Posted by: kim | July 19, 2007

Good morning Vietnam

We’ve been in Vietnam about ten days now. I’m really enjoying it! We’re currently in the pleasant, colourful and compact city of Hoi An, where coloured walls contrasting with rich blue skies resemble the island residences in Santorini, Greece or Burano, Italy — I’ll post some pics later. Here are some observations about Vietnam so far.

1. VALUE. It’s amazing that you can spend just eight pounds on a hotel room (US$16) or even less and have all the mod cons you could ask for (including breakfast, cable tv, bath, air conditioning, fresh linen, direct dial phone, swimming pool, free internet downstairs). Service has been excellent at the places we’ve stayed at, too. A 12 hour tour yesterday to the DMZ cost us US$12 including entrance fees (more about that later). All this value is possible in Vietnam so there’s often barely any incentive to bargain hard at hotels, but I understand there are some grubby places, too, so check Tripadvisor carefully.

2. SKINNY PEOPLE. Pretty much all Vietnamese people have a slim frame (40kg?). After weeks on the road both trousers I’d brought had served their purpose so I needed new ones (you don’t want to wear a skirt in this 40C heat if your legs aren’t skinny!). In Hanoi, I traipsed around the Old Quarter for hours looking for trousers or shorts. I didn’t have time to go to a tailor, and besides, they all specialised in silk. The shop in the guidebook that ‘designs for Western sizes’ was no longer there. I tried some on in a shop where the lady had to give me the XL sizes, which were a bit too big (the L was too small!) and didn’t suit me. I ended up having to buy some wraparound trousers that had slits down the side and were liable to fall down or be blown by the wind at any moment. Luckily, I was saved the next day when our tour bus stopped at one of those commission-based outlet stores which I normally avoid, but happened to have trousers in (ahem) what they considered XL sizes.

3. HEAT. We really need to get up earlier and have a siesta in the middle of the day because in the middle of the day it reaches about 38C (today it reached 43C according to our thermometer). Luckily there are plenty of cafes you can sit in for a cool drink. It’s very humid in Hanoi particularly, but seems less so here in Hoi An.

4. BREAKFAST. Most people in Vietnam have pho for breakfast (pronounced ‘fur’), the beef noodle soup. The French influence also means they eat a lot of baguettes, so you’ll often see these on your plate instead of toast. They also have their coffee with condensed milk, so it’s very, very sweet. Most hotels give you breakfast in the price but this will just be a baguette and toast or pho with instant noodles (as we’re veggie we just go for the bread). But as I said, if you’re only paying spare change for a great room, breakfast is just icing on the cake!



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