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Finally I’m back home! Elephants aren’t really found in Vietnam (well, except for the occasional one in the zoo) but I was made here in Ho Chi Minh City, in the Albetta Factory. We visited Ben Thanh Market (the shop owners look like they’ve never seen an elephant at a Pho stand before!) where we managed to buy a Vietnamese traditional hat (very useful to hide from the sun) and then had lunch - Vietnamese food is perfect for elephants, lots of delicious vegetables on offer!
In the evening we went to a Vietnamese nail salon to get pampered and ended the evening with a bit of champagne under the stars (the bubbles always give me hiccups, a somewhat less romantic end to the night).
We then spent a day exploring the small villages along the Mekong river. We first stopped off to taste some fresh honey and longans - picked from the trees just for us! We then were allowed to push our own small rafts down the river towards a village where we stopped for lunch at a crocodile farm (yikes! I’m not sure elephants and crocodiles are the best of friends…).
After a hasty lunch, we took a speedboat back home to get ready for tomorrows adventure.
Alba was surprisingly good at keeping us from capsizing, something the other boats weren't so great at!
I wouldn't mind living on one of these Vietnamese fishing boats.
I really didn't find Alba's joke funny. At all.
Although it got very hot, I didn't want to risk cooling off in the crocodile infested waters!
Cu Chi Tunnels
We spent the day at the Cu Chi tunnels just outside of Ho Chi Minh City. These were dug by the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war and were used to hide from U.S. troops, cook, eat and even sleep in! During the 11 years they were being used, over 155 miles of tunnels were dug entirely by hand (they even had to hide the soil to stop U.S. troops suspecting the tunnel locations!).
While there, we crawled through 200m of tunnels, explored an old U.S. tank and were even given a chance to fire an AK47 gun (the kickback almost knocked Alba’s teeth out - good thing I’m soft and squishy!).
Alba and her friends took a break to relax with some of the Vietnamese Soldiers...
Alba's friend Udani wasn't too big a fan of the tunnels - luckily I was there to reassure her.
Leaving at 4:30am for the airport was made easier by a breakfast (or very very late dinner) of pancakes and lots of delicious tropical fruit. A few hours later and we were in Hoi An (the North of Vietnam)! We rented bikes and visited the beautiful old city, and then ended the evening with a trip down the river (lit by the handmade paper lanterns floating all around us).
The next day we went abseiling down Marble Mountain - elephants aren’t really built for mountain climbing, but luckily for me, I hitched a ride in Alba’s harness. The view from the top was spectacular, as well as the view from inside the cave we climbed down into!
Hoi An is well known for its beautiful lanterns - this shop is just one of many hundreds!
Alba may be slightly scared of heights - something which I think she hides really well...
I found the whole clmibing thing really easy, I don't know why everyone else got so tired...
The view from the top was lovely - the beach was hard to resist!
Mui Ne Beach
I didn’t have to resist it for too long though! Thoroughly exhausted by the walking, climbing, hiking and shopping we’d done over the last week, we decided to relax for a bit at the beach - Mui Ne. Apart from sunbathing (although elephants can’t tan, we can definitely burn. This was a rather unpleasant discovery after a naive nap on the sand…) and eating fresh seafood, we also played mini golf and built several sandcastles (mine was perfect, until the waves decided they liked it too!).
I wish I could stay here forever.
I think Alba does too!
The seaview from our hotel restaurant - why did Alba ever leave Vietnam?!
Back to Ho Chi Minh
To end the holiday off, we went back to Ho Chi Minh to get Alba’s A-level results (not something that was particularly relaxing, especially with the 6 hour time difference!) and visited the factory where I was made. Alba decided to make me a friend (say Hello to Edwina), while I popped upstairs to the manufacturing floor to say Hi to the other toys all being made.
Our last day was spent visiting Cholon Market (Chinatown) where we picked up some beautiful sequins, fabrics as well as a few bits and bobs for the Albetta shop in Ho Chi Minh.
Alba in toy heaven! Can you spot me amoungst all the others??
Mum and me bag shopping.
The only way to travel in style!
Hanging out with the toy team in the factory.
Can you see my elephant friends in the front with the embroidery team?
Try and spot me in the Albetta shop in Ho Chi Minh - though I can't promise you can get me to leave anytime soon...
Going back to Vietnam made me realise how much I had missed it, and I can’t wait until I can go back again - though for now, back to Oxford (and perhaps to university, if I manage to slip into Alba’s suitcase…).
Goodbye from Edwina and I!