We’ve officially been in Vietnam for two weeks now, and after traveling through China for twenty days, this place feels like a different world. An American we met on our first night in Hanoi said it well: in China you’re surviving; in Vietnam you’re on vacation. We couldn’t have agreed with him more.
We’d heard from a few fellow travel bloggers that the Vietnamese people are very good at scams: watch your wallets and always double check the change that you’re given. While it’s good practice to do this anywhere you travel, we haven’t felt it necessary to constantly keep up a guard. As long as you’re informed about the various places you’re visiting and ask about prices before hopping on a taxi or motorbike, things should go smoothly. Our experience with the people here has been extremely positive, and even if they are trying to “scam” you, it usually adds up to no more than a couple bucks anyway. Oh yes, people also don’t seem to spit as much over here (it happens on occasion, but nowhere near as bad as China).
I AM IN LOVE WITH THE FOOD HERE. Many dishes in China were overly salty and greasy, whereas Vietnam offers food that tastes much more fresh and healthy. Pho is a common dish here, which is like a noodle soup with onions, cilantro (they put this in almost everything), bean sprouts and a lime wedge to squeeze on top. We ate this a lot in Toronto before coming here, so I couldn’t wait to try it in Vietnam. The spring rolls here are also delicious, rolled in a rice paper and filled with vegetables and whatever meat you prefer. Fresh mango and dragon fruit can be bought from street vendors, both of which are sweet and full of flavor. The coffee is amazing, served over ice (or hot), with condensed milk. I could go on, but in short the food has exceeded my expectations.
China was cheap, but Vietnam is cheaper. One beer costs as little as fifty cents in some places and a bowl of pho no more than $2. For most meals Kyle and I will spend no more than $4 each, including a beer. Accommodation ranges between five and ten dollars, and you’re not sleeping in absolute filth. In Halong Bay we did a three day cruise with one night on a private island and that cost us $38 per day. Back home you would pay five hundred dollars for the private beach alone. The most expensive thing here is the transport, ranging between fifteen and twenty dollars for most trips (which is still absolutely nothing).
We were thoroughly impressed with Hanoi, which was the first city we went to in Vietnam. It has a lot of French influence from when they occupied the country, and although it’s quite busy we still found it relaxing to see the sights and walk around the lake near our hostel. Overall Vietnam has given us a great mix between nightlife, temples, beaches and meeting fellow backpackers to share the experience along the way.