Getting around in Vietnam
As you can see, the primary mode is by motorbike.
Hardly anyone follows traffic rules. Roundabouts are the main intersections on the roads. Driving is crazy and dangerous especially on the highways where it is common for
larger vehicles to drive towards you in your lane and miss a head on collision by mere meters all to pass slower traffic on their side of the road. It is even more dangerous to
cross a street as a pedestrian. It is not like N America where the pedestrian has the right of way. If you get hit, it is the pedestrian's fault. It is an art form to navigate your way
across the street as both a pedestrian and a motorist. Although many of the main cities have paved asphalt highways, suburbs and small towns still have bumpy gravel roads.
They have tolls for their highways, but one wonders if any of the money collected actually goes into maintaining the roads. You don't see many tourists venture away from the
touristy areas. If they did, they'd probably have a culture shock as it hardly resembles any of the facade of the niceties they have put in place for tourists.
16,000 Dong = $1 USD
You are a “millionaire”
in Vietnam if you have
However, don’t expect
to buy a house with it.
It is easy to spend 1 million dong (about $60) in one day as it averages 300,000 dong per meal feeding about 6 persons. Still better than USA but that gap is narrowing.
A full tank of gas or petrol averages about 600,000 dong ($50) for a midsize to minivan type of vehicle. The average local's monthly salary is $200. It's no wonder the locals
prefer scooters and mopeds.
Young coconuts sold by street vendors. Fresh vegetable market.
Fruits sold at side roads (Rambutan, Durian, Jack Fruit, Mangoes)
Banh Hoi & Banh Cuon served with Nuoc Mam (Fish Sauce)
The food vendors on the street sell dishes like banh beo (poached egg like dishes with shredded shrimp and green onion garnish), banh canh (noodle soup with fish patty
slices), banh khot (similarly served in little dishes like banh beo except more like a rice flour wrap), pho (rice noodle soup), bun bo hue (spicy red broth beef noodle soup),
banh tet (sticky rice with meat covered in banana leaf wrap), chao ca (fish broth congee), com ga (chicken flavored rice), and banh uout.
Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup). Banh Beo (Rice cake appetizer)
Be aware that visiting these food vendor establishments will not be very appealing if you care a lot about sanitary conditions. It is quite common for locals to throw their
garbage on the floors after eating and it is rare to find the food vendor that will clean the mess for the next round of customers.
They even have a KFC in Saigon. The locals only eat KFC once in a while as it costs them three times as much as a local dish would. I was tempted but resisted the urge. I
think I spotted Korean, Japanese, Indian, and Chinese restaurants along the path of my travels, but they were the exception, and not the norm.
in the New
Pickled vegetables in jars.
Diverse Landscapes of Vietnam
Sand dunes on coastal road
Vietnam is like California with diverse landscapes ranging from sunny beaches and deserts in the south to the colder mountainous regions in the northern interior. In my trip, I
visited Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon as the locals say) in the south, Nha Trang (beach resorts) in the central, and Da Lat (mountainous touristy area with French style charm) in
the central interior.
If you look closely at every street corner there is not a garbage can in sight. The only places you'll see one is in the rest room next to the toilet. The way it works is that people
litter everywhere and during the wee night hours a brigade of street cleaners round up the trash that has been collecting during the day. This viscous cycle has continued for
ages and it is an unfortunate part of everyday culture and customs.
Inﬂuenced by French and Chinese
At one point in Vietnam's history, they all used Chinese characters in their writing. After the French colonized the region, they left a lasting impression as all forms of writing
now use the French alphabet and accented characters. There are many spoken words that have been derived from both Chinese and French languages. It is quite common
for locals working in tourist areas to be fluent in English, French, and their local dialect.
• Where is _ ? = _ o dau?
• Go = Di
• Where are we/you going? = Di dau?
• Excuse me. = Xin loi.
• I don't speak Vietnamese. = Toi khong noi Tieng Viet.
• I speak English. = Toi noi Tieng Anh.
• I am a tourist. = Toi khach du lich. (D pronounced as a Y)
• Thank you. = Cam on.
More Useful Phrases
• I am thirsty. = Toi khat nuoc.
• I am hungry. = Toi doi bung
• That was delicious! = Ngon wah!
• Check/bill please = Duon tien
• How much? = Bao nhieu?
• I am tired. = Toi mot.
• Good night. = Ngoh ngon.
• Good morning. = Chao bui san.
• Taking a shower/bath = Di tam
Top two brands in Vietnam
No such thing as contracts in Vietnam. You buy a phone and then buy a SIM card from any number of carriers (the most popular being Viettel and Mobifone) separately. I
brought an unlocked phone with me and purchased a SIM card from Viettel with 100,000 dong worth of minutes for roughly $10 USD. I was able to use Internet via WAP
cellular GPRS for only 3 dong / Kb. The only configuration setting needed was using 'v-internet' for the Access Point name. Note: 911 emergency number does not exist.
Instead you use 113. Also, all cell phones need to dial prefix 0 before the area code and number. Cell phone numbers are 7 digits long whereas landline phones are 6 digits
long. If you are calling from overseas to Vietnam, you dial 011 84, followed by the area code and number.