5 important and 5 unimportant reasons why Vietnam is so enjoyable.
It doesn’t take much to fall in love with Vietnam. My meticulous calculations concluded that it takes 2 courses to find love and a great deal of excitement for your Vietnamese adventures. And when I say adventures, I mean food. When I say courses, I definitely mean food. While the country has beautiful sites and unique locations, it is the food culture that makes me call Vietnam my self-assigned home country. As the average bowl of noodle soup from my kitchen settles in my belly, I am forced to remember the wonders of that beloved country. Below are some reasons why Vietnam should be visited for one of the most profound traveling experiences (read delicious).
| Unforgettable food
Obviously. Here is the precise meal to eat for finding brand new love in life:
1. Vietnamese iced coffee with Banh Mi
2. A bowl of Pho
Street food is the KING! The 3000 kilometres of tropical coastline has never discouraged locals to eat steaming daunting food for their lunches, no matter the heat. Huffing and sweating while destroying a serving of Cha Ca is one of the many pleasure of eating in Vietnam. The country is so much in love with its own food that many of the international fast food chains simply failed to compete. It is delicious, nutritious and fairly inexpensive.
The flavours are simple, unique and servings are plentiful.
No matter how tiring a day is, a steaming bowl of Pho can relax every muscle. Although there are many popular country wide food items, each area has some unique delights that could leave a mark (literally if you are, indeed, having Cha Ca; my fading oil burn mark is what I call my battle scar). Below is a list of items one can have the pleasure of enjoying while in Vietnam (Vietnamese spelling could be incorrect, and in that case correct me; also give me a tight slap as I will have shamed my hungry forefathers):
- Goi Cuon – Transparent spring rolls that make the eater spring and roll (history of the name, true story, yep)
- Banh Mi – Also known as “how to learn art of sandwich from the French and make it infinitely better”
- Banh Xeo – Enormous pancakes with so much filling inside, you might just find wisdom there
- Bun Cha – Pork patties, usually served with cold rice
- Pho – SWEET MOTHER OF SOUPS, too excited cannot-write-about-it!
- Cao lau – A noodle based delicacy (and secret held recipe) from Hoi An that will make you go “Yummm” or “Hmmm”
- Cha ca – White fish cooked with turmeric and sautéed in butter and spring onions. Served with peanuts, fish sauce and several tiny oil burns.
- Mi Quang – Meat with noodles and usually quail eggs, served with dried rice paper (not fit for drawing)
- Nom Hua Chou – Banana flower salad. Veg, ugh.
- Com tam – ‘Broken rice’ that is served with mean or a fried egg (has less unity than ‘sticky’ rice, because, well, it’s broken)
| Unbelievable coffee
My first Vietnamese coffee was a knock on my head that brought me many pegs down. Arrogantly I set my expectations low, and I was blown as the brilliant combination of condensed milk with the remarkable Vietnamese coffee enveloped the insides of my mouth. I simply could not understand how I had been subjecting myself to so much mediocre coffee till I did not taste my very first Vietnamese coffee in Vietnam. The variety there is shocking, there is a difference in coffee from north and south of Vietnam. Where the Hanoi coffee is richer and darker, the Saigon coffee is much much sweeter. There is coffee with coconut milk, coffee with yoghurt and even coffee with egg yolk. Try them all and see for yourself what you like most, but at least one version of coffee will become one of your all time favourites.
| Reasonably priced
I visited Vietnam in the year 2017 for 10 days, and my entire trip cost me INR 60,000 (roughly USD 850 or EUR 700). Certainly it took a great deal of efficient planning, but I spent no expense in eating my way down the country, way more food that I needed in a day. While the currency difference is the first benefit, the country is not expensive to sustain in. Food, stay and transport are very reasonably priced and though more expensive alternatives are plentiful, one can always find an economic options for the same. You might find yourself torn between choosing water and beer when you see the prices.
| Delightfully small chairs
Chairs, stools, tables, these plastic objects that seem more fitting for children’s school are the popular street market seating arrangements in Vietnam. Maybe the first one would surprise you, and the second would make your buttocks feel imbalanced, but eventually you will learn to love them. They also come in bright colours.
| Fruit friendly
I thought I knew how pineapples tasted. How naive was I. Fruit tastes better in Vietnam. Fruits are everywhere, cut up and served in plastic with giant toothpicks (or skinny chopsticks) for your share of healthy eating while travelling.
| Natural landscape and history
Unsurprisingly the country has mountains, deltas, beaches, rivers that make deltas, historical gems, ancient shipping ports, villages, rice fields, museums, food markets, Circle-K outlets, boats, rice cakes, smiling locals, cool hats and sticky rice.
| Easy words for types of meat
I love a place where words for meats are small, easy and fun to say. Bò is beef, Gà is chicken, rest is secondary.
| Cool hats
Made from bamboo hats (the kinds you really cannot eat no matter how much you try), they are called ‘coolie hats.’ Rightly named! You will see it, you will want it. Buy from a less touristy area and get a great bargain on a hat that genuinely helps with the sun, but is a nightmare for wearing while cycling for amateurs cyclists with broad necks like mine.
| Amazing haircuts
It took one fashionable young man to give me a magical haircut that made me flip my hair till I craned my neck. As everyone there is more stylish than (Indian) travellers, it is the inescapable truth of Vietnam that they have amazing barbers and beauticians. My sister got great highlights that didn’t just refine her aesthetics, but also helped her camouflage in the wild.
| The lasting feeling of being rich
When you get to spend less than one dollar for a meal, it gets to your head. So bring out those shades, hit that faux fur, wear that dollar sign and spend all you like! Pro tip: Keep these thoughts to yourself and make sure have your emergency information tattooed on your body if you do step out wearing my amazing fashion advice.
I hope that sufficiently summarised how remarkable Vietnam is, and if you see yourself enjoying Pho on a tiny stool by the side of a busy street, you are sure to fall in love with this more than your neighbour’s new puppy.
Keep calm and Viet-nam!