Posted by: The Travelling Mallorys | September 19, 2010

Vietnam part two – I’m a Travelling Mallory, Get Me Out Of Here!

When we left you were were just getting to Hue in Vietnam. Now we’ve left Vietnam after having less of a good time than we were hoping for.

I’ll say. You know when you meet a person for the first time and you don’t really get on with them, even though you keep trying and you put in loads of effort?

Like me and you?

No laughing boy, like us and Vietnam. We really wanted to like it and have a great time, but it’s somewhere we just didn’t click with.

It’s true. We had some good times but all the hassle and madness wore us down in the end. Let’s do it like Memento and tell the whole story in reverse.

Or, why don’t we just pick up from where we left off last time.

OK, that works for me. So yeah we got to Hue and were really excited to see actual people and things to do, so that got us excited. On the first night we went to this street with loads of bars and restaurants and ate at a place called Ushi’s run by Ushi.

Ushi says HI

Ushi says HI

It was really friendly with loads of happy laughing staff. The menu had a range of things that are standard in the touristy zones, but this had something we hadn’t seen in ages and as soon as I read the menu I had to have that taste of home – a jacket potato!

Amazing the things you miss when you’re away.

I had a choice of plain, tuna or cheese. I went with cheese because that’s the classic combo. The excitement mounted and then…

Mine turned up. I had pasta and it was pretty good.

And I wasn’t too worried about mine not being there yet – it’s pretty common for food not to come out at once, and hey a jacket potato takes a while if you want to do it properly.

Before too long the wait was over. I could see people at the tables between us and the kitchen watching the potato as it was carried over to me. People were telling their dates to turn around to see it. “This is going to be fucking amazing” I thought to myself. And then it landed on the table in front of me and I laughed.

Then I laughed.

Then people that hadn’t already seen the potato laughed too – it was a really small potato that had been microwaved, cut in half and served with a slice of dirty cheese on the top.

To their credit they also provided chopped chives. Don’t forget the chopped chives.

Which made all the difference. It was so funny! But not filling so I had to have a pancake for afters – all in all a pretty good deal for me!

The next day we went to the Citadel which was really beautiful. It’s beauty was only exceeded by the heat of the day. Vietnam is easily the hottest place we have been so far, but the Citadel was great.

Citadel in Hue

Citadel in Hue

I met a bloke there who was doing a survey for his degree or something so we had a chat about football and then I filled in his survey and then he told me he worked with blind kids and started asking me for money – it was a scam! I was having none of it obviously.

Obviously – you are way too smart.

That’s right.

The next day we took a city tour along the river to various temples. The day started with an amazing kung fu demonstration which included people smashing roof tiles with their bare hands, girls with swords, guys flying through the air with nunchuks and, most amazingly, a man throwing a spear into a tree then pulling it out, resting all his weight on it and drinking a glass of water!

HiYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

HiYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

The reason this was on the tour was not only to amaze us, but to teach us about how Vietnam fought off all the invasions they’ve had over history. It’s because everyone knows kung fu (or at least they used to). It was law to learn it at school so if China tried to invade everyone could club together and kick their arse, which is apparently how it went.

After that we went to a load of temples which were all pretty cool. There was a little gang of English backpackers on the tour which was nice. We all did that “where have you been” thing, but then had enough time to actually have some ‘getting to know you’ conversations which is so much more interesting than just banging on about how you bartered someone down by 10,000 dong for a room or whatever which is how most annoying backpacker conversations go.

So we hung around in Hue for a bit trying to find more things to do, and were pretty successful in that we found two art galleries to wander around. Both were well worth a look.

That was it though, unless we wanted to go on a tour to the DMZ or take an organised trip to the beach.

And therein lies the whole Travelling Mallorys vs Vietnam beef. Vietnam is totally tourist friendly, as long as you do it a certain way – their way. There are things you must see, but more often than not the only way to see them is to go on an organised tour and pay loads of cash. In other places you can do that if you want, but you usually have an option not to – you can get a local bus for example – but Vietnam isn’t set up like this.

It’s sort of like there are tourist zones and real people zones. This is true everywhere in a way but in Vietnam it’s like you’re doing something wrong if you stray out of the tourist zone. We walked for 30 minutes to a cinema in Hanoi (the second biggest city in Vietnam) and because we weren’t in the tourist bit people were staring, nudging their friends, kids hid behind their grandparents

Only because you pulled a face at him you meanie!

Fair point, but you know what I’m saying. I’m sure tourists don’t go to that area because it’s ever so slightly off the map and as local people never go to the tourist area it was a clash of cultures in the cinema.

OK drama queen. Clash of cultures is a bit strong, but we get the point. Vietnam is a travelator that you aren’t allowed to get off. Everyone goes top to bottom or bottom to top and does the same stuff – that’s why we saw people we knew everywhere we went.

Anyway, next was Hanoi which we really hoped would be more like Saigon where we had such a good time. In some ways it was – more people, more hustle, more bustle – but it was the same story in many ways. Everyone wants to sell you a tour, but we just want to walk around to see stuff, so that’s what we did.

And it was good.

It was good to a point – all the motorbikes wore me down in the end. I just wanted to be able to cross a road without risking my life!

Crossing the road on a green man

Crossing the road on a green man

It’s true – even on a green man you’re swimming through traffic. We got pretty good at negotiating it all by the end but it was a bit of a headache.

Did somebody say headache? The traffic was mental, and the noise was incredible.

She doesn’t mean incredible in a good way, in case you were wondering.

Everyone beeps their horn all the time so walking down the street is an inescapable aural assault.

To be honest, by the end, we were a bit sick of Vietnam. Food wasn’t great, traffic was insane, people kept trying to flog us tours we didn’t want and we wanted to get out of there.

So we did. TG for not booking everything in advance (except we did book our flight out in advance but Laos Airlines let us change it for free – we love you Laos Airlines!).

There were some good things though:

  • Saigon was great
  • Hue Citadel was lovely
  • My Son was really nice
  • The Pho and Cao Lau were lush
  • The beer was occasionally cheap (and regularly grim!)
  • A lot of the people were really really nice
  • We mostly stayed at top places
  • Wicked coffee
  • Erin got a free banana once from the water lady
  • The museums and galleries we went to were all great (there just weren’t enough of them)
  • The mighty Mekong

So it’s not all bad.

We’re glad to be in Laos though which is a different kettle of fish altogether.

We hope!

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Responses

  1. […] be honest. It had some cool stuff, and some that was a bit less cool (but more about that over on The Travelling Mallorys) so I won’t be leaving beautiful Worthing for Vietnam anytime soon. Vietnam scores 35 […]


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