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Living in Vietnam

8 Nov

Today, as it was planned, I will tell you about what it is like to live in Vietnam.

Being a foreigner in Vietnam:

First of all, you need to know that if you go a bit off the beaten track, people will stare at you. It is really impressive at the beginning, but then you just get used to it. With my friends, we have seen everything; from the taxi driver honking at his colleagues to show them he had White people inside, to the woman cycling who nearly crashed on the walls because she was staring at us instead of looking at where she was going. Then, you always have some men and children shouting an “hello!” at you, so when it is children, you’re answering, but what was funny, was that when it was men, my boyfriends were the only one answering, thinking it was a nice thing. As girls, we were used to ignoring them, as we do in Western countries.

When you’re Black, it is even worse; people are less used to see people with a skin colour, in Vietnam, they actually think that the whiter skin the better (for them, it means you’re not working in the fields). Even us, when we were seeing Black people were getting crazy, because we are used to it in France, but in Vietnam, we would see one Black guy per month, so it felt like we were catching up with a more Western life.

Being a stranger in Vietnam (and for sure in many other countries in development) also means being faced with particular behaviours. We were offered free stuffs many times because we were strangers in Bien Hoa (I have a pen from Papparoti, we were offered a piece of cake in a bakery…), and sometimes it has its counterparts, such as the sudden raise of prices (apparently, the local bread maker firstly sold her bread for 10 000 dongs to my friends, the day after, it was 8 000 and it then fell at 5 000 dongs, the regular price).

 

Corruption:

There is also a lot of corruption, so if you’re caught on a motorbike by a policeman (which should not happen, because you cannot drive in Vietnam unless you have a Vietnamese driving license, but hey, you can also buy this), you can give him money to let you go. But then, expect him to ask more money from you than a regular Vietnamese (although less than 200 000 dongs should do it).

 

Language and expression:

One thing you need to know, is that it always helps when you speak a bit of Vietnamese. A lot of Vietnamese started to speak to us normally in their language just because we had said a few words before. Vietnamese language is very particular and difficult to pronounce. But if you speak a bit of it, sellers will usually understand you’re not a tourists, so they will lower their prices, by nicer… It also really helps when people do not speak a word of English. If you’re planning to stay in Vietnam for more than 6 months, then you should definitely learn the language. We’ve seen so many expatriates not bothering with the language, it was silly of them.
If you’re staying for one week to 6 months, then you need, at least, to learn numbers and polite words such as thank you (“cam on”) or hello (“sin chao”).

Don’t be angry if you see that people don’t apologise for pushing you, or don’t say hello or sorry, they use less polite manners as we do. In their culture, there’s no need to apologise for everything or say thank you all the time. And then, never forget that even if they think about telling you a polite expression, they may not be able to say it.

You can express yourself with your hands, which is quite convenient. For instance, to say “no”, the Vietnamese way is to raise your hand near your shoulder, open your fingers and shake it from left to right. If you’re harassed by sellers, they will understand better this shaking than an English “no”. Then, for counting, you need to avoid using your thumb. If you want to say “2” with your hands, normally you would use your thumb and your forefinger, but in Vietnam, they will understand one, they use the thumb only for showing five.

 

Politics:

Vietnamese people hate China. It is a fact, some of my friends there were even asking me “what do we do if there’s a war??”. I don’t think that Chinese people should expect to be assaulted if staying in Vietnam, but Vietnamese people may not be the nicest with them (however, I haven’t seen anything of this while I was there).

Last summer, a lot of things happened with China and the Paracels islands, which are deserted islands but Taiwan, China and Vietnam want to own them. So the relations between China and Vietnam are not at their top.

There are also trouble with human rights in Vietnam. According to Reporters sans Frontières, Vietnam is only ranked three places ahead of China.

Vietnam is not a dangerous country, it is more like a Western country, so obviously, you need to be careful with your personal belongings while visiting, but I have never seen anything that could not happen in Europe for instance. The only things to be noted is that I was stolen my mp3 player while coming inside a bus alone, but I was not really careful because it was so old that it has been years I hadn’t pay attention to it. One of my friends has been sexually assaulted, but it was “light”, only a guy on the street who slammed her buttocks (which was quite surprising, because even if Vietnam is not the best place for gender equality, men did not seem violent).

Food:

Contrarily to what people say, there is nothing to be worried about hygiene. In six months, I haven’t met anyone who had digesting troubles. I have eaten everyday in a street food stall and had never any problem.

Another thing to know, is that eating outside is cheaper than cooking (well, at least for Westerners). Western products usually cost the same price as in Europe, but eating outside costs 1€ per meal. So if you’re looking for a place to live, try to find it where there is a diversity of food stalls.

 

 

 

Swensen’s

21 Oct

Today, a small post about an ice-cream chain that I found in Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia). I think that it is a Vietnamese chain, but I am not sure, I didn’t find anything about it on-line but a Vietnamese website.

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Hanh Phuc Bakery, Bien Hoa

18 Oct

Today is my last post about Vietnam… Quite sad!
Hanh Phuc Bakery is a kind of American bakery, with cheesecakes, ice blended drinks (frappucino), or American cakes.
The place looks really nice and is owned by (probably) a Viet Khieu (which means a foreigner from Vietnam who comes back to Vietnam). I am just guessing, but this man does not look at all Vietnamese, he speaks American and has tatoos all over the body.

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KOTO Saigon

14 Oct

 

 

Remember my post about KOTO in Hanoi? Well, I finally tried their location in Saigon, and this time I had dinner.

The place is a bit hidden at the bottom of an alley, and it is quite modern. It looks like a big modern house you would like to live in.

 

 

 

 

We had some nice juices to start with. One of my friends tried the mixed juice (you choose yourself among a list of fruits) with ginger, it was delicious!

I had a passion fruit juice. The mixed juice cost 50 000 dongs (less than 2€) and the passion fruit juice cost 40 000 dongs (1,5€).

Then, because we were with three people who had just arrived in Vietnam, we decided to take some springrolls to share with mango, beef and fresh vegetables to make them try. It was quite good!

Then, we all decided to take some vegetarians arancini (it is an Italian stuffed ball of rice). We all thought that because we were lacking some veggies, taking this would be quite good (although we completely forgot that we would still eat rice, as usual).
They were good too, served with a tomato sauce. Each one cost 110 000 dongs (4,15€).

Finally, most of us took a dessert. One of my friends took the creme caramel (banh flan), which seemed to be made nicely. It cost 45 000 dongs (1,7€).

 

I had the chocolate tartlet, which was not a success, the dough was a bit old a too soft, the chocolate was not really breathtaking. It cost 75 000 dongs (less than 3€).

 

 

Then, another friend had a chocolate mud cake, which looked ok. It cost also 75 000 dongs.

 

 

Here is the bill!

 

Mark: 3/5
Nice place and nice food, and it is made for helping young people! Quite disappointed about the desserts (even more after seeing the menu on their website with the peanut/chocolate dessert).

 

KOTO:

151A, Hai Ba Trung

District 3 (really close to district 1), Saigon

http://www.koto.com.au/saigon-restaurants

Vietnamese snacks: Ice-cream

13 Oct

 

A small post about the kind of ice-creams you can find in Vietnam.
If you go to a small shop, you’ll probably have ice-creams like this one. There isn’t much flavour available: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, but sometimes also taro.
Then, they put some crushed peanuts on top, and then a few candied papaya (usually many Vietnamese will tell you not to eat those because it’s from China, well nothing ever happened to me, but it’s true that Vietnamese people are sometimes a bit rude to China, because of their political tensions).

Cakewalk, Saigon

11 Oct

Here is the last cupcake shop I wanted to try in Saigon. I had a breakfast day, although they don’t quite have a breakfast menu. With a friend of mine, we had this evening+breakfast+lunch full of the restaurants we wanted to try, so we were really full.

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Papparoti

8 Oct

Today I will tell you about some food stall you can find around Vietnam. Unfortunately, there is not the list of all the locations on the website, because it is a franchise, but there were two stalls in Bien Hoa, and I know there is at least one in Hanoi.

Papparoti (the father of all buns) is a Malaysian brand. They make only one type of bun.

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Mi Han Quoc, Korean restaurant in Bien Hoa

8 Oct

 

 

This also a restaurant next to my old place in Bien Hoa in Vietnam. It is a Korean restaurant.
When you come inside, the Vietnamese waiters greet you in Korean, it’s quite fun.

 

 

 

 

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L’Usine, Saigon

4 Oct

 

 

 

 

One of the coolest places in Saigon. It took me 4 months to go there (I knew it existed, but always had other things to do).
It’s a kind of cafe/restaurant mixed with a clothes and accessories shop.

 

 

 

 

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Chez Plisson, Bien Hoa

3 Oct

 

 

Another restaurant in Bien Hoa in Vietnam.
This one is owned by a French man and the food is only Italian (pizza and pasta).

 

 

 

 

 

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