Talk about incredible, the food in Vietnam was so absolutely mouth-wateringly, mind-glowingly delicious I actually have very few pictures of it. My camera lay forgotten at my elbow as I stuffed my face with it. The great thing about Vietnam is the food available on the streets was quite varied. Not all of it was the typical Asian rice/noodle fare that visitors so often get sick of eating. As well as a delicious variety of noodle soups that changed in each location, there were delicious pork and salad break rolls, fresh rice paper rolls, oddly western styled local desserts. A culinary adventure to be sure.
Vietnam is cheap, that much you probably know already. Well, what I considered to be cheap turned out to be the biggest understatement of my entire time in South East Asia. For almost flashy hotel rooms with hot water and air-conditioning, we rarely spent more than AUD$15. Meals were a dollar or two and a hop-on-hop-off bus (admittedly of dubious quality) which traversed the entire length of Vietnam came in at around AUD$40. Affordable? Tell me about it! But the best thing? Vietnam had the affordability we’d only dreamed of without a single lack in quality. Now that’s good value.
With the exception of the occasional scam (ah, South East Asia your ingenuity continues to amaze me) we found Vietnamese people to be incredibly friendly and helpful in every way. Sure, we look like pretty obvious targets, young travellers often do. And yes we travel with a bit of a cynics eye for possible pitfalls in any ‘new-found friendships’ but I found myself pleasantly surprised when it came to Vietnam. Best illustrated perhaps when in our first days in Ho Chi Minh City the owner of our small home-style guest house gave us a full city rundown, including scams and cons, as she cooked us a breakfast of fried eggs (using nothing but chopsticks no less) in her tiny kitchen.
Vietnam has something for the history buff in us all. For us, it provided for both Dean’s odd fascination for war history and my interest in pre-colonial Asian history. I know, it’s a wide pool to cover but Vietnam managed it easily. From ancient caves to modern military museums Vietnam turned out to be quite the learning experience without the slow bore of school days. In some places both of our interest collided, such as in the Imperial City at Hue. Not only a beautiful (albeit slightly ruined) pre-colonial masterpiece, but also the major fighting during the war. See, now everyone is happy.
Vietnam was a country full of unexpected experiences and discoveries for us. From serene moments floating in the surreal Ha Long Bay, to unintentionally magical discoveries in the Marble Mountains, Vietnam was an amazing adventure. Far from the overdeveloped nightmare that is many other tourist magnets in Asia, Vietnam maintained a kind of small-town magic. Those moments still existed where, amongst the mapped and pre-planned, there was ample opportunity to wander off into the unknown and experience anything there was to be found.
I know, I can’t really complain about the weather because it was our own questionable planning that left us in Vietnam at perhaps the wrong time. We did have some great sunny days, perfect for beaches and exploring the beautiful surrounds of Vietnam. And yes, after our 20 days of rain in Cambodia in a month period it felt like a veritable drought, but there were definitely times I cursed the heavens as the clouds closed in around us and the rain began to fall.
This is another one of those only occasional baddies in Vietnam’s world of travel because we didn’t encounter it that often. With the exception of the incredibly large numbers of people crowding the streets and roads (which we expected, welcome to modern day Vietnam) our biggest issue with the crowds were in the form of overcrowded tourist spots. Yes, Vietnam has become an increasingly popular destination and this is wonderful for Vietnam’s economy, but I hope to see Vietnam making tourism a long-term sustainable industry as numbers continue to increase.
But you know what the funny thing was about Vietnam. Even through the chaos and the craziness of the crowds, and even through the wild winds and thundering typhoons, we loved it. We loved it because all the good things about Vietnam, all the delicious food, the wonderful places and the friendly people, they made up one hundred fold for the bad stuff. Indeed, the crowds encouraged us to seek out those untouched places where we had some of our most amazing experiences. And the weather was a great way to see thing in a new light, or spend the day inside melding languages through an odd English/Vietnamese/Hand Signal blend. All of these things made Vietnam amazing, and all of them would make it amazing again the next time we choose to venture onto their shores.
This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.