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  1. Vung Tau, Vietnam: Jesus Hates Me. This I Know.

    November 25, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    If you’re looking for a short vacation while in Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau will hook you up with that sweet sweet ocean noise. It’s the closest beach town to Saigon, so it’s popular but certainly wasn’t busy when we went on a Monday/Tuesday. The city is on a peninsula and it feels very Miami Vice. Check out the video, read the article, and view the map for all the information you need on Vung Tau, Vietnam

    First off, we took a bus from the backpacker district, because we were there already and the money we’d save going to the bus station wasn’t worth the effort. FUTA Bus Lines is located at 205 Phạm Ngũ Lão (the street that runs along the south side of the long park). Buses leave throughout the day, cost 120,000 dong, and take about an hour and a half. Alternatively, you can go to Miền Đông Bus Station and browse around for the cheapest option. You might save 30,000 dong ($1.50 or the cost of a delicious lunch).

    Ryan diving into the pool at the hotel.

    Cooling off at the hotel pool.

    The bus will drop you off at Vung Tau’s bus station. It’s downtown — about a 20 minute walk to Back beach, the largest and most popular beach in Vung Tau. You’d probably be able to find a hotel there no problem. We didn’t want to spend our vacation shooing off hawkers, so we stayed at the south-end of the peninsula across from Pineapple beach. A taxi there cost us 100,000 dong, a bit much but I heard taxis are more expensive in Vung Tau. We stayed at Sunny Blue Cap Resort. It was nice. It looked like it needed to be freshened up, but we were happy to have a pool that overlooked the ocean, and there were plenty of areas to sit and relax. The cost was $35/night. Quick note, we called the hotel ahead of time because we needed to check to see if they’d let us stay there with only a copy of our passports. They said it was okay, but we were told they didn’t have any double rooms left, only triples. We ended up booking a double through Agoda, and when we arrived they put us in a triple (for the price of the double).

    If we didn’t want a pool, we probably would have stayed further down Ha Long street. A cool option would be Hoa Tieu Hotel. I’m basing that on the location, the price (a room with a balcony that overlooks the sea for $25/night), but mostly on the fact that it looked really neat from the outside. Another crazy looking hotel was the Jolie Mod Hotel at 150 Ha Long. It’s circular and right on the water — pretty Bond villain-like. There’s a lot of 80s/early 90s hotels in Vung Tau that are looking a bit outdated and rundown, but pretty cool.

    Jolie Mod Hotel in Vung Tau VietnamAfter an afternoon of relaxing, we walked along the coast and stopped at New Delhi Indian Food restaurant. It was excellent – the best Indian food we’ve had in Vietnam so far. It’s on Ha Long street (check the map below).

    Vung Tau livens up at around dusk, when the Vietnamese are off work and looking to unwind. The beaches get busy. People are swimming, exercising, and socializing. Unlike the western world, the Vietnamese don’t go to the beach to sit in the sun. They hate the sun. In fact, they’re called the vampires of Asia… that’s not true.

    The next day we ate a blah breakfast at the hotel, then rented a scooter from a place down the street. For 150,000 dong, every inch of Vung Tau can be yours. Renting a motorbike is hands-down the best way to traverse the city. The road along the coast is an easy ride with many cafes along the water to stop at. We did a complete loop that was only about 30 minutes of driving and offered much to see.

    Large statue of Jesus in ung Tau, Vietnam

    Jesus about to bungee jump.


    Here are the places we went to:

    • Jesus
      That’s right, we finally gave up our heathen ways and had a visit with the lord. Vung Tau has a huge Jesus statue on a hill that you can go into and climb the 200 or so steps to a balcony on his outstretched arms. We made the half hour hike to the top of Small Mountain only to find out that Jesus doesn’t allow anyone wearing shorts inside of him. You also can’t bring in bags, wear sleeveless shirts, or spit inside of him. Your loss, Jesus. I was pretty sure that climbing to the top of him was going to help me see the value of having Christ in my life, but instead we sat outside making puns at Jesus’ expense.
    • The Lighthouse
      Since Jesus wouldn’t give us the panoramic views of Vung Tau that we so desired, we headed to the lighthouse on top of Small Mountain. When we got there it was closed; we still had access to the grounds, so we got our views, and there was a stand there that sold cold drinks. A shady place with a great view and a cold beer — that’s probably better than a stuffy old lighthouse.
    • The White Palace
      An old French-style house that was once the summer home for the Governor General of Cochinchina, Paul Doumer (who later became President of France before being assassinated). It was built in the early 1900s on the former grounds of a fortress that actually fired the first shot against the invading French ships. The interior is nice. There are some great views, and the palace has a collection of artifacts found on sunken ships from around the area.

    The White Palace in Vung Tau, Vietnam

    Ryan standing in front of the White Palace


    For breakfast, lunch, or even dinner make sure you try banh khot, a Vung Tau specialty. It’s a rice pancake that’s fried and topped with shrimp. Very delicious! For more information about the dish check out VietnaMenu’s profile on banh khot.

    Of course, the seafood in Vung Tau is great. If you are looking for a classier dining experience, Ganh Hao has some delicious dishes and it’s right along the coast. We ordered a whole sea bass, plus some crab soup, and some water spinach. The fish was grilled to perfection. Total cost of the meal was about 440,000 dong. If that’s too rich for your blood, Quán Bia Tươi is a better option. The seafood is good, but the highlight here is their cheap draft beer (bia tươi means fresh beer). I think it was like 30 cents for a glass… real cheap, and pretty tasty.

    We stayed two nights in Vung Tau. In the morning, we headed back to the bus station and caught a Hoa Mai Tourist minibus back to Ho Chi Minh City. It was slightly cheaper than FUTA Bus Lines (95,000 dong), but took longer and the driver was into high risk maneuvers.

    We have lots more information on budget travel in Vietnam and more to come.


  2. 7 Thing you Should Know Before Drinking Beer with a Vietnamese Person

    November 19, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    A bottle of Saigon Green Beer at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City

    Saigon Green, a very popular beer in Ho Chi Minh City


    Pounding back beers is a popular activity in Vietnam. Beer consumption in the country is going up every year. In 2013, Vietnam was #1 in Southeast Asia for beer consumption per capita. Considering it is only #8 for per capita income, that’s pretty good (or maybe bad). Heineken predicts that in 2015, Vietnam will be their largest market. There are many restaurants that will plop a case of beer down next to your table, along with a bucket full of ice, and let you drink until you pass out or have to go pick up the kids from school. My landlord loves to “take beers” with me. Whenever I see him he invites me out. Last week, Sara and I had to pay our rent. Remembering the drunken sloppy night that was last rent-due-day, and the proceeding day’s hangover, I sent him a text message early in the day: Can you please come get the rent early, I have to go out for dinner with friends tonight. It was a lie that I told on behalf of my liver. He asked if I could drop it off on the way to my friend’s house. I agreed to meet him at a restaurant where he was drinking with his work friends. Of course, when we arrived he insisted we have a beer with him. I told him we only had one hour before we had to be at our friend’s house. He managed to drive four beers into me in that time.

    When drinking with a Vietnamese person, there are a few things to remember:

    1. Beer is served with ice… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing
      It’s hot in Vietnam. Ice is a man’s best friend, specially in a country where they eat dog. If the beer isn’t refrigerated, you’ll definitely want ice. If the beer does come cold, you still might want to drink it with ice. The slow watering down of the beer will help you get through the night. Also, the ice doesn’t affect the taste of the beer as much as you’d think. Only one large chunk is used and it’s replaced before it melts too much. A girl will swoop in with a pair of tongs, dip them into your drink, take the ice hunk out, and drop in a new one. You’ll have to get used to the fact that those tongs have been dipped in other people’s drinks. More beer will help with that.
    2. If one person wants to drink everyone has to.
      Every drink must be preceded with the clinking of glasses. When you grab your glass, watch as your Vietnamese drinking companions grab theirs. Sometimes I pretend that I’m a gunslinger in the wild west. I hover my hand around the handle, wiggle my fingers a little bit, watch everyone else to see if their hands reach for their glasses, then grab it and lift it up for everyone to toast.
    3. Một, hai, ba, vô! (pronounced mot, hi, bah, yo)
      In English we say cheers, in Vietnam they say 1, 2, 3, cheers, usually while standing. I’ve also been told that vo means in, as in put the beer in your mouth. I heard that from a drunken Vietnamese person whose English is fairly bad, so take it for what it’s worth.
    4. It gets a little competitive
      If you notice your opponent companion watching you as you both chug beer down, it’s because they are watching to see when you will stop. They don’t want to be the first person to put down their glass. Things can get sloppy fast if you play this game. Sometimes challenges are delivered, “một trăm phần trăm” which means 100%. This is a challenge for you to chug the rest of your beer. Being a good drinker in Vietnam is seen as being a strong man. As a westerner, it is often assumed that you’ll be a good drinker, and that will be put to the test. Do not underestimate a Vietnamese person’s drinking abilities. Even though they are small, they can drink a lot.
    5. Food will most likely be ordered
      If you’re asked to go drink beers, there will probably also be food involved. Vietnam has lots of bar snacks that satisfy your hunger and make you want to drink more. Some examples: frog legs, chicken wings, snails, cockles, bo luc lac, and hột vịt lộn (duck eggs with a partially developed fetus in them). This is a great way to try new food — you’re slightly braver because of the alcohol, you have people there that will eat it if you don’t like it, and your Vietnamese friends will be happy to show you how to eat it.
    6. Going too far
      Inevitably, the night will hit a point when everyone is too drunk to make good decisions. More beers will be ordered. More challenges made. Sometimes, the beer girls are treated poorly. Once, a man I was drinking with handed his glass to the waitress and demanded that she chug beer with me. She obliged, even though it was obvious that she didn’t like beer, and she didn’t want to drink out of the old man’s glass. I said, “no, no, it’s ok” but my drinking companions demanded it. I tried to spare the poor girl by only drinking for a second. Worse than that though, is the amount of drinking and driving that happens in this country. If you’re going out to drink with friends, take a taxi. Even if you think you are only going out for a couple. Taxis are cheap, lives are precious. On a Saturday night, there are a lot of drunk people on the road. You shouldn’t be one of them. I’ve sat with a Vietnamese man and drank 8-10 beers in one sitting. He kept up with me the whole way, and he’s almost half my size. At the end of the night, I walked home and he hopped on his scooter and zig-zaged his way home. The World Health Organization says that “60% of hospitalized road trauma patients are estimated to have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit”. I’ve been told, “it’s part of the culture” and “everyone is doing it”. That’s even more reason to not do it. It’s crazy to hear expats who wouldn’t drink and drive in their home country, talk about how it’s okay in Vietnam, where traffic accidents happen more often and are more deadly.
    7. Happy drunks
      Despite the competitiveness at the drinking table, Vietnamese people just want to have a good time. By the end of the night, you’ll find that their big red faces will be plastered with a smile and they’ll be throwing compliments at you. Don’t be too surprised if they throw an arm around you or even hold your hand as you walk out of the bar, specially if you were able to keep up with them. Usually, they call it a night by 10 or 11 PM, but you’ll be happy to go. Drinking in Vietnam is fast and furious. After chugging down all that beer you’ll sleep like a baby, and wake up feeling like a 90-year-old on their death bed. It’s the circle of life.

     
    For more about beer in Vietnam, have a look at our Vietnamese Beer Review.


  3. Review: HotelQuickly App – Last minute deals on Hotels in Asia and Australia

    November 12, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    Mira Hotel in Thu Dau Mot, Binh Duong, VietnamThere’s a fine line between being spontaneous and unprepared when traveling. We like to have a layout of the city we are going to — know where the hotels, restaurants, and main attractions are. Unless we are traveling at a busy time, or there’s a place that we really want to stay, we don’t book a room ahead. Usually, we just have a list of 3 or 4 places that sound good, and then take the chance that at least one of them will have an opening. Most of the time, we end up at the first place on our list, but there have been a few times we were brought to the edge of craziness, running around like headless chickens, sweating profusely, yelling obscenities at each other, as we carried our heavy bags from hotel to hotel, eventually staying in a room that could be confused for a bus station bathroom. Now that we’re in our 30s, this isn’t allowed to happen anymore. I’ve been given strict orders from the higher up (ie. Sara). Luckily, the internet is always at my fingertips and there are really smart ambitious people out there. HotelQuickly is a free app that allows you to book hotels last minute at a discounted rate. It includes hotels from 14 countries in Asia and Australia. By selling last minute (maximum one day ahead of time), they’re able to offer a best price guarantee. Let’s try it out and see how much we can save.

    Screenshot from a phone of the HotelQuickly App

    A screenshot from the HotelQuickly app.

    A search for a hotel today, for 1 night in Ho Chi Minh City, brought up 10 options ranging from just over 2 million dong/night to 417,000 dong/night. The app may have more hotels, but it only shows you the top ten options. By default it sorts it by “Best Deal”. In this case, it’s the Rex Hotel, a famous hotel known for it’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The first guests in the hotel were American soldiers. The military’s daily conference was held there during the war. It’s a hotel with a lot of history and prestige. Normally, a night there would cost you around 2,880,000 dong ($135). HotelQuickly is offering it for 1,925,000 ($90). I’d love to stay here, and this would be a great opportunity to do it, but the whole “on the cheap” part of our website is saying, “no dude, no”. That’s alright, the app allows you to sort by “Budget”. There I find the Boss 3 Hotel for 417,000 dong (about $22) a night. That’s more like it, but is it actually cheaper than “the other guys”. Boss 3′s website shows me a price of 574,482/night. Agoda is quoting me 511,688. Booking.com says 630,000 dong. Expedia – 468,000 dong. It looks like HotelQuickly is offering the room for 51,000 dong cheaper.
    Boss 3 Hotel profile on HotelQuickly app

    Boss 3 Hotel

    But what about those pesky taxes and fees? I click “Book Room” and HotelQuickly adds up the total – 480,000 dong. Expedia, the second cheapest option I could find, comes to a total of 550,800 dong. Whoo-hoo, even more money saved! HotelQuickly came through with the cheapest price. I kiss my phone. It tastes like money. I pretend it’s the money I’ve just saved using HotelQuickly (it’s actually the money I was just handling before I picked up my phone).

    The app allows you to look at photos of the hotel, check out information about the facilities, and view it’s location on a map. The cost of the room will depend on how many nights you plan to stay, if you are booking the same day or one day ahead, and how late in the day you book it. That’s right, the longer you wait to book, the cheaper it’ll get. In fact, since I started writing this article the price of the Rex Hotel has dropped from 1,925,000 dong to 1,477,000. I love this, it makes hotel booking into a sport. I can see myself slowly making my way to the hotel of my choosing, as I update the app over and over again to see if the price drops, then booking literally 5 seconds before walking in the door (that might not be a good idea).

    Rex Hotel Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

    2 hours later, Rex Hotel’s price has dropped.

    It’s important to note that this app doesn’t allow you to choose how many people are staying in the room. It guarantees a standard room with double or twin sized beds, so it’s really only good for 1-2 people, otherwise you aren’t guaranteed a bed for your 3rd homie (although many hotels can offer a cot at an additional cost). Of course, it doesn’t cover every inch of Asia, so be sure to check to see if your next destination is available on it (they’re expanding quickly). Overall, I found it to be smooth, easy, and intuitive — perfect for a last minute hotel scramble. It uses GPS, so you don’t even have to type in your location, and you can sort by proximity. As I get older, my hotel finding strategy is changing. HotelQuickly has made this transition easier as it allows me to still not book ahead, but it takes away the worry of getting stuck in an overpriced dump-hole.

    To save even more money use our promo code after downloading the HotelQuickly app. Go to “Credits”, click “Redeem”, and enter RNEMU. You should get 400,000 dong in credits. Note: you must spend at least 15 real dollars on your first booking, so the credit will only be applied to any costs over $15. That’s for the first booking only.


  4. A Rant About Vietnam: Parenting

    November 6, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    I’ve lived in Vietnam for just less than 3 months now. I feel as though I’m getting used to the craziness that this country has to offer. I’ve seen a lot since my first afternoon stroll, when I saw a man drunkenly fall while getting up from a beer can covered table and then getting on a scooter and driving away. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the insanity, even when my survival is being compromised, but I really can’t stand watching a parent risk their child’s life by putting them on a scooter.

    Three people on a scooter in VietnamA few nights ago, Sara and I were cruising around the shopping district. It was a Friday night. The roads were busy with scooter drivers who were taking their eyes off the road to peer into stores. Suddenly, a bicycle came from the opposite lane and toppled over in front of us. It had been hit by a scooter as it tried to turn left. I quickly stopped and watched the woman on the scooter struggle to stay on the back seat as she held her baby in one arm. Once she got her balance, she yelled something in Vietnamese at the two young girls on the bicycle and held up her baby who was crying. Now, I’m not sure who was to blame for the incident, although in Vietnam you’re responsible for what’s in front of you, so usually if you crash into someone you’re at fault, but I don’t care either way. All I could think about was how this lady was using her baby as a way to make these girls feel bad. Like they jeopardized her baby’s life. Listen lady, you brought your baby out on a busy road at night. It’s Vietnam. Shit happens — a substantially large amount of shit happens. Your baby was at risk because you thought it would be okay to bring it out, and without a helmet, in a country where 10,000 people a year die of traffic accidents.

    When I’m driving down the highway and a man flies by me with his 5-7 year old daughter, going about 80 km/hour, no helmet on either of them — I almost want to pull over or find another route. I’m paranoid that I will cross paths with them again, further down the highway, with the bike on it’s side, a crowd gathered, and a streak of blood on the pavement. Driving is a risk in Vietnam. I’ve ranted myself stupid about it already. And yet you see images like this one all the time here.

    A Vietnamese man driving a scooter while holding a baby that isn't wearing a helmet.

    Even the baby knows this is a bad idea.

    When I decided I needed a photo of a baby on a motorcycle, it literally took 3 minutes until I had this one, plus a few more to choose from. I’ve driven a motorcycle with one hand before. I don’t feel safe doing it. If the need for a sudden stop or a quick swerve comes up, you’ll either have to grab the handle bars (and drop the baby) or crash. Holding a baby and driving with one hand makes me furious. What the hell are these people thinking? These rants are suppose to calm me, but this one is just making me angrier.

    In 2007, Vietnam made it illegal to ride on major roads without a helmet. This rule didn’t come with any exemptions for children. According to the World Health Organization, only 32% of children in Ho Chi Minh City are wearing helmets. Why are so many kids without a helmet in Vietnam? Well, when the helmet law was made parents saw that there was a loophole. In Vietnam, you can’t legally fine a child under the age of 16. That’s similar to the western world though, right? Parents are responsible for their underage children. The difference is, in Vietnam there was no rule that stated that a parent can be penalized on behalf of their children. No penalty? I guess that means no consequences… unless you count a dead child. In 2010, the legislation finally changed making it possible to fine the parents if a child that’s over the age of 5 isn’t wearing a helmet (but under the age of 5 is ok!). However, the change in law didn’t seem to have the impact that it should have. Perhaps, because there were no fines being given. Instead of enforcing the rules, the government decided to educate the people. They’ve put out ads, distributed flyers, and even gave out free children’s helmets. It didn’t really work. Even with ads like this one:

    How can you not put a helmet on a child after seeing that? According to a 2008 WHO survey, 57.8% of parents with non-helmet-wearing children under the age of 14 believed that the helmet would do neck damage to their child. This is a misconception that has been going around Vietnam for a while. There isn’t any evidence to support it.

    Another popular reason given by parents, the kids don’t want to wear them. That’s right, the children are like, “No mom, I don’t wanna wear this stupid helmet and I’m not brushing my teeth anymore either!” and the parents just go with it. In Vietnam, children are put on a pedestal. They are considered the future of the family and sometimes have more power around the house than their parents. I’ve seen some really bratty kids at the supermarket. They crash the cart into people and the parents don’t say a thing. This really surprised me because most of what I read about parenting in Vietnam is that the children are very respectful to their elders, but I haven’t noticed any of that. My landlord’s fat kid disobeys his dad like it’s his job, and without any consequences.

    There’s a saying in Vietnam, nhiều con hơn nhiều của. It translates to, many children are better than many possessions. Awww, aint that sweet. Except, it’s talking about the value of child labour. For the sake of the nation, I hope that the government reinstates the two-child policy.


  5. Conquering the Roads of Vietnam: Step One – Buying a Used Motorcycle

    October 21, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    Motorbikes, motorcycles, or scooters are a huge part of the the culture in Vietnam. They are great on fuel, they keep the roads from becoming too congested, they’re like mobile aircons. Yes, it is a bit scary at first, but if you’re moving to Vietnam you really should consider getting one. I love to walk, but in Vietnam it’s too damn hot and the sidewalks are too cluttered with bikes, stalls, and holes. The public transportation system in cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are not great. They’re limited, often packed, stifling, and not very convenient. Hands down, a motorcycle is the best way to get around. Unless you know you’re going to be in Vietnam for a really long time, I recommend buying a used bike because they motorbike in Vietnamare cheap, easy to repair, and they don’t attract as much attention from the infamous Vietnamese police. Also, like any vehicle, the resale value isn’t great — once you drive a new motorbike off the lot you can knock off a quarter of its value, so don’t think you’ll be able to sell your 2 year old scooter for anything close to what you paid for it. On the other hand, a 10 year old scooter is almost worth the same as a 12 year old one. I’ve bought two used bikes in Vietnam — this morning I was very close to buying a third (it’s addictive). Here’s what I’ve learned about the process.

    Where to buy

    There are a bunch of places to get bikes owned by foreigners, or by people who are looking to sell to foreigners. Here’s a breakdown of a few online sources. In order to compare them, I’ve checked all the sites to see how much the average Honda Dream is (a popular backpacker’s bike).

    • Travel Swop – A website where you can sell or buy things from other travelers. You can definitely find some deals on here, but most of the bikes are Honda Wins, Dreams, or Waves and they’ve been driven from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh (or vice versa) being repaired with cheap Chinese parts along the way. Of course, there are exceptions, so browse the site daily because they’ll go quick. Honda Dream: $250/5,300,000 VND
    • Tigit Ho Chi Minh City – Mainly sells to backpackers, but will also sell to people living in the Saigon area. Bikes are well maintained and fairly cheap. The owner is British and he’s happy to help with any questions you might have. Honda Dream: $300/6,380,000 VND
    • Craigslist Vietnam – Again, you can sometimes find good deals on here, but you don’t know how well maintained the bike has been. There are some jerk-wads on there that will try and rip you off so beware. Honda Dream: $275/5,850,000 VND
    • Quang Minh Motor Hanoi – A fairly popular shop with the Hanoi backpackers. I haven’t had any experience with them, but I’ve heard the owner speaks very good English. They don’t show what they have online, but I read about a sale that listed some very reasonable prices. Furthermore, the bike comes with a free helmet and they will also deliver. They’re mainly directed at tourists who want to ride around Vietnam for a while, so the bikes may have a lot of miles on them. Honda Dream: $200/4,255,000 VND
    • Honda 67 and Cub Factory Ho Chi Minh – If you’re looking for something stylish and classy, this place can hook you up. They mainly restore Honda Cubs, Honda 67s, Honda Challys, which are good options if you are looking for something under the 50cc mark — anything over that and you legally should have a Vietnamese license. It’s English owned and the bikes are well maintained. Honda Dream: unknown

    used motorcycle store in VIetnam

    Used bike store

    If you’re looking for the best deal, you might be better off avoiding that list and simply hitting the streets. Look for signs on bikes that say xe bán. This means vehicle for sale. You should be able to find some used bike stores that will have a wide selection. Bike repair shops sometimes have a couple bikes for sale out front. These are probably good options, because you know the bikes have been carefully looked at by a professional. If you want to go this route, it’s important to shop around a bit. Look at the websites previously mentioned and get an idea how much they are selling the type of bike you want for. To a Vietnamese sales person, a non-Vietnamese person just looks like some dollar signs taped together. You might have to go to multiple shops to find an honest person that will give you a fair price. Don’t be afraid to barter. Bring something to write numbers down with, or use your cell phone. Better yet, bring along a Vietnamese person with some experience.

    What Type of Bike

    This largely depends on what type of person you are. If you want something showy, there are a lot of cool vintage bikes that have been fixed up. Saigon Scooter Centre has old Vespa’s that have been updated with new engines. They’re real sharp looking, but costly. If you just want something straightforward, easy to use, inexpensive, reliable, and with enough power – I recommend a SYM Attila. They are fully automatic, so you don’t have to worry about shifting gears or stalling it. They are made from quality parts unlike some of the Honda bikes that have often been repaired with cheaply made Chinese parts. You can take the Attila to a SYM dealership if you need to repair it, which reduces your chances of being ripped off. I’ve heard about multiple backpackers that have rode them from Saigon to Hanoi (over 1500 km). They go about 28 kilometers per litre or 80 miles per gallon. They are very affordable. In Vietnam, everyone wants the latest thing whether it be the new iPhone or the new model of Attila. This means perfectly good Attilas are being sold at great prices. In fact, you can pick up a used one for about 3,500,000 VND or $165. It’ll be about 10 years old, but as long as it was well maintained it should be fine. The only downside to the Attila is that it looks like a spaceship mated with a jet ski. The newer models are actually pretty sharp, but you’ll have to pay a couple thousand if you want one of those.

    Sym Attila motorbike in Vietnam

    Despite the jet ski like appearance, you can’t drive it in the water.

    Before You Buy

    Before you throw your money down, make sure that the bike comes with a registration card (a little blue card that has a serial number, make and model, name of the original buyer, etc). You’ll need this to avoid getting your bike impounded. Every bike should also come with a license plate.

    Bike Inspection Checklist

    Check to make sure the following parts work:

    • The horn
    • All the lights including: signal lights on front and back, brake lights, headlights, rear headlight
    • Brakes – front and back
    • Engine – put the bike on its centre stand (make sure the back tire is off the ground), start it up, gun the engine. Listen for clicks, knocks, and anything else that sounds bad. The engine is probably the most expensive thing to fix, so this is important.
    • Gears – test every gear if you can. If you can test drive the bike this shouldn’t be hard, but if you are running it on the bike stand it might be tougher. The transmission is probably the second most expensive thing to fix.
    • Tires – Check to see how worn they are and if they are wobbly. If just the tread looks worn down it’s a pretty cheap fix, but if the tire wobbles when it spins then you’ll probably need to buy a whole new wheel.
    • Mirrors – not a huge deal because they’re cheap, but a lot of bikes will be missing mirrors.
    • Speedometer/Odometer – These break often and easily. Most bikes in Vietnam don’t have working ones. Neither of my bikes have speedometers, but I don’t think it’s much of a problem. You rarely even have the chance to go over the speed limit. An odometer is handy for knowing when to get your oil changed, but unless you are going a long distance, you can determine that by time.
    • Fuel gauge – another item that rarely seems to work on Vietnamese bikes. I’m used to not having a fuel gauge on my motorcycles, so it’s not a problem for me at all.

    WikiHow also has a good checklist
    Having repairs done is a good way to get a bit more bang for your buck. If, say, everything looks great except the back brake, don’t be afraid to ask them to get it fixed before you agree to buy it. Most places that sell bikes will have a mechanic that they can get cheap repairs from.

    Finalizing the Deal

    When a deal has been made you pay the person, they give you the keys and the blue card, you drive away. That’s it. If you haven’t learned how to drive yet, you can probably easily haggle free delivery. Learning to ride will be easier at home where you can take it slowly, as opposed to learning on your way home from the motorbike store and risk wrecking your new set of wheels.


  6. Buying Beef in Vietnam

    October 16, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    Beef stall at a Vietnamese market

    Beef stall at the market.

    I consider myself a bit of a meat connoisseur. I worked in the meat department of a grocery store from the age of 16-21… some of the best years of my life — not really. Since coming to Vietnam, it’s been a struggle finding the right cuts of meat to buy. The pieces are all there, but they don’t cut it up the way the western world does. Steaks and roasts meld into one. I find myself staring at hunks of meat for abnormally long amounts of time, trying figure out what part of the cow it came from. Is this a piece of butt or a flank? If I stare at it long enough maybe it’ll come to me. Of course, reading the label doesn’t help. In Vietnam, they write everything in Vietnamese — go figure. Translating the text usually leaves me even more confused. For example, thịt thăn viền mỡ will translate to loin fat rim, but it’s actually a strip steak/striploin/club steak, or porterhouse/boneless sirloin in Australia. Even more difficult is buying the beef at the market where there are no labels, only a blood covered man with chunks of dead cow. By the way, if you are going to buy your beef at the market I suggest going early. They will run out of certain cuts, and the meat isn’t refrigerated so the longer it sits in the sun, the better your chances are of getting sick. That being said, as long as it doesn’t smell rancid and you cook it properly, you should be okay. It’s fresh at the market — most likely killed that day, but the supermarket sometimes has an advantage that goes by the guttural sound Úc, which means Australia. Australian beef is better than Vietnamese beef. The cows are often shipped over live, so you’re not even giving up that much freshness. Watch for those two magic letters on your beef labels, kids.
    A chart that shows cuts of beef in English and Vietnamese

    Vietnamese/English Beef Cuts Chart


    Have a look below for some beef related English to Vietnamese translations or download the PDF version so you can print it and bring it with you to the grocery store. Much like in English, there are multiple terms for cuts of meat, so there may be a few different translations. Also, in my research I found some words that were used to describe very different parts of the cow. I tried to determine the best and most accurate translation, but if there are any mistakes please let me know. The last thing I want to say about beef in Vietnam — it isn’t great. Far from it actually. In soups like pho and bun bo Hue, it’s fine because it’s cooked slow and it absorbs the fantastic broth. A steak, on the other hand, isn’t going to be even close to the quality you’d get in Canada or USA (two of the best countries for beef in the world). I’ve sat in restaurants chewing on a piece of beef like a dogs trying to crack through a bone. Sometimes my jaw gets too sore and I have to spit it out. If you are buying beef to cook, make sure you cook it slow and buy a decent cut. If you are ordering beef in a restaurant, I recommend soups, luc lac, bo kho, or bo ne.

    Buying Beef in Vietnam English-Vietnamese Translations PDF

    Beef Terminology

    • Ba chỉ – plate
    • Bă vai rút xương – Boneless shoulder
    • Back Ribs – Xương sườn
    • Bắp bò – shank
    • Bịt tết – steak
    • Bò úc – Australian beef
    • Bò xay – ground beef
    • Các miếng bít tết nhỏ – Skirt steak
    • Cổ bò xương số 7 – 7 bone pot roast
    • Đấu nạc lưng – Blade
    • Đùi bò – thigh (top round or topside rump)
    • Filê – Tenderloin
    • Lõi mông – Eye of round
    • Màng vai nhỏ – Chuck roll
    • Mông – round
    • Mông dưới – Bottom round
    • Mông trên – Top round
    • Nạc cube – Cube roll
    • Nạc đùi gọ – Silverside
    • Nạc đùi ngoài – Outside
    • Nạc đùi trong – Topside round
    • Nạc lưng – Striploin
    • Nạc thăn – Knuckle/Sirloin tip
    • Nạc vai – boneless shoulder, chuck
    • Nạm bò – boneless beef topside
    • Nạm thăn – Flank steak
    • Quay – roast
    • Rút xương – Boneless
    • Sườn – ribs
    • Sườn cốt lết – Spencer roll
    • Sườn để nướng – Rib steak
    • Sườn non – Short ribs
    • Sườn vai – Blade
    • Thăn chuột – Short Loin
    • Thăn ngoại – sirloin
    • Thăn ngoại dưới – bottom sirloin
    • Thăn ngoại trên – Top sirloin
    • Thăn nội – tenderloin
    • Thăn phi lê – Fillet mignon
    • Thăn vai – Rib eye
    • Thăn viền mỡ – striploin
    • Thịt bụng – flank
    • Thịt cổ bỏ – Neck
    • Thịt đùi – Sirloin Butt
    • Thịt đùi ngoài – Outside Flat
    • Thịt đùi trong – Eye of Round
    • Thịt mông bò – Rump
    • Thịt nạc thăn – Top sirloin
    • Thịt thăn nội – Tenderloin
    • Thịt ức – Brisket
    • Thịt vai – Chuck
    • Ức bò – brisket
    • Xương – bone
    • Xương hình chữ T – T-bone

  7. If you’re not a teacher, what the hell are you doing in Vietnam?

    October 14, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    I’ve met a lot of people since moving to Vietnam – both Vietnamese who want to practice their English, and expats (the word we use for immigrants that are white) – and it’s always assumed that I’m a teacher. Where do you teach? You teacher? So, you must be the new teacher at such and such a school. I’m getting a bit tired of having to tell them that I’m not a teacher, but what’s even more tiresome is trying to explain what I am doing in Vietnam.

    Two years ago, I traveled through Vietnam for about 25 days. When I first arrived I wasn’t sure I liked it. The people seemed pushy. They were always trying to sell something to me/rip me off. The pace of life was so rapid compared to Laos, the country I was just in. But once I got away from the tourist areas I found the people to be very friendly and helpful. I adjusted to the pace of life and enjoyed how quick and exciting everything was. Vietnam was taking ahold of me. One morning, I woke up early and walked out of my hotel to a lady selling soup on a corner. I ordered one bowl. It was promptly served. I lost myself in it. The atmosphere, the sights, the sounds, the delicious delicious bowl of soup. That was it. I knew that I’d be back in Vietnam. It had to happen.

    bowl of duck soup in Vietnam

    Inspiration from a bowl of soup

    As all this was going down, I was reading the book The 4-Hour Workweek. The ideas in it were so simple, so obvious, but so under-utilized. If you know nothing about it, click on the link, read the synopsis, and buy the book. It could honestly change your life, especially if you feel over-worked and unsatisfied. The author, Tim Ferriss is an efficiency machine. He’s constantly trying to become the best/happiest person he can be, and he wants to share his discoveries with you.

    the book The Four Hour Work Week

    Life changing book

    So anyways, Vietnam and Tim Ferriss’ self-help masterpiece are a game-changing combination. My head raced along with the scooters in the streets. I don’t want to be a typical 9-to-5er. I don’t want to work for someone else. I want to make my own rules to life. I vowed to never work for a company again. I would generate my own income by living my life, the way I want to, and from where I want to.

    When I went back to Canada, my partner Sara and I came up with a plan. She would finish school, get her teaching degree, and I would work for just one more year, saving up money for my first mini-retirement, a term I learned from The Four-Hour Workweek. Why work through the prime of your life and then retire when you’re less lively, and perhaps limited in your activities? Mini-retirements throughout your life are a much better way to do it. This was an incredibly obvious thing to me. My dad passed away without any warnings at the age of 55. He was less than two years away from retirement, and it was all he could talk about. It felt like he never got the prize that he was promised at the end of it all, so I definitely wasn’t about to bust my ass for it. When Sara graduated, she found a job in Vietnam and I excitedly started thinking about what I wanted to do there as a retired man in my early 30s. I love photography, shooting and editing videos, and writing. Vietnam is a great big boiling pot of inspiration when it comes to those art forms. Every corner has something exciting and new. I also love Vietnamese food. I couldn’t wait to get to Vietnam and bury my head into all the culinary joys. I added that to the list of potentially profitable passions.

    living room and front porch, where I do most of my work

    Our living room and front porch.

    Fast-forward to now, one month since moving to Vietnam. Life is good. Living in a third-world country can be very challenging — stressful sometimes, but it’s my stress, not the stress that someone else is projecting on me because they want me to make more money for them. It’s also very exciting — a trip to the grocery store is an adventure. I see or experience something new everyday. In the past month, I’ve made more new memories that will last a lifetime, than I did the entire previous year. Vietnam is a great place for me to start this little experiment. It’s so cheap to live here, and Sara’s school pays for our rent. The only things I spend money on are internet ($5/month), electricity ($25/month), water ($10/month), my cell phone ($5/month), petrol (approx $15/month), security ($2.50/month), food and drink (varies — I could eat every meal out and only spend about $300/month). That’s around $340 a month when you split the electricity, internet, security, and water between 2 people. I’m very very very slowly going through my savings.

    My day usually starts by dropping my wife off at her bus stop, then driving around until I find a sign advertising a dish I’ve never tried. I order it, take a couple photos, and jot down some info as I swoon over it’s deliciousness. Then I head home and post up my findings to my website Vietnamenu. I’m hoping that after a year or so I’ll have enough content to generate a steady flow of Google juice, which I can turn into cash. If not, I’m happy just collecting culinary trophies while practicing my food photography, and learning about cooking and flavor combinations.

    Computer, camera, and GoPro

    My work gear

    After sharing my breakfast with the world wide web, the rest of my day depends on what I feel like doing. Maybe I’ll grab a coffee and do some writing. Maybe I’ll strap on my GoPro and shoot some video as I zigzag in and out of traffic, then do some video editing, and post it up to my Youtube channel. By placing ads on the videos I’m able to generate a bit of an income. I started carrying a camera wherever I go, because you never know what crazy thing you’ll stumble across. Making money off Youtube is a bit of a slow process, but for me it’s more about keeping myself happy and creatively satisfied.

    I know some people couldn’t do what I’m doing. Without a job they would feel valueless, like they aren’t contributing to society, which could lead to boredom and depression. Luckily, my hobbies lend to this lifestyle. I feel more motivated now than I ever have. Not having a job to get in my way, pin me down, and leave me exhausted at the end of a day, makes me feel free. Tomorrow could bring something fantastic. The world is my really tasty, fresh out of the ocean, with a little bit of lemon and seafood sauce, oyster.


  8. A Rant About Vietnam: Saving Face

    October 9, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    Vietnam has taken me on a roller-coaster ride since I’ve been here. There’s the ups and the downs, but the ups usually take longer — you know, like how a roller-coaster slowly ascends. click. click. click. And then, when it gets to the top and goes over that hump, it’s a quick exhilarating drop that only lasts a second. Well, Vietnam is like that. The ‘ups’ are longer, and the ‘downs’ only last a little while. But I guess the whole exhilaration thing kind of screws up my metaphor. Vietnam is like a box of chocolates… No. What I’m trying to say is, don’t think that I hate living in Vietnam just because I rant about it. I love it here, but I have to get my frustrations out somehow, and if you ask anyone living here if they have frustrations they will tell you, “Yes, yes I freakin do”.

    Before coming to Vietnam, like good boy scout, I did a lot of research about the culture. One thing I had heard about, but wasn’t really that familiar with, was the concept of ‘saving face’. It isn’t when you tell someone that they have to lay off the makeup. Despite the adventurous eating habits of the Vietnamese, it isn’t when you cut off the face of an animal and save it for later. ‘Face’ is your reputation, or your dignity. If you make someone look bad in front of their friends, you are making them ‘lose face’. This doesn’t just apply to calling someone out on their farts. It can be something as little as refusing to let someone pay for your meal, or pointing out a mistake that a person made. Personally, I think it’s stupid. The guide books will tell you to respect this part of the culture. Vietnamese man eating at the marketI say, shit all over it. Why? Because it needs to be done. Sometimes people need to be humbled. We should be able to recognize when we’ve made a mistake, confess to it, and make it right. Just look at the Vietnam War. One of the reasons that war lasted as long as it did was because America didn’t want to lose face. I think, they knew it was a mistake long before they actually withdrew all their troops, but they slowly backed out of it, like a straight guy that just walked into a gay bar, pretending that they knew what they were doing the whole time. You’d think Vietnam would have learned something in those 10,000 days.

    It seems as though I am the only one that’s allowed to lose face in Vietnam. I’ve been told not to low-ball people at the market, but I’ve been ripped off (big time ripped off!) several times. The rice grain that broke the sack (a Vietnamese saying that I just made up) is when I went to a plant nursery looking for some water plants for our pond. It was incredibly difficult communicating what I wanted, but I managed to buy one water lily. The cost was 500,000 dong, which, amongst all the confusion, I handed over without hesitation. I’m going to sacrifice my face now and admit that I’m an idiot. With all the zeros on the money it’s easy for me to get confused when converting the cash into my native currency. In my head I was like, “$2.50, that’s a pretty good deal”, but I actually paid $25. It wasn’t until later that I realized this. A few days after that, I was driving along and I noticed another nursery. I popped in to see how much they were charging for their water lilies. The lady showed me 6 fingers. At first I thought 600,000 and that I hadn’t gotten ripped off at the previous place, but then I thought about where I was. Vietnam is known for it’s remarkable plant growing conditions, and it’s low low prices. I pulled out my phone and typed in 60,000. The lady looked at it and nodded.

    Sara sits by the pond and the water lilies.

    Sara enjoying the $3 water lily just as much as the $25 one.

    I think that was the first time I had ever been upset about something being much cheaper than I expected. Sixty thousand versus five hundred thousand… I paid $25 for something worth $3. That’s a hell of a white-man markup. I was so tempted to go back to that original nursery and give them a piece of my mind, but what would I say? They don’t understand any English. Instead, I prepared for war. I started keeping track of the prices of food. I keep my receipts from the grocery store, and then when I go to the market and they tell me that a head of lettuce costs 10,000 dong (50 cents) I go, “pfffffffffffffffffffffffft” right in their face, then I whip out my receipt and show them that I bought one at the grocery store for 3000 (about 15 cents). They try and keep their face intact, blabbering on in Vietnamese, but I just give them the old talk-to-the-hand-cause-the-face-don’t-wanna-listen (universal language) and walk away. I’ve started collecting Vietnamese faces. Like a Native American collecting scalps, I ride around on my scooter looking for faces to add to my collection. A driver makes a stupid turn without signalling and almost crashes into me, I yell at them.

    “What the hell are you doing, assface!”

    They don’t understand, but the yelling attracts attention and they feel embarrassed — that’s another face on my belt.

    Gas station in Vietnam

    Beware of scams at gas stations.

    Today, I was a victim of the gas station scam. Sometimes, the attendants will purposefully forget to reset the meter, so you end up paying for the previous patron’s fuel on top of your own. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion. Usually I’m ready for it, but today I was filling up a new bike, so I was distracted looking for the gas cap. By the time I noticed, it was too late. The cost was 120,000 dong. It should have only been about 90,000, but for 30,000 it’s worth it to have the man’s face. I yelled some obscenities, pointing to the number on the gas pump and shaking my head as if to say, “shame on you”. The man shrunk up like a scolded dog. I paid him the money and he quickly retreated in shame, probably to go hide under a tree. Should I have just let him get away with it? Maybe laughed like, “Oh, you got me”. If there are no consequences, what will stop them from doing it again? If you’re going to act like a child, I’m going to scold you like one. Speaking of children, I’ve heard countless tales of Vietnamese assistant teachers that have put children at risk by not listening to the western teacher. The reason why could be two things:

    1. They didn’t understand the instructions, which won’t be admitted because it’s considered losing face. Instead they’ll nod their heads saying, “Ok, ok” but really they’ll be thinking “What they hell does this lady want me to do?”. One of the assistant teachers was actually fired because of this. His reaction to being let go: “Okay, okay” while nodding his head. He would have shown up to work the next day if the principal hadn’t gone get a Vietnamese person to translate the news to him.
    2. They disagreed with the instructions and decided to do it the Vietnamese way. Parents put their children in western schools, and pay quite a bit of money for it, because they want western standards. Apparently, this includes keeping your children safe from fires, strangers, and paper cutters.

     
    I would have had all those assistant teacher’s faces in a second. I’d be wearing them on top of mine and dancing around the room. In my eyes, if you don’t correct someone for putting a child at risk you’re a bad teacher — forget the taboos of the culture.

    If you’re traveling to Vietnam, I’m going to go ahead and tell you the opposite of what Lonely Planet and Frommer’s say (you should probably always do the opposite of what they advise). If a Vietnamese person tries to take advantage of you, take their face. If you really want to help the culture go forward into the next century, yell at them when they make a mistake. Shame them for trying to rip you off. Learn phrases like ăn gian (cheat), and quá đắt (too expensive). I’ve read that the consequences could be dire, but they’re pretty small people. You could probably beat up a few of them at a time. Seriously though, just because a culture has been doing something for a long time, doesn’t mean it’s right. The world is constantly changing. It’s time for everyone to be honest with one another, be direct. No more beating around the rice paddy field.


  9. The Vietnamese Have Been Eating Hipster Since Before Hipster was Hip

    October 1, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    Southeast Asian hipster

    Southeast Asian Hipster

    I’m not a hipsterologist or anything — in fact, I once thought being hipster, scenester, and emo were all the same thing (an hour long rant set me straight). However, I did live in Toronto, Canada for about 8 years, and… Well, if you live at the zoo, you’re going to learn about animal behavior. Most of my hipster behavioral studies courses have taken place at cafes or restaurants, so I think I’ve got a pretty good sense of their eating habits. Since moving to Vietnam and having the chance to study an entirely new race of people, I have found some interesting similarities to the hipster race. I’ve decided to break it all down and see who eats more hipster – the Vietnamese or the hipsters. Lace up your Cons, this shit’s on.

    Eating Local

    Hipsters

    This is very important to them. Hipsters frequent weekly local markets to pay more money for food that’s sourced closer to their home. Of course, in winter the local markets shut down, so hipsters go into hibernation, only eating ironically when they absolutely must. It’s how they stay thin enough to fit into their pants.

    Vietnamese

    The markets are daily, all year round, and almost everything is grown or raised locally. How locally? Well, if I look out the window of my suburban house right now, I can see a couple cows grazing on the neighbour’s trees. It would be easy to source all my food for a year from areas within 100 miles. If you pull that off in Canada you write a book about it.

    Winner: Vietnamese

    Dining Furniture and Tableware

    A chair at a table in a Vietnamese dining room

    Hipsters

    Studies show, a hipster’s food actually tastes better if it’s served on a vintage looking plate. Ideally, it should be somewhere between Madmen and Downton Abbey era. Ugly tableware also works, as long as it’s being used ironically.

    Vietnamese

    All the furniture in Vietnam is pretty ugly. I’ve yet to determine if it’s done ironically, but the sense I get is that they just have really bad taste. Our table is pretty retro though. I could picture Peggy Olsen sadly eating alone at it.

    Winner: Hipsters

    Gluten free diet

    Hipsters

    To a hipster, gluten is about as evil as mainstream music. They would prefer to drink beer made from millet, rice, or corn than traditional barley. In Germany, they would be arrested for that nonsense. A science person told me gluten has something icky in it that affects people who have celiac disease and hipsters.

    Vietnamese

    Although, the Vietnamese aren’t against eating gluten, they don’t really eat it that much. They prefer rice noodles to wheat based ones. They don’t really eat cake or cookies. Even their bread is only half wheat flour (the other half is usually rice flour). They do like their beer though.

    Winner: Hipsters

    Nose to Tail Eating

    Hipsters

    A new trend that hipsters have started yammering on about is eating ‘nose to tail’ — not wasting any part of the animal. There are some trendy restaurants/hipster hangouts in Toronto that are based on this. They serve up tasty dishes like cow brain tortellini, and beef tongue risotto. Of course, non-hipsters have been eating nose to tail for a long time now – what do you think hotdogs are made out of? But the difference is, hipsters brag about their whole-beast-eating. This is essential to the movement. They use it to spout knowledge about the food industry and French novels.
    The Vietnamese rice porridge, chao long.

    Vietnamese

    When I go out for breakfast I usually pass by 3 or 4 places that are serving up chao long. It’s basically rice gruel with pig innards – intestines, cheeks, heart, kidney, liver, whateves. Last weekend I saw a dog’s head for sale at the market. That’s right, the head of a dog hanging off a hook at a stall in the meat market. Now, I don’t speak Vietnamese so I can’t say whether they are bragging about eating nose-to-tail, but c’mon – if you ate a dog’s head for dinner you’d be telling anything that still had ears.

    Winner: Vietnamese

    Free Range

    Hipsters

    I’m not sure if it’s because of animal cruelty, or because of evil corporations like Monsanto (perhaps a combination of both), but hipsters hate corn fed animals. If a hipster eats meat, they want it to be free range — cows that eat grass and not corn, chickens that are allowed to roam around and eat whatever they can find. Unfortunately, this is not that easy to find in North America. You have to go to specialty stores like the hipster haven Whole Foods.

    Vietnamese

    The cows in Vietnam are furious at the western world and how they treat their livestock. The chickens are too. They have been cawing and clucking about America’s poultry industry since before the egg. In Vietnam, some of the cows and chickens don’t even have fences to contain them. They wander around my subdivision eating and making barnyard noises to their soon-to-be-eaten heart’s content. Not like in those prisons we call pastures – with their fences, which are sometimes electric! How barbaric!
    Cows on an abandoned lot in Vietnam
    Winner: Vietnamese

    Vegan diet

    Hipsters

    The ability to not eat meat or dairy is perhaps the hipster’s greatest weapon. It just takes one vegan hipster to make a room full of people feel like a smear of shit on the bottom of a worn out work boot. Combine this with a gluten-free diet and you have the Megazord of hipsters – a pale, frail, skinny as a rail, smug spewing machine.

    Vietnamese

    Vegans in Vietnam? Bahaha! Even vegetarianism in Vietnam is a joke. The other day I went to a vegetarian restaurant in a Buddhist temple and got a bowl of vegetarian crab noodle soup (bun rieu). The broth is made by crushing crabs whole and filtering the juices out. There were slices of pork loaf floating in it, for Buddha-sake!

    Winner: Hipsters

    Results

    Hipsters – 3

    Vietnamese – 3

    It’s a tie! I guess we’ll have to wait and see what crazy food fad the hipsters come up with next. Maybe they’ll stop eating food that involves chewing. Or perhaps a diet consisting entirely on foods that make your farts smell bad. If it’s hacking up phlegm in restaurants, the Vietnamese will surely take the title.


  10. A Rant About Vietnam: Everything is so Cheap…ly Made.

    September 24, 2014 by Itchy Feet on the Cheap

    Vietnam is great. If you get the chance to come here, do it. The people are friendly. The food is amazing. It’s exciting and challenging and rewarding. Sometimes it makes me want to put on a hockey skate and stomp a puppy. To stop myself from doing that, I must vent. That’s why this article exists. Consider one week’s worth of puppies saved (at least from me — I can’t save the ones that will end up on a Vietnamese dinner plate).

    Made in Vietnam Clothing Store

    When I first came to Vietnam, I couldn’t believe how inexpensive everything was. A rolling pin for 35,000 dong? Hell, let’s get two — one for cooking, one for chasing overly cocky paperboys with. Then, somewhere between being zapped by my own bug zapper and a ruined meal due to a pepper shaker’s lid not staying on, the age-old expression came to mind: you get what you pay for. In Vietnam, everything is cheap and everything is cheaply made. The country is basically a giant dollar store. Either they don’t have inspectors, or they just don’t give a damn. I’m quite sure the stores that sell this crap don’t care. One place I went to had a shelf on display that was very rickety. I had a quick look at it and saw that only a few of the screws were put in. I figured they just threw it together to display it and didn’t worry about putting all the screws in since it wouldn’t be used anyways. I bought one, brought it home, and started to put it together. It turns out the screws weren’t put in because the holes weren’t drilled properly. I could only manage to get 6 out of 12 screws in, and now I have a shelf that can only be used to hold feathers and tissue paper. I’m convinced that the store knew what was up, but they sold it anyways. I’d ban the place, but if I banned everyplace I got ripped off at I would end up having to buy everything in Singapore. Perhaps Vietnam is exporting all of their quality goods to the western world. In 2013 they exported $128.9 billion worth of goods — 17.8% of that was to the United States. Have a look at the tags on your clothing, America. You’ll probably see made in Vietnam a few times. First you melted the faces of innocent Vietnamese villagers, and now you’re forcing them to wear sub-quality tee-shirts? Damn you, USA!

    Here’s a list of things we’ve bought that deserve a big fat FAIL:

    • Salt shaker – the inside rusted after 2 weeks
    • Pepper shaker – lid won’t stay on
    • Shelf – mis-drilled holes
    • Adhesive hook – doesn’t stick
    • Bug zapper – electrocutes user
    • Garbage bags – large slices in them
    • Spatula – broke in half after one use
    • Peeler – broke during third use
    • Steamer tray – doesn’t fit pot because it’s slightly oval