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[RD] Backpacking Việt Nam (2019)

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by warpus, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Prologue

    Much like in my other travel threads, here you will be able to follow my travels through this interesting south-east Asian country. I will be posting stories from the 3 and a half weeks I spent in Vietnam in march of 2019, making my way from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. This translates to a journey of about 1,100km, although I made things a bit more interesting by also booking a beach hut on a tropical island near Cambodia for the latter stages of the adventure.

    I made things even more interesting by booking a capsule hotel at the Hanoi airport.. at the wrong terminal.. causing me to fall prey to a $10 USD rideshare scam. Not a great way to start off an adventure, but I took it all in stride and in the end decided that $10 is not worth losing any sleep over.

    Spoiler :


    This was the plan because my flight landed just after midnight. I thought it was wiser to sleep at the airport and to not try to navigate Hanoi for the first time in the middle of the night.

    The plan was to wake up in the morning, buy a SIM card somewhere at the airport, and then figure out how to get to the hotel I had booked in central Hanoi for the next couple nights. After that I had nothing booked anywhere except for that beach hut at the end of the trip.

    The flight itself had an interesting route and took me to Vietnam via a layover in South Korea.

    Spoiler :


    If you're wondering, yes, we had to fly around North Korea

    As with any such thread, relevant commentary and questions are welcome, as well as corrections for anything I get wrong in my research :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2021
  2. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    The Index

    Day 1
    - First Impressions | Phở | Martyrs Monument | Dá Cầu | Hoàn Kiếm Lake | St. Joseph's Cathedral | Streets of the Old Quarter | Vietnamese Craft Beer Scene
    Day 2 - A Walk to the Mausoleum | Martyrs Monument | Ward HQ | Walk continues | First Indochina War | Hồ Tây Lake | Botanical Garden | Pigeon Island | Hồ Chí Minh Mausoleum | Ba Đình Square | 2 | Lenin Statue | Train Street | Cờ tướng | Bánh mì
    Day 3 - Long Biên Bridge | Cà Phê Trứng | Quan Chưởng Gate | Bún Chả | Hỏa Lò Prison | Temple of Literature | Well of Heavenly Brilliance | Quốc Tử Giám Park | Saint Paul Hospital | Thăng Long | Hàng Đậu Water Tower | Thê Húc Bridge | Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre | Bánh xèo
    Day 4 - Hạ Long Bay | Hạ Long Bay Deck Party | Hạ Long Bay After Dark | Video
    Day 5 - Cát Bà Island Cycling Tour | 2 | Cobra Wine | 3 | Kayaking around Hạ Long Bay | Video
    Day 6 - Phở gà | Dark & Bright Cave | Chả giò Spring Rolls | Confusion at the Docks | Homestay | Ninh Bình After Dark | Stir-fried Egg Noodles with Beef
    Day 7 - Ninh Bình Province on Two Wheels | Tam Cốc Rice Fields | Hang Múa Peak & Caves | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | Bích Động Pagoda | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Thái Vi Temple | 2 | 3 | Market | Chookie's | Sleeper Train to Huế
    Day 8 - First Impressions | 2 | Lunch in Huế | Trường Tiền Bridge | Meridian Gate | Imperial City of Huế | Thái Hòa Palace | 2 | 3 | Nguyễn Dragon | The Pavillion of Four Directions | The Queen Mother's Residence | 2 | Hiển Nhơn Gate | American War Relics | 2 | Chè
    Day 9 - Perfume River Dragon Boat Cruise | Pagoda of the Celestial Lady | The Self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức | Minh Mạng Mausoleum | 2 | Kinh Vạn An | 2
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021 at 10:03 PM
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  3. FriendlyFire

    FriendlyFire Codex WMDicanious

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    I hope you ate a lot of our traditional food
    The Beef noodle soup (Pho) and Pancakes (Banh Xeo) are a must.
     
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  4. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    I'm ready!
     
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  5. Tee Kay

    Tee Kay Silly furry

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    Interested to see. My mental image of Vietnam is stuck in the 1980s despite knowing the country has undergone huge changes over the last few years especially so I'm keen for this.
     
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  6. Ferocitus

    Ferocitus Deity

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    I had a Vietnamese Fighting Fish named Ho Chi Finh. (Dare to struggle, dare to swim!)
    I await photos of his ancestors with great anticipation. :)
     
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  7. tjs282

    tjs282 Stone cold fish

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    Subscribing! :bounce:
     
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  8. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Yes, I did eat a decent amount of traditional Vietnamese food! I am a big fan. Pho is my favourite - It is the first meal I sought out when I woke up on my first full day in the country. I also not only ate but cooked my own Banh Xeo pancake @ a cooking class I attended in Hoi An.
     
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  9. FriendlyFire

    FriendlyFire Codex WMDicanious

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    Cant wait for the Photos
     
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  10. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    First impressions of Hanoi
    Monday, March 4, 2019

    Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and is home to about 20 million people. Located in the northern part of the country, it lies on the banks of the Red River.

    When I woke up on that very first full day in the country my immediate mission became to check out of the capsule hotel and figure out a way to the old quarter, which is where my hotel was located. This was about an hour away by car or hour and a half by bus. Since I had just had a bad experience with a taxi the previous night, I opted for the bus.

    Spoiler :
    The old quarter is a somewhat chaotic urban jungle which contains centuries old architecture influenced by French, South-east Asian, and Chinese styles. The narrow streets are organized by trade and the occasional trees complete the look.



    The one great thing about public transit in Hanoi is that there is free wifi on the buses! This allowed me to figure out exactly where to get off the bus. The above is one of the first photos I took in the country with my phone, as I was walking through the streets figuring out how to get to my hotel.

    I checked in, showered, took a short nap, and headed out to explore more of the city and eat. I also got the staff at the hotel to hook me up with a very reasonably priced SIM card on a relatively good network.



    Two other objects stand out in these photos: the Vietnamese flags and the motorcycles.

    The red on the Vietnamese flag represents bloodshed, revolution, and struggle. The yellow star represents the five main classes of Vietnamese society: workers, peasants, soldiers, intellectuals, and businesspeople.

    Vietnam has one of the highest per capita motorcycle ownership rates in the world, with 1 motorcycle for every 2 people in the country. It has been said that to many Vietnamese their motorcycle is not just a way to get around - but also an integral part of who they are. Various factors have lead to this, such as economic realities and the narrow streets.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Phở

    The national dish of Vietnam is phở, a noodle soup that traces its origins back to the early late 1800s or early 1900s. It isn't known exactly how it came together, but it is thought that it was a sort of confluence of cultures in the northern part of the country. French colonization lead to more available beef in the country, which lead to the availability of beef bones, which local Vietnamese began to use to make broth. Some believe that this dish is the Vietnamese take on the French dish pot au feu, a beef stew.. although most will probably point to similar Vietnamese dishes that phở probably evolved from.

    Phở really means "rice noodle soup", although the word actually translates to "street". The main ingredients are a bone-beef broth, banh pho noodles and thinly sliced beef (or chicken). Herbs are served on the side, which can vary depending on the part of the country you are in, although thai basil, culantro, and mint are common. In Vietnam you can also usually expect an orange coloured spicy chilli paste (sometimes sriracha) in a plastic squeeze bottle on the table, as well as a plastic squeeze bottle of Hoisin sauce. A cut up lime is also always served on the side, and most restaurants will also give you a side of bean sprouts, although some would consider that to be a "tourist thing".

    Phở is eaten with a spoon in one hand and chopsticks in the other.. It is also sort of designed to be customizable at the whims of the patron. When your bowl of steaming hot pho first arrives, the first "proper" thing to do is to taste the broth by itself and to savour it. The flavour of the broth will change after you're done adding whatever herbs and sides you want, so you only get a chance to taste the broth on its own once. It is also considered to be the most important part of the dish, so tasting it before it changes is a sort of nod of respect to the chef. It can also help you decide how much of your usual ingredients to add.

    Other ingredients that are common in the making of the broth are oxtail, flank, cinnamon, and star anise.



    The beef in the bowl is traditionally served raw (it cooks in the broth), but with western tourists being such frequent visitors it is common to get something that is a bit more cooked ahead of time.

    Another thing to note about phở is that this dish can differ a bit depending on where you are in Vietnam. In the south the broth is a bit sweeter, darker, and tangier, whereas northern broth is known for being clear and simple. Northern pho also uses wider noodles, and chicken pho isn't as popular in the south either. (where it is a very popular breakfast dish)

    Last, but not least, I can't help it but note that I had a date!

    Spoiler :


    This dog did not bug me at all and knew to not beg for food. It was the best dog.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2021
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  12. FriendlyFire

    FriendlyFire Codex WMDicanious

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    Back in the day the meat used to be horsemeat and you have to pay extra if you wanted actual beef but who knows if it was even beef given the taste
    Having tried both Chicken and Beef Pho, I prefer the beef with its richer taste, heavy spices and complex flavor
    Generally try to eat it all and drink the soup as well
     
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  13. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Super Moderator Supporter

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    So, is Pho the staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
     
  14. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    It is more popular for breakfast, at least with the locals. It was sort of always seen as this fortifying & hydrating dish that helps workers get through the morning, but is light enough so that it doesn't weigh them down either. Pho vendors usually wake up early and start cooking the broth before dawn (or in some cases the previous night), open their shops at sunrise, and sell out before lunch. Pho is generally not seen substantial enough as a lunch or dinner option.

    Bun Cha
    is a more popular lunch option in the north (Hanoi & area). You might or might not remember Barack Obama & Anthony Bourdain putting this dish on the radar here in the west. As far as a typical Vietnamese dinner, it is usually sort of a mix of various dishes - a rice and a meat or seafood dish, a vegetable dish, fish sauce for dipping, and soup. I did see a decent amount of locals eating pho at all times of day, but if I had woken up as early as the early risers I would have likely seen a lot more people eating pho then.
     
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  15. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Hoàn Kiếm Lake Martyrs Monument

    The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a one-party state, with the communist party playing a central role in all aspects of government, politics, and society. In the late 1980s reformist politicians implemented free market reforms leading to a sort of socialist-oriented market economy, in which private ownership of farms, factories, and businesses, economic deregulation, and foreign investment were all encouraged.

    Memories of colonialism, foreign occupation, war, and revolution are still very fresh in the national psyche. As a result of all of this, when walking through the streets of Hanoi you'll come across bustling scenes of local shops, restaurants, and other businesses selling their wares, while occasionally running into monuments like this:



    This monument is a memorial to those who died fighting for the country's independence. The translation of the text is a reminder of all those who died so that the country may live.

    The nearby Hoàn Kiếm Lake translates to Lake of the Restored Sword. It is a popular (and fairly large) lake in the centre of historical Hanoi which serves as a focal point in the city and is a popular scenic spot.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2021
  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Dá Cầu

    Known as jianzi in China, dá cầu is the national sport of Vietnam. It is a kind of foot badminton dating back to the 2nd century BC. It did not take me long to run into people playing it in public spaces, although this particular public space is one of the most popular spots where it is played. People begin to gather here to play every morning starting at dawn, in front of the nearby cultural centre, right beside Hoan Kiem lake.






    From what I understand dá cầu has rules not dissimilar from badminton.. but in public spaces it is often played in a 'hacky sack circle' sort of format, where the object becomes to keep the shuttlecock up in the air as long as possible (or at least some previously agreed upon number of kicks). Emphasis seems to be placed on style, showmanship, and the ability to work well as a team

    Spoiler :
     
  17. Ferocitus

    Ferocitus Deity

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    I like it, especially the hyperbolic sine function! :thumbsup:
    Wear those nerd badges with pride, comrades!
     
  18. Valka D'Ur

    Valka D'Ur Hosting Iron Pen in A&E Retired Moderator

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    Interesting. Those aren't the same kind of shuttlecocks used in badminton here. They're more elongated, and look to be a bit heavier.

    Badminton and pingminton were about the only sports I was ever actually good at (pingminton is a weird combination of a volleyball net set at volleyball height, badminton birdie, and ping-pong paddles; we played this at the elementary school I attended in Grades 5-6). I speak from experience that playing badminton outside is a truly aggravating experience on a windy day, so it looks like the things these guys are using are heavy enough that they'd be less likely to be carried off by a stray gust of wind.
     
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  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    They are different and traditionally have goose or duck feathers attached to a rubber sole or plastic disc of sorts.

    Spoiler :
     
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  20. FriendlyFire

    FriendlyFire Codex WMDicanious

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    I wanted to purchase a scooter since they are a fraction of the cost of a car but really though in the west where most people are driving cars its not a good idea given the rate of accidents caused by cars on bikes
    It would be different if the majority of traffic was scooters like in Vietnam. You will find this is also the case in many Asian countries. Especially due to the lack of parking spaces, the Japanese sell a huge number every year as well.

    They just lack the safety features of a larger car. Which can lead to terrifying accidents for the rider, most of the time its not the scooter riders fault.
     
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