If you read my last post, you know that Vietnam was the most awesome place I have ever been. That post provides an overview of my trip, and lists the top 10 experiences I had on my tour. In this post, I continue to tout the virtues of Vietnam by recapping 10 more amazing things about the country.
1. It seemed like everywhere we went – hotels, tourist attractions, people’s homes – we were given free tea. Sweet tea, earthy tea, hot tea, cold tea, caffeinated tea, herbal tea – the variety was endless, and they were all delicious!
2. Speaking of the hotels, they were all amazing. The level of service reminded me of the U.S. hotels of old. First off, instead of just randomly giving us shampoo and lotion in the room, they provided all of the necessary amenities – toothpaste, body wash, combs, slippers, robes, Q-tips – you name it. They also supplied more free bottled water than I could even drink, as well as little candies in the evening. On top of those little touches, they would practically do anything we needed without hesitation – make a restaurant reservation, call a cab, install a SIM card in my phone, come to my room to show me how to use the air conditioner, come to the business office to show me how to use the computers, restore electricity in my room when I blew a fuse at 3:30 a.m. – you know, the usual. All of the hotels also offered extensive breakfast buffets included with the room charge, and many also had pools as well as spas with very affordable services. One also had a free shuttle into town since it was a little ways out. We are really lacking that value and service here in the States these days – our hotels in Vietnam were so nice I felt like a pampered princess!
3. Vietnam is a photographer’s dream. Most people have seen photos of picturesque Halong Bay, but literally at every corner you turn in Vietnam, there is a mountain, beach, river, pagoda or authentic scene of everyday life just begging to be captured. I have never taken so many pictures in my life!
4. From accommodations to food, clothing and souvenirs, most things in Vietnam are extremely cheap. The average hour-long massage was around $15. I got a fall jacket custom made for $40. Local cab rides are less than $3. And delicious street eats could be had for a dollar or two. I also had a one-hour cyclo (rickshaw) tour for $5. At one of the hotel happy hours, I scored two decent pina coladas for $4 total. When you consider that bargaining is also welcome for most things, these prices are truly amazing.
5. Compared to other places I have visited, I found the people of Vietnam to be very warm, friendly and accommodating. I pretty much always felt like the locals had my best interests at heart, which is not the case everywhere in the world. And I loved being called “madame” by everyone due to the lingering French influence there.
6. Another thing that’s warm in Vietnam is the weather. And by warm I mean sweltering hot. For me that’s paradise because I love warm weather. It was supposed to be the rainy season in central Vietnam when we were there in early November, but we totally lucked out. During the entire 9 days in the country, I experienced maybe 30 minutes of rain total. The weather was sunny and blissful the rest of the time. In fact, I needed two outfits most days because the first one would be drenched with sweat. When we ended our trip in Hanoi in northern Vietnam, the weather was only in the 70s or so, and the residents were calling it winter. On our street food tour, the guide was encouraging us to order soups and other comforting dishes to warm up – LOL I was still sweating from the humidity! I certainly didn’t get any of my usual fall/winter sinus headaches when I was there with all the moisture in the air, and I loved it!!!
7. If variety is the spice of life, then Vietnam is on fire. There’s truly something for everyone there – deep-rooted Asian culture and artistry, unique history, war museums and memorabilia, breathtaking landscapes and architecture, mind-blowing food, cooking classes, outdoor activities, shopping meccas, beaches, boat rides, plenty of opportunities for relaxation – I’m not sure who would not like this place. Many of the people on my trip had traveled extensively, and a lot of them said that Vietnam was one of the best – if not the best – places they have been.
8. Safety. Since I went to Vietnam alone (well, on a guided tour but without anyone I actually knew), this was an important one for me. Besides petty theft and the typical tourist scams, Vietnam is an extremely safe place to travel. Violent crimes are very rare, and unlike some other areas in Asia, terrorism is not a factor. Even when I went out alone at night, I never felt like my personal safety was in jeopardy – EXCEPT when trying to cross the street. Traffic is crazy there – you really need to watch your ass at all times while walking around – even on the sidewalk! I will blog more about this and some other warnings later, because it’s important stuff to be aware of, but for the most part, tourists are very safe in Vietnam.
9. Vietnam is a highly spiritual place. Pagodas, temples and burning incense are ubiquitous. Prayer shrines can be found in hotels and homes alike. There are opportunities to get in touch with your spiritual side nearly everywhere. Float this candle down the river and make a wish for $1! Leave some money in this cave and all your dreams will come true! Rub this protruding part of the cave and you will be very fertile! (Believe me I certainly tried this one.) Pray to this statue and you will be prosperous! You get the idea. As a “busy” American who is constantly pre-occupied with some new project, I always wish I was more spiritual. I really dug how being spiritual was just another part of everyday life in Vietnam, and not something you necessarily had to work hard to seek out and achieve.
10. FOOOOOOD. Most foodies know that Vietnam = banh mi and pho. Of course I had both while I was there, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Vietnamese food is so much more! Where do I even start? The best thing I tried there was the bun cha during my street food tour – grilled pork, rich, flavorful broth, noodles, fresh herbs – it is perfection. Other highlights include some uber satisfying salads – one made from banana blossoms and grapefruit and the other with green papaya and dried beef – super tangy and salty at the same time – just brilliant! And don’t forget about the crazy strong and sweet Vietnamese iced coffee – it will blow your mind every time! I plan to do an entire post on the food of Vietnam alone, so stay tuned for more, but just know that it’s good…real good.
Check back for future posts on what to eat in Vietnam, how to prepare for your trip and a few scams to look out for… In the meantime, peep my Fresh ATL page on Facebook to see all my photos of this magical paradise!Tags: Asia, Travel, Vietnam, Vietnamese food