Two weeks in Vietnam with Bron went too quickly. It was such a great holiday. My only connection with work was deleting e-mail to reduce the burden on my return and sending work mates images of interesting food like locusts, frog legs, pig trotters and cakes 🙂
This is the final post in the holiday series. Previous posts include:
Taking a break for a couple of weeks
Our holiday adventure to Vietnam | Happy #Birthday Bron 🙂
Our stay in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay
Happy Hue 🙂 #Vietnam #Holiday
Healthy Hoi An #Vietnam #Holiday Cooking class | Snorkelling | Clothes
Hustling hot humid hectic Ho Chi Minh City
In the last post I mentioned I’d comment on things like driving in Vietnam, 3G access, traveller’s diarrhoea, toilets, my food thoughts and the weather, seat booking and clothes.
Crossing roads, traffic, scooters, cars and the people
In “preparation” for our trip we’d seen some “documentaries”, viz., the Top Gear Vietnam special and Anh Do’s “Anh does Vietnam”. Both demonstrated the “fun” you could have on the roads in Vietnam. Our first experience was in the Old Quarter in Ha Noi. The roads are narrow and the footpaths occupied with street stalls, vendors and scooters. Oh there were so many scooters. Not only on the road but parked on the footpaths all over the place. Crossing the road is something you just have to do. If you’re a nervous type or hesitant either get over it or don’t go. The basic rules are keep moving forward, don’t stop, don’t hesitate and don’t go backwards. Know that scooter riders will do their best to avoid you. They’ll slow down, they’ll swerve and they’ll avoid you. Car drivers though are different. They’ll just keep going, it’s your job not to step in front of a car. Trucks are to be avoided.
You can watch the Top Gear Vietnam Special on BLIP Unfortunately the embed function doesn’t work in WordPress.
No one drives at or above the speed limit. The traffic police are very good at keeping order. Even between cities on the open road where the speed limit is eighty kilometres per hour, most of the time we moved between forty and sixty kilometres per hour. In Vietnam, cars and scooters drive on the right side of the road. That said, we often found ourselves on the left side when overtaking. Overtaking is easy. You just move to your left and go a little faster. On coming cars and scooters will move to their right and the car/scooter your passing may or may not veer right. There were some really close calls, especially on the road to and from Ha Long Bay with Mr Loi. The remarkable thing is the Vietnamese are just so friendly and accommodating, the traffic merges. Everyone gets along. The horns are blowing all the time, but it’s drivers and riders letting everyone know they’re there and to be aware of their presence. Sometimes they’ll blow their horn to get someone to move faster or move aside but it’s not done in an aggressive or mean manner. Everyone seems to just get along. In the two weeks we were there we only witnessed contact between any vehicles once. We were in a taxi in Hoi An crossing a narrow bridge and an oncoming scooter made contact with the driver’s side wing mirror. The taxi driver undertook an immediate seven point turn which nearly saw us take out scooters and bicycles in front and behind us. He went in search of the scooter rider. To this day we’re not sure if the chase was in order to have a go or to find out if the scooter rider was okay.
My Ha Long Bay TripAdvisor review http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293923-d1968469-Reviews-Halong_Bay-Halong_Bay_Quang_Ninh_Province.html
I wrote a few reviews and they can be found here http://www.tripadvisor.com/members-reviews/garydlum
Check out a little scooter traffic in Hue
A very short video from Ho Chi Minh City. We saw a lot worse than this
This is the only time when the streets were quiet and the footpaths weren’t covered in scooters.
6 am in the Old Quarter of Ha Noi.
There were times when I just longed to buy a scooter and a helmet. It just seemed like the thing to do and in Canberra in theory it should make sense. The reality is that Australian drivers are too aggressive and Canberra drivers are the worst in Australia. No one seems to know how to merge. Everyone wants to get ahead of the other person and the speed limit seems to be a guide only. I felt safer driving in Darwin and the smaller towns of the Northern Territory of Australia. I feel like I should warn Vietnamese people who come to Australia and who want to drive. Don’t. You’ll be killed.
3G access and wi-fi in Vietnam
Those who know me know that I don’t like being without my iPhone and I don’t like not having access to the internet. A few months prior to beginning our journey I did a quick internet search for pre-paid sim cards and didn’t come up with anything obvious. To be honest it wasn’t a fully committed search and I just forgot about it. A week out from our departure I looked again. This time I came across HolidayPhone. I ended up with a vinaphone sim card which would fit into my iPhone 5. The instructions and support (by e-mail) were all good. Questions were answered promptly. On arrival in Ha Noi it worked well and it also had the added feature that if you called my iPhone it would call forward to my Vietnamese number. The data costs were very reasonable. If you’re going to Vietnam from Australia and want a good pre-paid sim card I’d happily recommend using the HolidayPhone service.
Vietnam is replete with wi-fi. Every hotel we stayed in had high speed wi-fi. All the coffee shops and cafes were went into had free wi-fi. All the airports had free wi-fi. It wasn’t like free wi-fi in Australia that can become easily congested or is just low speed rather than high speed broadband. Every where we went the wi-fi was high speed and broad band. The Vietnamese really cater for those of us who want to stay connected, especially by social media.
On the subject of social media, we’d read in the Lonely Planet guide that the Vietnamese Government regularly blocks Facebook. We only had one experience of this. It was in Ha Noi airport (HAN) and using their wi-fi meant we couldn’t access Facebook. When I turned the wi-fi off and relied on 3G Facebook access was fine. Twitter, Instagram and WordPress all worked fine. Best of all, capturing data rich images (that is including GPS coordinates) was easy with my iPhone 5 and Panasonic DMC-Tz10. I also had a Nikon GP-1 for my Nikon D90. This really only worked in Ha Long Bay. Everywhere else the Nikon GP-1 didn’t seem to work. I’m not sure why. I captured nearly 400 images. A lot aren’t very good on analysis, some are okay. Most are food images. It’s a pity the lighting isn’t better for food bloggers and IGers in restaurants.
Travellers’ diarrhoea and toilets
Regular readers know I have IBS and being caught short when the urge to purge hits is a constant concern. I travel with Metamucil and make sure I allow myself time each morning to ensure my bowels are happy. There were a couple of days when I felt not just a little delicate but outright unwell. I think the change in diet rather than anything toxic was the cause. I’m glad I brought with me some loperamide. In 1995 as part of my specialist training I did a travel medicine clinic one afternoon every week. Out of interest, that year I also did a sexual health clinic one afternoon every week. I recall when I was seeing patients in the clinic that I’d always warn about using agents like loperamide. They basically inhibit peristalsis and for an infection could potentially make the problem worse. Importantly, so long as I was hydrated and wasn’t passing blood or having a fever, loperamide was going to be okay. We certainly had no problem with water. Bottled water is readily available. I didn’t have blood in my stools and while we were warm I wasn’t febrile. I’d also taken the precaution of packing some oral rehydration sachets just in case. My strong recommendation to any traveller is to always consult your doctor before a trip to discuss the precautions you may need to take including immunisations, anti-malarials, a travellers’ diarrhoea pack and a travel first aid kit. If your local GP isn’t confident with travel medicine there are many travel medicine clinics in Australia who will help you.
Australia has a great network of public toilets. The department I work for even has a map available of public toilets. I once worked with the bloke who was largely responsible for that map. Check out http://www.toiletmap.gov.au/ In Vietnam the toilets are a little different. They’re labelled WC and some are pedestal while others are drop toilets.
Many of the public toilets in Vietnam are like this. You have to pay to use them and pay for paper.
Given my imperfect bowel health a roll of dunny fax paper was my constant companion
As a devotee of Star Trek it’s always important to remove the Klingons from around Uranus.
In terms of pedestals there were a combination of toilets. Mostly the rapid flushers like we have in Australia and the floaters like they have in North America.
My thoughts on the food
I was so impressed with the food. Not only was there the exotic like the locusts, frog legs and snails but there was the sophisticated splendour of regional cuisine. I had some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Vietnam. The best fresh spring rolls I’ve ever eaten. The crispy savoury pancakes were an eye opener. I fell in love with Bánh mì and Pho. I’m not going to post all the images again in this post, I invite you to look over my travel posts from the time. You’ll get a good idea of what I mean about the food.
Bron and I are so impressed with our new knowledge we want to eat at more Vietnamese restaurants now that we understand better the cuisine. Bron is now cooking Vietnamese food.
I will just post a few images of the exotics meals I really enjoyed
Steamed pig trotters
Steamed sea snails
Butter fried frogs’ legs
Locusts roasted in pig fat with lemon leaves
We travelled to Vietnam in the cold dead lifelessness that is Canberra’s winter. We arrived in Vietnam’s gloriously warm and moist summer. On arriving in Vietnam I felt alive. I felt good. I was happy. My skin (Ichthyosis vulgaris sufferer speaking) drank in the humidity. My skin lesions healed. A skin tag around my eye fell off. The cracks on my fingers, toes and heels went away. What can I say, the weather was glorious. I readily acknowledge that for some people, such weather can be uncomfortable but that’s why air conditioning was invented. When it’s too hot you can enter a building that is cool. Some days the humidity was basically draining especially after walking in excess of twelve kilometres in a stretch. The answer…rest, drink water and find some air conditioning.
I could live in Vietnam. The weather is so good.
Bron mentioned this one for me to write about. For some reason on the flight from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Sydney (SYD) Bron and I didn’t sit together. We don’t understand why. We sat next to each other on the way over and on all our other flights we were together. The flight from KUL to SYD was full and despite asking a couple of times, we couldn’t get seats together. It’s important when booking tickets to also ensure you choose your seats and link your flights.
We had some clothes made in Hoi An. If you watch television shows like Top Gear or if you read some reviews on-line there is a sense you can have everything made in twenty-four hours. I’d give yourselves about seventy-two hours. You need to be measured, you need to have a fitting and then you need a final fitting before payment. If you’re having a lot of shirts and trousers made, it pays to take your time.
Would I do it again?
Yes, I really enjoyed Vietnam. The holiday with Bron worked really well. I have an inability to read a map and I have no sense of direction. It helps to travel with someone who does. Some take home messages include, where it’s feasible and affordable get a car and driver rather than a bus. The trains aren’t that good. Cars are better. If you get anxious about traffic, close your eyes. If you have trouble with crossing roads holiday elsewhere.
It was a great two weeks. Thanks Bron for a great holiday.
My final word of warning. If you see this sign just know you’re going to be served dog and/or cat.
Unless of course that’s what you really want…
- Back to work routine | State of #Origin 3 | #QUEENSLANDER (yummylummy.com)
- Hustling hot humid hectic Ho Chi Minh City (yummylummy.com)
- Hello Vietnam… (windflowermuine.com)
- Vietnam: Mind that Scooter! (mycurioustoe.wordpress.com)
- Vietnam…our first stop (patrecia1939.wordpress.com)
- Ha Long Bay? No Ninh Binh – Ninh Binh, Vietnam (travelpod.com)
- Ha Long Bay Vietnam (travelpopjunk.wordpress.com)
- In The Taratory in South East Asia (inthetaratory.wordpress.com)
- Ha Long Bay – (globehugblog.wordpress.com)
- July 12 – Sean Young – On The Way to Ha Long Bay (deanzavietnam2013.wordpress.com)