My Love/Hate Relationship with Vietnam
December 1, 2015|Posted in: Vietnam
For me, Vietnam was a month full of a whole load of ups and downs. After spending the previous month lazing around in Cambodia, I was really excited to move on – and constantly seeing pictures from people who were already there, I was ready to get stuck in to all the activities the county had to offer. But I knew as soon as I stepped off the bus in Ho Chi Minh City that I was going to be constantly overwhelmed by everything. The horn honking. The traffic. The motorbikes. The people. And I was right. So I thought I’d give you an explantion to why I have a love/hate relationship with Vietnam.
Personally, Vietnamese food was either down right amazing or stomach churningly gross. To be fair to Vietnam, it was the only country in which I didn’t experience stomach related issues, so kudos for that guys! But in all fairness, when you see the state of some of the places I ate, you’d be surprised as to why.
Dishes like Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) which is a noodle soup usually served with beef is delicious and a staple of Vietnamese cuisine. Then there is the ever popular ‘Com Ga’ restaurants or stalls which literally translates to ‘Rice Chicken’ – where, you guessed it, they serve rice and chicken! You also have restaurants dedicated to certain foods, such as the Goat restaurant we were taken to by our Easyrider tour guide. It was delicious and you know its fresh when you can see them butchering the meat right next to the BBQ…
But with all this tasty goodness comes the bad. Of one of the most stomach churning meal times I had was sat with the friend of Peter, my Easyrider guide in a Com Ga restaurant. As we tuck into our rice, the server brings over the stripped carcass of several chickens and several boiled chicken feet. I’m all for difference in tastes, but when the guy looks at me with a disgustingly wide grin on his face and starts snapping off the chickens claws with his teeth and spits them on the floor, even my appetite vanishes.
There was also that time I ordered a ‘stew’ to be given a watery broth with some rather indescribable meat floating in it… To this day I still pray it wasn’t canine.
My love of Vietnamese coffee became pretty intense over the course of that month. Whether it be black or loaded with sweet milk, iced or hot, I was an addict. So much so that I knew how to ask for every type of coffee in Vietnamese with ease. “Ca Fe Su Da?”
My hatred of rice wine, however, parelleled my love of their coffee. It all started the night of the Goat restaurant mentioned above. Peter, my guide, convinced myself and the other English guy I was with to drink the shots with our lovely goat BBQ. Of course, we couldn’t say no, so after uncountable “Thoc Hai Bai Yo!”‘s Peter decided now was the time to tell us the bottle of rice wine we had all consumed was rather special. And what that meant was that it had the balls of a goat soaking in it. Yes, Goat balls. …Thanks, Peter. Thanks. Apparetly boys, its great for male fertility. Anyways, at that point I had already drunk enough to not care about anything any more, so we polished off another bottle (or 2?). Man, did I regret that in the morning when I had to sit on the back of a motorbike for 8 hours. I HATE rice wine.
BUT, if you want 15p beers, then Vietnam is your place. Go sit on tiny stools in crowded streets in Hanoi and you can get wasted on less tha £1. Score.
This is a hard one, as I know most of my problems with the people were more from cultural differences more than anything else. And I’m not saying this is just Vietnamese people, but throughout my month their I was screamed at for no reason, hounded by sellers constantly and generally stared at. I had never felt so uncomfortable as I did whilst I was there.
There are those excempt from this though, and the majority of Vietnamese people I met and grew to know where amazing. Peter, my Easyrider guide, was one of the most hilarious and geniune person I have met in Asia and he shared so much of his life with me. In the 3 days I spent with him I learnt so much about Vietnam, past and present.
Night buses. Night buses galore. To be fair, the buses in Vietnam were definitely an upgrade from the sleeper bus we caught in Laos, but then again I don’t think I ever got to sleep in ANY of the journeys through Vietnam. The constant horn-honking, oddly timed toilet breaks and drivers clearly high on a number of legal (and/or illegal) substances somehow stopped me from relaxing!
Heading in land away from the main tourist route the roads are so much quieter and if you can/want/dare to, riding a motorcycle is definitely the way to travel. Just have to be confident and go for it.
All in all, I enjoyed my time through Vietnam, but personally its my least favourtie of the South East Asian countries I visited, but I know a lot of people thought it was their favourite. It really is a personal choice!
Have you visited Vietnam? What are your thoughts on the country, food and drink? Let me know in the comments below!
Amy is the founder of thewanderlustadventures.com. Currently residing in Reading, UK with a love of adventure travel, writing and photography - she pretty much writes about whatever the hell she wants!