It’s time for another expectations vs reality battle. In this episode we’re in Vietnam (last year it was Thailand). Apologies for some stereotypes which may or may not occur.
Expectation: October is the best month to visit northern Vietnam.
Reality: yeah, sure… It was supposed to be dry and nice, especially in Sapa. The weather should be perfect for trekking. It was supposed to be really pretty in Ninh Binh. But instead we got neverending rain in Sapa and flood in Ninh Binh. On the other side, Ha Long Bay is usually cloudy, but we had THE BEST weather ever. So all in all we won. Kind of. Apparently we’re living in funny times when you can’t really predict the weather.
Expectation: Food will be great
Reality: I can’t stay that food was bad. It wasn’t… exciting? As much as I love our Polish broth, I quickly got tired of eating it in Vietnam day after day, morning after morning for breakfast. Maybe because they put a lot of coriander in it. They put coriander in every dish. And I hate coriander. They use a lot of mint leaves too. Unfortunately they don’t use many other spices and maybe that’s the reason why many dishes tasted the same. But it wouldn’t be fair to say that Vietnamese cuisine is not good. It is. My personal favourites: banh mi – baguette filled with everything you can imagine and chicken curry in Choi Oi in Mui Ne. And if you’re travelling to Vietnam, here’s a short list of my favourite places:
Hanoi – Bun Bo Nam Bo
Hoi An – Banh Mi Phuong
Ho Chi Minh – Bun Cha 145 Bui Vien
Mui Ne – Choi Oi
Expectation: Vietnamese people are not very kind – I’ve read many times that there are a lot of scams and basically every person wants to take advantage of a tourist, because tourists equals money.
Reality: Vietnamese people are great! It only takes a huge smile on your face and everyone will help you and show you the way. And if you say at a restaurant that you really enjoyed the food – they will be over the moon. No one did any harm to us and we met maybe 3 people who were a little less nice.
Expectation: it will be hard to communicate in English
Reality: it was hard. Very hard sometimes. I had an impression that people working in tourism know few English phrases and if your problem is not included in these phrases, it’s getting complicated. Example? Short conversation with a hotel receptionist in Ho Chi Minh City:
-Do you have a scale, so we can check how heavy our backpacks are?
-Yes, you can leave your luggage in the morning and go sightseeing. What time will you come back?
Another example, from a store in Mui Ne, where we accidentally left our umbrella:
– Hi, we left a green umbrella here yesterday.
So yes, it was hard to have a conversation in English, but with a little help of a huge smile and gestures we successfully communicated with almost everyone.
Expectation: I will die trying to cross the street
Reality: yes, traffic in big cities is terrible. Mopeds are everywhere. Road traffic regulations are non-existent. There was a t-shirt which perfectly described the situation: green light – I can go, yellow light – I can go, red light – I still can go. But it wasn’t that bad. Everyone was moving, cars and moped weren’t stuck in the same spot for hours. You could more or less predict what would happen. You want to cross the streets, drivers want to get to their destination, you’ll work it out together. Yes, moped drivers are annoying, especially when driving through pavements, but it’s not as bad as internet describes. Yes, I got stuck once, trying to cross a huge junction, but only once.
And riding a moped with with a furniture on it, big bag of rice and 2 kids all at once is totaly normal. Moped is a Vietnamese version of a family car.
Expectation: coffee will be great
Reality: GIVE ME VIETNAMESE COFFEE BACK! Vietnam is the 2nd biggest coffee exporter in the world and there’s a reason. Vietnamese coffee is simply great. We didn’t have a sour or bitter coffee even once and we had our coffees really strong. Fun fact: coffee beans are roasted with butter or plant-based oil and it gives Vietnamese coffee its’ special taste.
I always have my coffee black. No milk, no sugar. But I have the biggest sweet tooth ever so I couldn’t say no to Vietnamese milk coffee. Vietnamese milk coffee is not a regular milk coffee. It is served with extremely condensed and extremely sweet milk. I recommend iced version. And I recommend Vietnamese way of making coffee: