Vietnam is breathtaking, in more ways than one.

Boy, have I been neglecting this blog lately. I’ve been wicked busy what with flying to Australia, moving in, and registering for classes! Sorry about that!

Vietnam is a country of both incredible scenery and unbelievable pollution. As I mentioned previously, the roads are so smoggy that it’s common to wear masks while driving around. Tap water is not safe to drink. I was shocked by some roadkill I saw on the street:

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But Vietnam, for all its problems, is an amazingly beautiful place. My family here was kind enough to take me to a beach resort in Bình Thuận, a province north of Ho Chi Minh City. We rented a bus with another family and enjoyed the 4-hour drive through the countryside.

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A dragonfruit farm.

A dragonfruit farm.

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The word “resort,” for me, at least, implies a sort of luxurious hotel where all entertainment is provided. Our resort was more of a hotel, though it did have some fun features that we certainly enjoyed.

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The area is famous for its beaches, so I was very excited. I was a bit surprised by the amount of litter on the beach, though.

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And the ocean was completely filled with odd red bits. I’m not sure if this was from human or natural causes, but either way, the murky water left your body unnaturally sticky.

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My family quickly tired out the pool and karaoke, so we decided to sight-see elsewhere.

Luckily, nearby was Núi Tà Cú, or Tà Cú Mountain. The mountain is about 2,129 feet tall and is a popular tourist attraction. And I was about to find out why.

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Tà Cú Mountain is home to a Buddhist temple, though it used to house a previous queen. If you can get up the stairs…

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…you’ll be welcomed by three large statues…

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…and this incredible temple.

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What amazed me the most, though, was this 45-meter long statue of a reclining Buddha. I honestly thought it was a building at first.

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Afterwards, we paid a visit to the Ke Ga lighthouse. Since the lighthouse is on an island…

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…we stuffed what was probably too many people into one of these traditional fishing boats.

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In order to get to the top, we had to climb up a rather intense set of stairs.

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But the end definitely paid off.

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How can such unbelievable natural beauty exist in the same place where we found dead cockroaches under the bed…

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…or pay for a hot spring where, upon entry, we found most of the pools totally empty?

A hot spring for feet-- completely empty.

A hot spring for feet– completely empty.

I was only there for a week, but I already sensed it: Vietnam is a country of contrasts. There’s abject poverty and extreme wealth. I saw equally shocking beauty and squalor. It’s a country struggling with its chaotic history and difficult government. It’s a country still growing into its own.

And when I was there, I also sensed without a doubt: Vietnam was my country. For all its problems, Vietnam is an incredible place– and I admit, I’m proud to be of Vietnamese descent. I already can’t wait to return in December!

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Though I can stand a few more months of listening to people with Australian accents.

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(Australia’s pretty cool, too.)