Vietnam 🇻🇳

EXSQO Anna and Joao USA

Our notes

        • – Ho Chi Minh City is visibly a growing city with already a good level of development. It is amazing as the country as a whole developed so fast after being devastated from the Vietnam War. We will tell more about it in the next lines, but it is truly remarkable the social and economical growth of the country in the last 20-30 years;
        • – Although we were not in Hanoi, we discussed with many people the differences between this city, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh. One of the main take-aways is that Hanoi is a more conservative city, not only in terms of culture, but also in terms of business. There is pressure for young people to get married early and the entrepreneurial setting is not very favourable. On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh embraced some aspects of the western culture and it also translates into the number of foreigners working and living in the city. This might have historical roots (yes, we learn some things in museums 🙂 ) as the base of American troops during the Vietnam War were in Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City;
– Regarding the War, we got to know some tragical facts about the consequences that it had on the country. Not only many people died from bombings, but also the use of chemical weapons such as Napalm and Agent Orange. These last two had effects that are still present today in the society – handicapped people and sterile farming areas. It is impressive the photographical records present in the museum. It might have been the first war were the journalists and photographers had such an important role in telling the truth – most specifically to Americans that were being told that the war was going great for American troops and the efforts made were producing great results to the Vietnamese people (all lies, or “fake news” for those who think this is a new trend);
– Still in the War line of thought, it is visible the character of Vietnamese people. They endured a French occupation and then the American “invasion” without ever giving up and always trying to regain their independence through bravery, cleverness and ingenious war methods;
– In a more fun note, we should also state that the concentration of rats and cockroaches in the city makes you almost forget about how gross they are – you can believe or not, but we saw a rat exiting a trash can that was as big and fat as a cat – maybe similar to Garfield but dark and dirty 😂.
EXSQO Anna and Joao USA

Interesting products

▫️ Coconut and bamboo fiber products 🥥 : We visited a factory that makes products from these fibers. They are supposed to last longer, absorb much less water than cotton and stay without any odor. Among what they produce are kitchen cloths, toothbrushes, underwear, the magic scarf (you can use this piece of clothing in 27 different ways), charcoal toothpaste, and many others…
▫️ Nón lá 👩🏻‍🌾 : Although it is a symbol of the country and became a touristic attraction, this kind of hat is still used by Vietnamese people in their every-day life. It is actually very good as it protects the whole head (neck and face) from the sun.
▫️ Vietnamese drip filter/pot ☕️ : In this amazing country we also found a new way of brewing coffee. With this specific filter, you can brew a cup of coffee without the need for any paper of plastic filter.
▫️ Shuttlecock 🏸 : this is the main instrument to play Dá Cầu, also known as foot-badminton. This sport is so popular in Ho Chi Minh that we even had a free class with a coach. All you need to have to play is shoes and a shuttlecock. The level of skill needed is comparable to the famous hacky sack, but the shuttlecock makes it a very interesting challenge.
▫️ Pepper🧂: In more than one place we could season our food with a specific kind of black pepper that had an incredible taste. It felt fresh and had a very special “spiciness” that we have not found in any other place.
▫️ Tuong Ot 🌶 : In almost every restaurant or food stall you can top your food with a red sweet chilli sauce that is different from anything else we tried. The most similar taste we can think of is Sriracha sauce, but we fell in love with the Vietnamese.

Gastronomy

▫️ The typical Vietnamese food is truly delicious and healthy! We loved to discover new dishes, some not even similar to anything else what we have tried so far. Together with the food there are special places and ways to eat specific dishes;
▫️ Pho – the famous soup from Vietnam. It is not surprising why it got so famous all over the world. The freshness and the fat from the meat are here perfectly balanced to create a unique taste;
▫️ Banh mi – Deep down it is a sandwich. It is widely available on the streets and it can be served with different kinds of meat, but also with pickles and other vegetables;
▫️ Bun Thit Nuong – Rice-Vermicelli Noodles topped with grilled pork, fresh salad and fresh herbs like basil and mint;
▫️ Banh Canh – a special kind of thick noodle made from tapioca flour. It is used in many different dishes, mostly soups;

▫️ Banh Xeo – the famous Vietnamese pancake made of rice flour, water and turmeric powder. It can be stuffed with almost everything;
▫️ Banh Khot – mini pancakes, that besides the ingredients of Banh Xeo, has coconut milk and corn starch. They are usually topped with shrimp and herbs; 
▫️ Banh Trang Tron – This is a salad that most likely you will only find available in street food form. “Rice paper” is cut into slices and mixed with chilli powder, coriander and a squeeze of kalamansi juice;
▫️ Coffee – Vietnamese people are picky with their teas and coffees. On the streets you will very easily find someone selling drinks and most of them will be 2-4 times more expensive than in convenience stores. We started to wonder why, as in Thailand or Cambodia it was the opposite. It turns out that the quality of the coffee is very different and locals really pay attention to it.

Places

▫️Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – we came to south of Vietnam from Cambodia by bus. We spent 3 weeks in the centre visiting the most known and important parts of the city: War Museum, Vietnam Museum, Zoo and Botanical Garden, Chinatown, Ben Thanh Market, and other small street markets;
▫️Wandering Saigonese streets we noticed a big crowd so we decided to check what was happening. It was an illegal cock fight. Trying to take a picture we got them staring at us and screaming Vietnamese words. Therefore we decided to rather move forward and do not take more pictures 😛;
▫️We had the opportunity to take a one-day tour to the Mekong River delta. Along the way we stopped in a factory of coconut and bamboo fiber products and in a candy “factory”. This last one was simply one machine to stir the coconut paste and all the rest was manual work;
▫️Coconut Religion 🥥 – In the Mekong River delta we passed alongside an island where used to exist a religion whose followers could only eat coconut. Another curiosity about this religion is that men could have 9 wives simultaneously.

Events & Meetings

▫️ World Innovations Forum – It was a good event where entrepreneurs, investors and business enthusiasts gathered to learn from two amazing entrepreneurs that built their careers in Silicon Valley;
▫️ In our hostel, we had an informal business meeting with one of the staff. She is highly committed to open a coffee shop and school for kids on the countryside.

Traveller advice

▫️ Travelling by bus is very good and cheap. You can travel between the main cities or even to neighbouring countries;
▫️ Always double check prices, whether for tours or buses – some “agencies” are much more expensive than others and almost for sure you will not get a very good deal from you hotel or hostel;
▫️ If you want a thrilling adventure, get a motorbike Grab and go across the town. The amount of traffic is as impressive as crazy and the skill of the drivers is magnificent. Amount of times we thought we were in danger: 5 – Amount of accidents we saw in 3 weeks: 0 !

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