We did it. We made it through India without getting sick. This was a momentous achievement and meant one thing: it was game on in Vietnam. After 9 months on the road our digestive tracks were invincible (or so we thought). Time to throw caution to the wind and fully indulge in a country’s culinary delights – street food and all.
And what a place to indulge. You’re never very far from the sea in this slender country, so fish, squid and prawns are fresh and easy to come by. Farmer’s markets overflow with exotic fruits, aromatic herbs and healthy veggies. Then there’s the vestiges of French colonial rule, exquisite baguettes and an unparalleled obsession with coffee.
Lonely Planet? Trip Advisor? Not here. We ditched the usual recommendations and opted to leave things to chance. We strolled through alleyways and sought out crowded street stalls. We sat in tiny red plastic chairs and ordered by pointing to other people’s food. Did we know what we were eating? Not all the time, but that was probably for best.
Over the course of 25 days we ate our way from Saigon to Hanoi and didn’t have a single bad meal. We also spent far less on food than anywhere else. For example, an aromatic bowl of pho bo with a baguette cost about 50 cents from a street cart. Restaurants weren’t that much more; tasty dishes such as rice noodles with grilled pork or fresh summer rolls with shrimp averaged about $5. But perhaps the biggest steal, at $1 a pop, were Mark’s favorite: bahn mi sandwiches. Every day Mark ate at least one, and on some days up to three.
Vietnam ended up being one of our favorite countries. Needless to say, the food probably had something to do with that.