28 Jun Glimpse Of Vietnam: A Journey Throughout the Country
“I went to Vietnam a little apprehensive, but came back to Dubai after a year and a half with words like dynamic, beautiful, fascinating, intriguing and mesmerizing swimming around in my head.”
Karen H., shares a unique view of her experience living and working in Vietnam
We’ve all likely seen images like these:
However, only occasionally do we see an image like this one of a young boy (Sang), who is living on the street with his parents and who is the happiest, chirpiest little guy because he’s with his Mum and Dad and nothing else matters. As tourists, we sometimes tend to look at these people with sadness because they don’t have what we have; we must remember if you don’t know what you don’t have; you can’t miss it! That’s not to say that this impoverished nation doesn’t need our help because it does.
Whilst remaining mindful and interested in the history of a country, travelling, for me, is more about the people. So, I will focus on just that.
If visiting for a short time, the Vietnamese can seem a little abrupt and somewhat standoffish towards ‘ intruders in their land’, but just below the tough exterior there is a genuine warmth, caring, generosity and kindness that is unique to the Vietnamese. I was fortunate and honored enough to have been invited and welcomed into the lives of many Vietnamese people, both young and old.
It is a country whose picture is always changing, yet never changing. The Vietnamese do the same thing every day, facial expressions remain the same, actions never change, clothes are the same as the day before but there are a plethora of actions happening within a postage stamp sized area so the senses are constantly being tantalized and tickled. A cab ride is an adventure in and of itself, a walk to the local restaurant is exciting, riding in a taxi is terrorizing and heart-stopping. You find yourself sitting in the taxi pulling your shoulders in, and sucking your tummy in to make yourself as small as possible so as to not collide with the hundreds of scooters that are constantly infringing on your space.
To escape the wonderful pandemonium of the large cities, one can venture out into the countryside or visit nearby villages which must be done on the back of a Vespa motor scooter. You can experience the unbelievable beauty of country life. It is like going back in time hundreds of years. The traditional farmer hats, the Ao Dais, the water buffalo, rice paddies and burial sites all make this adventure one never to be forgotten.
An enormous part of any trip is always the food and the Vietnamese love their food. A ‘restaurant’ is simply a cart on the sidewalk with a vat of stock, noodles, and mountains of fresh greens. The furniture is tiny and plastic, which almost caves under the weight of a Westerner. With knees around our ears and bending in half to eat, it can be quite a ghastly sight compared to the gracefulness of the small, if not tiny, Vietnamese sitting rather elegantly on these plastic ‘toy’ chairs.
The choices of food that await you as you sit precariously at the table are nothing short of outstanding. Your senses will be pushed to places you never knew existed, so, taste the food….. try the dog, mouse, snake, turtle, cobra blood, rat, balut , go for the street food; avoid Burger King, be adventuresome! I guarantee you will live to tell the tale.
I haven’t gone into all the sights to see as you can read this in any of the thousands of travel brochures or on every Vietnam travel website but more important than that is experiencing the people of this amazing land, watching and tasting life. There was never a boring moment. Observing life was just as exciting, if not more, than visiting the many tourist attractions.
If you have a choice of spending an hour at a monument or an hour speaking to a local – choose the hour speaking to the Vietnamese – your life will be better for it as will theirs!!
Top 5 Fact File for Vietnam
Language Spoken: Vietnamese
Currency: Vietnamese dong
Xôi xéo – sticky rice dish served with ground dehulled mung beans and topped with fried onions
Bahn Hoi – Extremely thin noodles that are woven into intricate bundles and often
topped with chopped scallions and a meat dish
Vietnamese Phở – is a famous noodle soup dish in a meat broth
Climate: The climate in Vietnam varies from place to place mainly due to the differences in latitude. The winters generally extend from November till April and the tropical monsoons from May to September
Fun Fact: More than 30 million people in Vietnam which is approximately 40% of all Vietnamese share the same family name, Nguyen