders.
When visiting Hoi An, Vietnam, there are some obvious must sees and do’s. You must visit some of the old cultural sites in the UNESCO World Heritage Ancient Town and you must have couture clothing and shoes made for a fraction of the price it would cost you to buy them back home.
It’s impossible to keep Jo Thomson and her husband Marc Brand, both in their 60s, in one place for long. For them, living the “good life” means bouncing around the globe to hidden corners of the world that some of us only dream of visiting. For many years, they’ve had a particular interest in the delights and mysteries of Southeast Asia, and they’ve found a remarkable home base from which to explore the region: Nha Trang, Vietnam.