Photo of the day: Pho with Saigon beer @ Pho Quynh
I decided to do a reflection post for each country instead of waiting for the end of the trip due to the length of this trip. So here is my reflection on my adventures in Vietnam!
I really love the culture of Vietnam. The people are very hardworking, waking up early and then working late into the evening. I did not see one panhandler on the street. Everyone tried their best to make a living, whether it’s selling little donuts, giving rides in cyclos or selling animal helium balloons.
It is also in Vietnam, where you have to walk into oncoming traffic like you just don’t care. No one will stop for you, only weave around you, so stop waiting and just walk, slowly and carefully.
Their food times are interesting. Early mornings are very busy then at night. Lunch time is always the most difficult time for us to find good food as a lot of places close early. It’s as if lunch isn’t a thing. People just have big breakfasts.
Another thing I love is their service. At the street stalls, there was never a line-up. You want to eat, you get a seat. Then you are presented with some piping hot noodles or rice after a few seconds of ordering it. The hotels here are also worth mentioning. They provide such superb service. I am not sure if it was because we stayed at more boutique hotels but they were super considerate and attentive to our needs. It’s definitely the best service I’ve received from the hospitality industry to date.
This was the perfect time to come to Vietnam. The southern parts were warm but not suffocatingly hot. At night, I felt the need for a light long sleeve and long pants at times. In the central/northern parts of the country, it was very pleasant during the day in the 20’s and chilly at night requiring a light cardigan and jeans. We only had a couple days if light rain lasting 30 minutes maximum each time. This is compared to the huge flood in Hoi An, which occurred just one month prior.
Because this is a tonal language it is not very easy to learn. The good thing is once you grasp the basic pronunciation of the words, you can still try to sound out the words, perhaps with the wrong tone. Ordering food wasn’t a problem but when it came to asking for other things (a drink, extra condiments, the price on things) it wasn’t always straightforward. The areas we were in were touristy enough, though, that most people spoke some English.
Top food picks
- Banh Xeo @ Banh Xeo 46A, HCMC
- “Roasted chicken fried rice” @ Quan Pho Ngon – Com Rang Ga, Hanoi
- Bun Bo Nam Bo @ 67 Hang Dieu, Hanoi
- Avocado coconut smoothie @ Five Boy Number One, HCMC
- Dinner at Morning Glory, Hoi An
- Pho Tai Bo Vien @ Pho Quynh, HCMC – first meal in Vietnam
- Hoan Kiem Lake at night, Hanoi
- Lantern-filled streets of Hoi An at night
- Nguyen Hue walkway, HCMC
- View from Bitexco Tower, HCMC
- Imperial City, Hue
- First time speaking Vietnamese (minimally)
- First time eating so much street food on one trip
- First time taking a cooking class while travelling
- First time sitting on little colourful stools on the side of the street while enjoy a great meal
- First to eating Vietnamese food so many days in a row
- First time taking a train in Asia
- First time getting a Traditional Vietnamese massage
- First time breaking my suitcase and needing to buy one in the middle of a trip
- First time meeting my relatives in Vietnam!
To be honest, I did not think I will love Vietnam so much. It is not the most popular tourist destination compared to other Southeast Asia countries and my family kept telling me it is very underdeveloped, unsafe and there was nothing to see. Of course their opinion is based on what they experienced 30+ years ago because they haven’t been back since. Definitely, I’ve been warned by multiple locals about being cautious of my belongings and I did have some fears about the safety of crossing the street but the amazing food and culture is not something to be missed! If I were to come again I would love to spend more time in HCMC (I heard that’s where the best Bun Bo Hue actually is!) and Hanoi (perhaps not around Tet season so I can try all those places that were closed this time). Goodbye Vietnam! Till next time!