I’ve already written about the food in Vietnam. I can’t stop there though because the people and variety of attractions deserve a post of their own.
As Americans, we weren’t sure what type of welcome we’d receive. The wounds of war run deep and I guess we assumed there would still be open hostility. Surely, that would be the case if our countries’ roles were reversed. But to our surprise most people we met seemed to like the fact that we were American. Some people wanted to hear about New York City. An older man told us he liked our accent, which was easy for him to understand, because he learned English from American soldiers. And it seemed as though everyone we met had a relative in the US.
In general, the people struck us as honest and friendly. Two situations stick out in my mind when I think of the Vietnamese. The first, was having a waiter sprint two blocks after us to return a miniature flashlight that we had accidentally left on our dinner table. He wasn’t looking for a tip (people don’t tip at all in Vietnam), he just wanted to do a good deed.
The second good samaritan was a lifesaver. We were stuck on the side of a road, in the pouring rain, in a city that we never intended to visit. Why? We needed to get back to Saigon after visiting the Mekong Delta and all the buses were sold out because of a holiday. We decided that our best strategy would be to take buses that brought us incrementally closer to our destination, potentially opening up more options. We incorrectly assumed that these buses would drop us off at bus stations. In comes a teenage girl who pulls up google translate on her phone to start communicating with us. She stayed by our side in the rain for 45 minutes and arranged for a Saigon destined minivan to pick us up. I offered this girl money before climbing into the packed minivan but she wouldn’t take it.
Besides the people, variety is Vietnam’s other big standout. At this point we traveled to a lot of places that are known for one thing — maybe a beach destination or a hiking mecca – rarely do we find someplace that we can stay for a month that seems to have it all. Outdoor activities: check. A unique and interesting history: check. Beaches: check. Ancient ruins: check.
Here are some of our favorite activities from Vietnam
- Touring the Chu Chi Tunnels and history museums
- Canyoneering in Dalat
- Biking everywhere, but especially to Hoi An’s beach
- Getting custom made clothes in Hoi An (we are tired of the clothes we’ve been wearing for the last year. Most are too big now too!)
- Exploring Hue’s Forbidden Palace and tombs
- Hitting the countryside by motorbike
- Visiting the Phong Nha caves
- Sailing through the limestone karsts around Cat Ba Island