All in all, we spent about three weeks in Vietnam, which I thought was perfect. Of course, as with any trip, there are places that I’d still like to visit, but I think that we had a memorable overview of the country. My favorite part, of course, was the people that we met: the little girl on the train, Mr. Kim at Cafe Des Amies, Vivi in Sa Pa…I feel like the real key to a country is the people and that’s how you truly get a feel for the place.
Like Cambodia, Vietnam has a history riddled with war and strife, a history that tends to be told in photographs, terrible photographs like the ones we saw in Saigon. I don’t think that this history should be forgotten–I think that it should be remembered, loudly, as one that we don’t want to repeat. However, now when I think about Vietnam, I have other pictures and impressions that spring to mind: the exhilarating chaos of traffic in Hanoi; the jewel-like silk lanterns glowing in Hoi An; the taste of the air in Sa Pa as we climbed up cow paths. And, of course, the delight in seeing the iconic triangle hats shading faces in the fields as I’ve always imagined.
What to eat/drink:
- Vietnamese coffee: it’s jet fuel, no doubt, and wonderful. If nothing else, the individual french press cup/saucer is worth checking out.
- Spring rolls: this sounds like a no brainer, but spring rolls in Vietnam vary by city and area of the country, so it’s definitely worth ordering them often.
- “Banh cuon” from Hanoi: it’s a pancake…for dinner. Stuffed with goodness and then rolled into ricepaper with fresh herbs, noodles and veggies, this pancake surpasses all others.
- Baguettes: Yes, I know baguettes are French, but thankfully they left their baguettes and pain au chocolate with the Vietnamese when they were kicked out.
- Pho: I couldn’t leave this off–again, every region creates its pho a bit differently, but this noodle dish is a referenced on millions of souvenir t-shirts for a reason.
Modes of transportation (how we traveled):
- Junk Boat