I have travelled through some parts of Asia before but when I arrived in Vietnam for the first time there were a few things which surprised me. I was planning to head to Vietnam in December but my circumstances changed and I ended up going in October.
On your first arrival in Vietnam you can get a free 15 day visa. No need to apply ahead of time. If you want to stay longer than that, or have already used your free visa, you should apply online. The price depends on the length of your trips and whether you will need multiple entry. You can check it all out here on VietnamVisa.org.
They Don’t Have Tuk Tuks!
Each Asian city I have visited so far has insane traffic. Scooters, cars, buses, tractors but also tuk tuks! Slightly different variations across the continent but they all seem to have a version. When I got off my first bus in Vietnam I was expecting a line of tuk tuk drivers to be there. All shouting in my face and trying to make me go with them. I came down the bus stairs, got my bag and looked around … nothing.
There were men shouting ‘Bike, bike!’ at me, but there was no chance I was getting on the back of a motorbike. Not with a 17.5kg backpack on my back, and a 7kg backpack on my front! I may as well just put myself directly in the ambulance to A&E!
Eventually I made it to my hostel after flagging down a cab. I didn’t have any Dong on me (Vietnamese currency if you’re wondering) so had to pay in US dollars. My driver was a bit confused about this but we muddled through the language barrier.
I haven’t travelled all of Vietnam yet, only Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Dalat and Phu Quoc. The only place I spotted anything resembling a tuk tuk was in Hanoi. I can only really compare it to a pram! It was a driver on a bicycle and on the front is a small one seat carriage that you sit in while they pedal you around. Very odd!
If I was you I’d get an Uber or a Grab Bike!
They Hate Vegetarians!
Ok maybe they don’t HATE vegetarians. But I honestly am so surprised at the lack of meat free foods available! I don’t eat much meat, I only eat fish that isn’t fishy and doesn’t have a head / tail / bones still on it and I don’t like spicy foods. So Asia isn’t a natural food heaven for me. But I honestly love Asian food and I haven’t ever struggled before. I call myself a flexetarian because I know what I do and don’t like, and what I am and am not willing to try. BUT I am not picky! I think picky eaters can be hard work and awkward. I will always find SOMETHING on the menu of a restaurant. Even if it ends up being a side salad and chips (that has happened before in Burger Lobster in London), or a plain omelette (resorted to that the last couple of weeks!) The fresh fruit and veg are delicious over here and in my opinion the meat is questionable, so I choose not to eat it.
I was in Phu Quoc, a beautiful Vietnamese Island and ordered a ‘Vegetarian Tofu Curry’. To say I was surprised to find lumps of pork in it was an understatement!
In Ho Chi Minh airport I had a 3 hour layover between flights which happened to be at lunch time. I checked the sandwich shops, everything was ham and cheese, egg and bacon, pork rolls. I asked each if they had any plain cheese sandwiches. No success. The lady on the counter in one of them looked at me like I had three heads and recommended I tried Burger King … ooooook! I was a bit confused by her solution, but I headed over anyway as in the UK they do have a vegetarian option. When I asked at the counter if they had any meat free options and the lady smiled and said no but we have this, and proceeded to point to the chicken burgers. I gave in at this point and just ordered some chips.
When I got to Dalat part way through my two week visa I found a small stall with a big sign over the top reading ‘Vegetarian Food’ so I darted across the road to it. I have literally no idea what I was eating, I could only identify rice, tofu and a strange mushroom and tofu combo. At least it restored my faith in finding some veggie food!
They Actually Still Eat DOG!!!
I hate this. Don’t get me wrong, I understand poorer countries eat whatever meat they can get their hands on as they don’t have the luxury of choice. Whether that be frogs, chickens, spiders, snakes, crickets … I imagine there aren’t many animals that don’t get put on a plate. But the thought of eating a dog makes me feel physically sick. I was so surprised that it is really a thing! Before visiting Vietnam I had been told that this was the case but I don’t think I really believed it. I still choose not to believe it and will carry on in my state of blissful ignorance. If I wasn’t already totally off meat, the thought of accidentally eating a dog would have fully tipped me in that direction.
Their currency is Vietnamese Dong … lols! That isn’t something that ‘surprised’ me, but I do find it funny.
With all that being said I am really excited to go back to Vietnam for Christmas, if anyone has any tips please do let me know, we’re starting in the South and working our way up the country!
Here are some other blog posts you might find interesting if you’re planning a trip in Asia!