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My friends and I went for a big 32 days long trip to Vietnam this summer. Why Vietnam? Well, mainly because two of my very good friends are Vietnamese. Both of them have quite big families there and they wanted to visit them which was a great opportunity for us to get deeper in Vietnamese culture and life. Besides that, we have always been hearing about beauties of Indochina countries and never been there before so we connected it with some summer adventure :)
One of the hottest topic was a vaccination. I did quite a research online as well as I went to a vacciantion centre to find out what is needed when going to NAM. It all depends on what you're gonna do and how crazy you plan your trip :). If you plan to visit standard places that normal people do, you don't really need to be afraid. I'm not a doctor, just saying :D
The only vaccination I took was hepatitis A and tyfus because these two you can get infected by eating and bad hygiene. And if you want to try all Vietnamese specialties, especially their famous streetfood, you can't have it fully under controll whether it's clean or not. But if you are very punctual about what and where you eat, neither you need these two.
There are several more vaccinations such as malaria, rabies etc. I think it's just a matter of risk, if you are very unlucky, there are dangers you can never be prepared for. And just pumping everything to your body is not good for you either as just these two that I took put me out of a game for a few days...
In the following picture is a skeleton of our trip planned mainly by my friend Hoang. I recommend you to find out something about the places before you actually go there and build your trip depending on what you want to do. Either ask someone who has been there or read online. Vietnam travelling is not really for everyone's taste and we met some people quite shocked.
Above that, I would recommend you to bring with you a solid amount of a suncream. I took only a small 15 factor one with an idea that I will buy a better one there. Wrong, wrong, wrong, Lukas! We bought quite an expensive 50 factor suncream in a shop and it was far worse than the 15 factor one from home. We got sunburnt several times.
Life in a village
My friend has a house in a village about two hours from Ha Noi where we landed. We spent there a couple of days driving around his family members. The first thing I noticed was that Vietnamese families are huge. It took us three days just to walk around houses of my friend father's side. They have a very specific hierarchy in families that must be taken seriously. If you only try to skip or even postpone someone, they will get very very mad. We experienced it once and it was nothing nice.
There is a big contrast between life in a village and a big city. Villagers live very very poor. Mostly, they have some kind of a shelter with a dirty mattress on the floor where they sleep. They have a couple of cows or buffalos and a small field that they care of. If they manage to produce something, they go and sell it on the market. That is pretty much all they do all life, but we visited a lot of them and they seemed very happy and smiling, were always so generous to us.
So yeah, people working on infinite rice fields, cows freely walking on a road and a lot of scooters, let's check some photos from there :)
Village life gallery
Vietnamese people are very welcoming. Everywhere we came, they tried serve us the best they could. They are aware that many of their family members also spent some time in Europe when they needed money to feed their families back home. Actually, they are still doing that as much as they can but their incoming to EU is very regulated by the government.
Above that, they know about Czech guys that we are fans of alcohol here and always tried to beat us in drinking. They are so crazy! Drinking alcohols made of snakes, scorpions and wild cats. They believe that you get stronger after drinking spirits of wild animals. I think it is true, I can already feel that! :D
Vietnam is widely known for it's cousine. They are masters of their resources - everything they can find on the garden, they will find a use for it. For instance, they know that a leaf from this tree is good with that meat and the other leaf goes well with the other meat. Then you find on the table things and tastes that I have never seen before in Europe. That is probably what makes them so healthy - they eat a lot of green.
Streets are surrounded by small shops selling various kind of meat that is ready to serve. Yes, finally talking about famous street food. We basically fell in love with Bánh mì from the first try. It is something like a baguette with meat, an egg, coriander and chilly. I wish there were a shop selling it in Brno too, actually there is, but it's just not the same.
What I didn't like was a massive meat comsumption. I was never into vegetarianism or something, but in NAM I realized how much meat they eat. While spending time with families, we were eating meat (a lot!) 3-4 times a day, sometimes without rice or anything and it was just too much for me.
They have these special habits with meat, the family asked us what we want for dinner and we said Bun Cha (pork belly) which we liked and they started laughing at us bcs pork belly is supposed to be served only for breakfast. How the hell you didn't know that, Lukas?! Let's have some ribs for dinner, they said! :)
But let's shut up and show some more pictures :)
Yeah, Vietnamese food is different. It is a good idea taking slivovica with you to clean your stomach every morning :) This saved our asses for three weeks. Wait, didn't you say it was 5 weeks you spent there?
One more thing. Dog meat is normally served in NAM. I guess everybody is aware of that. The family asked us if we want to try. We said yes so we tried but we weren't happy about that. It was near to pork meat, tasted ok, but our brain was working and didn't let us just eat it all.
I guess everyone has already seen some pictures of beatiful beaches from Vietnam. At least unconsciously. Yes! They do exist! But it is not like that you go in front of your hotel and have everything served on your table. Such a beaches are usually crowded or dirty.
You've got to either borrow a scooter and drive along the coast or hire a boat, sail to some islands and search for your beach. Then it is really beautiful and we spent a couple of days doing just that with snorkling and fishing.
If beaches are your main interests in Vietnam, Phu Quoc island at the very bottom of Vietnam should be your place to go. You will still feel a bit of Vietnamese tradition there. Second place is Nha Trang which has the nicest blue of sea but is already quite too much touristic and expensive. Despite that, I really enjoyed Nha Trang, felt good to take a small rest from Vietnamese jungle :)
Prices are very affordable in NAM. Of course, if you want to spend a fortune, you will find your way :) There are touristic places that are already quite expensive, for example one meal in a restaurant in Nha Trang costs around 10 euros which is A LOT in Vietnam.
But, if you avoid such a places, then you are alright. To give some examples:
- hair cut in a decent barber shop - 35 CZK / 1.3 EUR
- scooter for a day with some petrol in it - 70 CZK / 2.6 EUR
- taxi in a big city - give or take 10 CZK / 0.4 EUR per km
- lunch (a huge one) in a street restaurant 30 CZK / 1.2 EUR
- can of beer 10 CZK / 0.4 EUR
- bed in a cheap hotel (2 bed per room) 250 CZK / 10 EUR
If you are curious about the whole trip level budget, I spent less than 1 000 EUR. That's not too bad for a 32 days long trip, right? And we didn't spare the horses!
Talking about prices, Vietnamese people are a bit bitchy. They are prepared for tourists with 2-3 times higher prices than for local people. Sometimes, they even have separated entrances just for Europeans which isn't really nice. It is a good place to train your negotiating skills :)
At the end, I would like to express my last thanks to my Vietnamese friends for organizing and translating on our trip. During the stay, I met maybe 5 people that spoke English at least a bit so without helping of our friends, it would have been a 32 days long silent treatment :)
As well as I said to my family, after this trip, talking about wild life in NAM, I was very happy that I came home all good and will always appreciate our European life and culture that we live in. It was a huge experience!
BTW: If you have a traveller's soul and ever decide to go to NAM, let me know. I will try to pass all of my observations that I gained and didn't mention in this blog post. But you will make your own! As I always said, nobody tells you the truth but own experience. Your one can be different from mine :)