Adventures in Asia 2008

my travels through India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Xin Chao from Vietnam!

Posted by maudholma on 3 May 2008

A list of the best and worst of Vietnam so far:

BEST

Friendly people. From the moment we arrived in Ha Tien to the present, we’ve been met by smiles, waves, and hellos from the locals. Undoubtedly, the highlight was the A/C minivan of businessmen who took mercy on 2 sweaty backpackers looking for a place to stay under the midday sun in Mui Ne and made sure we found a hotel. The driver even offered to take us back to Ho Chi Minh City if we were unsuccessful…

Incredible food. We’ve eaten everything from spring rolls to seafood to soup and have yet to be disappointed. Still on our list of things to try are goat, snake, and dog.

Beautiful nature. Even though we’ve only covered about a third of the country, we’ve already experienced beaches, sanddunes, forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers. Although Vietnam suffers from the same littering problem as all the other countries we’ve visited, if you manage to close your eyes to all the garbage, the scenery is picture perfect.

Floating markets. From Can Tho, a town in the Mekong Delta, we took an early morning boat trip to the floating markets which set up every day in the area. People selling mainly fruits and vegetables stuff their boats full of their wares and tie a sample to a bamboo pole in the bow. People buying these things gallantly manouver their boats around the market, picking up things as they go along and sometimes enjoying a coffee or tea from the “refreshment boat” which zigzags around.

Da Lat. A town in the mountains which, despite being made mainly of concrete and not being quite as quaint as I had thought, still possesses a certain charm. This is no doubt partly due to the fact that we have a satellite TV in our room (don’t judge – we haven’t watched TV in over 4 months!) and the lack of sweating due to the cooler temperatures at this altitude. It also checks the boxes for the first three items on this list.

WORST

Motorbikes. I thought that riding one was dangerous at first, but have now realized that the person sitting on the motorbike is much safer than the pedestrian. In HCMC, motorbikes drove in the wrong direction, across lanes, and even on the sidewalk from time to time. Even in Da Lat, I feel as if I’m watching a tennis match whenever I cross the road because I’m constantly looking in both directions and trying to stay alive.

Mosquitoes. Actually more like tiny little flies, Mui Ne seemed to be infested with insects that devoured our feet. I currently have 13 bites on one leg and 15 on the other and they all itch like hell, all the time.

Power cuts. It was around 40 degrees on the beach in Mui Ne and only marginally colder at night. After the third shower of the day and the cool breeze of a mediocre fan, it was usually possible to fall asleep without any major problems. On the evening of Liberation Day, with a group of drunken Vietnamese men sitting on the lawn outside our room, making what they probably thought was sweet music with only their voices and plastic buckets to bang on, the power went out and our fan stopped working. Add to the mix the mosquito bites, and voilĂ , you have one long and sleepless night.

Tourism and all that it entails. High prices, ugly concrete buildings, pushy salespeople, ignorant/rude foreigners. I hate it all, but as a foreginer myself, I suppose I’m to some extent adding to the problem. As much as I’d like to think, smiling a lot and knowing how to say a few words in Vietnamese doesn’t make me blend in. And that’s not only because I’m blonde.

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