Vietnam First Impressions – South East Asia Style

Posted By Jeremy in Asia

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Statue in Hanoi, VietnamI knew that arriving in South East Asia would be a new world onto its own, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so drastic.  From the moment of crossing the border into Vietnam, everything seemed to change.  Landscape, driving style, building appearances, all the way to the off and on rain that is highly prevalent in the tropics.  Time, for what its worth, also appeared to slow down with the time change, and makes me eagerly looking forward to the laid back South East Asian lifestyle for the next few months.

Coming off of China, it is a bit difficult for me to perceive the concept of cheaper travel, but from what I’ve seen, Vietnam will not disappoint.  It could be that my first dorm room was more resort quality for a mere $8 per night, or that a quasi-street food/sit down restaurant meal cost a grand total of $2.50 US including beverage and a one hour marionette show famous to the city of Hanoi was a whopping $2.  Aside from cost, something is just a bit different.

So far in Vietnam I feel like less of a target and more of a guest.  Even just the simple task of navigating a busy intersection takes on a whole new meaning.  In China, pedestrians either get out of the way or get run over, and are the lowest on the totem poll.  So far in Hanoi, cars and motorbikes (but not buses) appear to move out the way as long as you give ample indication of a slow crossing.  The streets are like a life sized game of frogger, but set on super easy mode.  Motorbike touts will ask if you want a ride, but leave you alone when you say no and I don’t feel like being rude in response anymore.  Is this paradise? Not quite yet, but I think I’m heading in the right direction.

If only one other first impression has jumped out at me from Vietnam yet, it would be this: the food.  Vietnamese food has so far been beyond incredible with great flavor combination that are more refined to my taste buds than both Japanese and Chinese cuisine.  The liberal addition of lemongrass and ginger to any meal gives it a pop that I absolutely crave, and my first bite into Banh Bo at a nearby street vendor sent me into the heavens.

Vietnam? No, more like Vietnom-nom-nom.  That weight loss I had in the last two months is about to vanish for sure.  Bring it on South East Asia.

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  1. Vietnam definitely has more hassles than elsewhere in SE Asia. I crossed over from China to Laos and it was like being in a different world. Then back to the hassles in Vietnam again!

    Vietnam is crazy cheap though. I got an overland bus ticket from Hanoi to HCMC (stopping at Hue, Hoi An and Nha Trang) for $10!

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  2. Wow Dee! I guess I am just used to being harassed by street vendors and touts in Hong Kong (especially the suit guys) so I thought Vietnam was a breeze from the viewpoint of Hanoi. I’m definitely glad to hear that it wont be as bad in other countries as I go by! Being bugged to buy things is one of the worst.

    I will say that I am getting it quite a bit from the local people who have no problem shaming you to get you to buy something. Along the lines of “I help you, buy something” or “You said maybe later and its later, buy something!” Oh well! Off to Halong Bay in two days so it should be great!

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  3. If you feel that way while your in Vietnam, your going to think that tout harassment in the rest of SE Asia is non-exisitant aside from maybe some Tuk Tuk drivers in big cities. At least this has been our experiences.

    We spent 3 months in Thailand, then 2 weeks in Laos, then hit up Hanoi and instantly felt overwhelmed by all the crazy that stuck with us through most of Vietnam. The shouts of BUY SOMETHING at us from every direction, scams and scandals at every corner, the ladies selling fruit in the baskets trying to force us to give them money by placing the baskets on you for a “photo”, millions of tour shops, and then the guys selling those tour of the old quarter rides also bugging us, the ladies with the fake guide books placing them on our dinner table, etc…

    So yeah, unless we actually approached someone and started a interaction for say a tour or to buy a trinket, we never felt pressured by any tout in Thailand. Where in Vietnam they always flocked to us to buy anything under the sun like we were magnets.

    Enjoy Halong Bay!! It’s beautiful. Hopefully you got lucky with a good boat! =)

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