More Musings on Vietnam – Part Two
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, World Traveler
15 November 2018
Vietnam is definitely a fascinating place!

Decoding the WiFi

I’ve become highly amused by WiFi network passwords in my travels. In the US it’s like a whole secret you couldn’t guess. In France it’s the cryptic code that comes on the router, in Costa Rica and Portugal it’s frequently open, with no code, but in Vietnam WiFi, with few exceptions, uses one of three formats for their passwords. The code is one of, “12345678,” “88888888,” or the same name as the WiFi network itself.

The lanterns in Hoi An.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

How to Accidentally Make a Cultural Blunder

In Hoi An there is a full moon lantern festival every month. The day after, apparently, is Happy Buddha Day. Once I learned this, I busied myself wishing everyone a Happy Buddha day. I flew to Ho Chi Minh on that day, so I figured this was a very good omen. I therefore wished the flight attendant a Happy Buddha day. She looked horrified, had no idea what I was talking about, and walked away. The Vietnamese man next to me explained she’s Chinese. Oops. So I tried to wish him a Happy Buddha Day, but he was from Ho Chi Minh and said it must be a regional thing because he hadn’t heard of it. Gulp.

“Different cities celebrate different things.”

On Weather

Weather can vary immensley throughout the country in the same season. I’m sure I shouldn’t be surprised, but it doesn’t seem that large to me. Sa Pa, in the north, in October, is chilly, 50s and 60s, cloudy and rainy. Hoi An, at the same period, is so hot and humid I sweat through my shirt in minutes when it gets near noon, my face is pouring sweat and I feel like I need a shower three times a day. Ho Chi Minh is warm, but not unbearably humid.

Woman fishing. Near Ninh Binh.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

Massages and Coffee

Massages are a dime a dozen. Well, close to it! I’ve happily indulged in several massages. In Hanoi I got a 2-hour massage for about $25! Yup, two full hours where the masseuse used four different techniques. I was in heaven, and so was my budget! I typically enjoy deep tissue massages in the US, but in Vietnam it turns out their version of soft is about comfortable for me, medium is pushing it, and hard is like if you rub any harder I’m going to mix with the massage table and not be able to get up. Coffee, um wow. I freaking love those “phin” drip coffees – both hot and iced. The coffee is some of the best in the world. And, I’ve tasted a lot of coffee from a lot of places now! Trung Nguyen coffee is robust and yum and I’m going to have to bring me some of that home! Love the condensed milk too!

Impeccable Service and Friendliness

With only a few exceptions I’ve found the Vietnamese people really helpful. Many times it’s because they want you to buy something, but nonetheless, their helpful spirit is much appreciated. I’ve gotten many offers to take me on a motorbike where I need to go by hotel owners and even restaurant staff! One of my hotel staff in Ho Chi Minh physically walked me to the nearby passport photo office, held my hand crossing the street, blocked traffic for me, and spoke Vietnamese to the shop owner so I could get what I need. Most of the time I find people who speak English well enough, and where they don’t, Google Translate to the rescue!!

Vietnamese Women – True Heroes

I think Vietnamese women are super heroes. They carry extraordinary amounts of weight on their small frames, work all day in the heat, take care of everything, raise children, row fact the men seem to be hidden. I did see them on fishing boats and sometimes as a tour guide, a boat driver or at a reception desk. But when it comes to manual labor it seems like the women are the visible masters. Not to mention that I saw elderly ladies sipping tea together sitting on those low down seats made for Kinder gardeners. They are NIMBLE heroes!

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