Since I’ve come to KL I’ve been meaning to post some blogs about the experience. What I didn’t want to do, however, was post a whole heap of whinge. Given how frustrating KL is to get settled in, to date, what I mainly would have been posting would have been negative.
Instead I waited until my recent Vietnam holiday to post something more positive.
We have already been on a couple of resort style holidays within Malaysia. These experiences were mixed. The wife decided to pick the school holidays to set yet another resort style holiday for the fam and this time Vietnam floated to the top.
We picked a resort in Hoi-an. We didn’t know much about the area when we booked, but had been recommended the resort. We also booked a few days in Saigon at the end.
Once booked, I did some more investigation into Vietnam. It turns out Hoi-an is a pretty historical sort of town. It has Vietnamese, French and Japanese influences and it was spared by the war. It is world heritage listed and many of the streets are closed off at varies times during the day. It’s also famous for Tailors, Shoes and Lanterns. The quality of all varies from good to excellent. I personally had two suits made with two spare pants for roughly $550. Believe me, I’ve had Kelly Country suits and there is no comparison. The wife went a bit nuts with lanterns, but was vindicated when she read an article on her return about these bring $65 each in Aus. We paid $4-5 each. These are not the paper lanterns you see, but genuine fabric on bamboo.
We went out to the My Son pagoda for half a day at one point. I wouldn’t recommend much more than that, but it’s well worth the trip. We could have done some cooking classes, but decided it would absorb too much time. We also spend a few half days strolling around Hoi-an. There is also other stuff to do a bit further afield such as Hue or even visit Cambodia or Laos, but we didn’t have time for that. Shame.
Interestingly one of the local hotels hires out Ural outfits. I’m not sure if you can get them without a rider, but it might be worth investigation. You can hire scooters at the side of the road. The guys doing this will hawk you if you walk outside of your hotel, so don't worry about booking anything. It not too scammy, but make sure you have your own insurance. Riding in Saigon would be nuts, but Hoi-an only a little crazy.
The food was generally brilliant. The worst meal I had the whole time was still OK. Most were excellent. And Pho. Oh the Pho. How can something so simple be so good?
Ho Chi Minh was pretty crazy. Walking across a road involved waiting for cars to clear and then walking at a steady pace through the scooters. They would just miss you. Walking with two kids and a wife who didn’t trust the bikes, was a real effort.
Overall, I’d say 3 full days in Ho Chi Minh is enough to get to know the place, although you could spend longer.
The more I read about Vietnam the more I want to see and do. I could have easily spent another month there. It was great for kids too. The locals loved the kids and I swear they’ve ended up on at least 200 facebook pages.
The amount of haggle in Vietnam is low, so that makes me more comfortable. There was a bit of hawking, but it wasn’t too bad. Security is pretty good too. I never felt at risk, which is more than can be said for many countries around the world.
It’s also a pretty clean place. Even though they are still dragging themselves out of poverty, the place is kept clean. Cleaners are employed in the city and the population is generally clean themselves.
If you are into art, there is lots. This varies from works on paper, to good copy paintings, through to original paintings. You could pick up original large paintings for hundreds of dollars and that was framed. These frames would have cost that much in Aus.
Antiques too. I'm not talking the 1950s and 1960s stuff you see in Australia either. I'm talking artifacts. I'm sure there is a lot of crockery that's just been dragged through the mud, but for those that know their stuff, there is stuff in Vietnam you will not find elsewhere.
I'm betting you could easily finance a trip with art and antiques, if you knew what you were looking at.
So that just leaves negatives. I must say there wasn’t many. I did come out with a bit of a rash whilst I was there. I’m not sure what it was, but talking to someone when I got back suggested the fish in Vietnam was a bit suspect. I did have Mackerel, and I can’t remember ever having that before.
Travel isn’t the easiest. It’s a long Country, despite its small size and the train is meant to be very slow. This is why we went Saigon, though I did get the impression Hanoi may be more interesting. Although one of my Vietnamese freinds insists the food gets blander the further north you go. On the upside, internal air-fairs are very cheap. You just have the hassle of the whole airport thing.
Waiters were very poor at their job. It was as though they just don't know what they are there for. This was everywhere. To get their attention, you had to be what westerners would consider rude. If you didn't do that, they'd just keep chatting amongst themselves. Ironically other service was excellent. It was just the waiting staff that were ordinary.
Other than that, not much is wrong with the place. It is becoming a little touristy, but with that brings more western accommodation standards. I’d say now is a good time to go in its history. 10 years ago you would have been roughing it and in 10 year’s time they will be going full swing with the tourist thing.
So; Vietnam, get yourself there soon. I’m keen to go back and see much more.