05 Mar Welcome to Vietnam
We have heard many mixed reviews about traveling in Vietnam. A couple good ones and quite a few negative ones. We have heard, that visitors get ripped off and that we should learn prices quickly so we can haggle with people. At other times we’ve read that people were rude or unpleasant and that the continuos honking on the roads is enough to drive anybody bonkers. We decided, however, to ignore all the negative comment and try our best to have an open mind and plan on building our own opinion about this place.
Shortly after crossing into Vietnam, we stop so Jessica can buy water. Unfortunately, we have not been able to exchange money yet, but we have read that dollars are widely accepted. Apparently, we were mistaken. The lady in the tiny store is very nice but seems confused by the dollar that Jessica is handing her. But after a short debate with her husband, she is willing to accept it and gives Jessica change in Vietnamese Dong. The price is low and we see absolutely no sense in haggling. While Jessica is still filling up her bottles, two men come by. The older gentleman looks at the bicycles and says something in Vietnamese, after a lot of charades and guessing what he is asking us, we tell him that we cycled from Thailand to Vietnam. He smiles and shakes our hands, before waving goodbye.
About 5 miles into the country, Randy’s stomach is acting up again and is in great need of a bathroom. Luckily, we ride by a small gas station, the owner and his family are sitting outside drinking tea. When we ask for a restroom, the owner leads Randy into his house to his private bathroom, while the rest of us are invited to enjoy some Vietnamese tea with the family. One of the teenage daughters speaks a little bit of English and translates between us and the parents. After telling our story, we are given a few bottles of water and are taught a few basic Vietnamese words. We try our best to pronounce them right but for the most part we fail miserably and just get a lot of good laughs.
Vietnamese is one of those tonal languages where we could swear, we’ve got it right, but then people will just look at us with confused looks. After a lot of guessing, charades and pointing, people will usually spew out the same word, we thought we said to begin with…for some reason we just cannot make out the difference in the sounds. We did learn how to say ‘water’, ‘please’, and ‘thank you’ before we leave this very kind family. Unfortunately, we totally flunked “hello” but are told most anybody in Vietnam uses the English “hello” anyway.
Just to make sure that we won’t overpay for water in the future, we ask for the common price of the bottles we were handed earlier. “No money for the water!” With lots of hand shaking was the answer. “It’s a gift!”… After some more small miscommunications and lots of laughing, we finally find the answer and are pleased to know, that Jessica got a bargain for the water earlier today
About 35 miles, many more hellos, and waves later we start looking for a guesthouse for the night. In another small village, we get lucky and find one.
To our surprise the owners are in the middle of setting up a huge nativity scene in their courtyard. There are lots of Christmas banners, stars, Santa Clauses, and blinky lights set up all over the guesthouse. It almost feels like Christmas!
After getting our gear put away in the rooms and the bikes locked up, we ask about where we could find a place to go eat. Without any hesitation, the lady of the house offers to cook for us for a small fee. She asks what kind of meat and vegetables we want as well as if we want rice or noodles. It turns out to be the most delicious meal we have had in a while.
If these 35 first miles into Vietnam is any indication of what the rest of the the trip in this country is going to be like, we are in for a real good treat!
Unfortunately, most of our pictures are missing for this day