Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Let’s give you a head start to explore Vietnam
We have been in Vietnam for a couple of weeks and we’re pretty comfortable here now but let me be completely honest with you. When we arrived here, I didn’t really know which leg to stand on, and since I already promised to be honest, let me just tell you a bit about me: I like to be in control, I like cleanliness and I like punctuality… There is basically neither of that in Vietnam, and even though I didn’t expect that, it didn’t make it any easier for me.
Everyone loves Vietnam, we’ve read it everywhere and hear it from everyone who has been here, but I wasn’t sure that I would become “one of them”. We landed it Hanoi which is supposed to be a warm and charming city and easy to acclimatize in.
Traffic Chaos in my Head
The first day of walking around the city was chaos. Chaos in the streets and chaos in my head. To mention the traffic is a cliché but I have to. At first you think it’s impossible to cross the streets. The scooters, cars and busses just keep coming. All of a sudden you see a local courageously walking out in the middle of the traffic. Somehow the traffic just parts for the local and in 15 seconds the street is crossed, something that seems like a miracle at first. We, as a family wait for a bit until my husband, with a hand in each kid and me on the side trying to make us look like a biiig group (??) that’s worth slowing down for, make our way out into what could seem like madness. We also make it across no problem, and after that first crossing, we now know how to do it. You walk determined and at the same speed, so the traffic can maneuver around you. No sudden jumping back or running – that will get you run over in seconds, but is the hardest part is to suppress the urge to run!
Food Chaos in my Head
Well out exploring the city, it was time for lunch… but where do you go, when everyone seems to be cooking directly on the street, and we’ve been told to live by the rule: Boil it, Cook it, Peel it or Forget it … but it seems impossible. Nothing seems clean, water is coming out of a hose lying on the floor, meat is lying in a plastic bowl… how long has it been lying there in the heat, and yet people are sitting on tiny plastic furniture seeming to enjoy the food - locals and foreigners. How do they do it? Are they not afraid of getting sick, diarrhea, bacteria etc.? I feel like I’m the only one who is concerned here. And why are other people not following the rule of boiling, cooking etc… there are fresh green leaves in basically everything served here. I just can’t wrap my head around it. I love Vietnamese food back home – it’s probably even my all-time favorite food, only I’ve never had it in Vietnam before and I’m not sure how to go about it at this moment.
Getting to my Chaos
Obviously, it’s me with the problem here, as everyone else seems to manage just fine. How do I get past my barrier of worries? Uncertainty seemed to be the key word here. I was struggling to change my state of mind, struggling to leave my “glasses of comfort and safety” back in the hotel room and instead put on my glasses of travel and adventure. Not being reckless but I needed to throw myself out there now. Which was essentially what I did. We had our first meal, and it went well. No bad stomachs (at least not on the first day). We mostly stayed with proper restaurant meals and no street food in the beginning. But knowing that all the best Vietnamese food is found in the streets, the best way for me was to go on a street food tour – at least that way someone could voucher for the meal (at least in my mind).
Solving my Chaos
Everyday I’ve gotten a little bit better, and I’m not sure if it’s me working with myself, me getting use to things the way they are here in Vietnam, there are beautiful scenery all over the place, or the food is simply too good not to be tried – but I’m actually in a pretty good place right now. I’m comfortable, willing to give it a go, staying away from greens at the street food stands, and have only had a slightly unhappy stomach. Nothing that has kept me from going out. The kids are being superstars about everything, the food, the culture, and as a parent travelling with kids, I need to be their role model. I cannot hide behind my own limitations and in my own comfort zone. This is why traveling with kids always works for me and for us. As much as we like to teach our children, they also teach and push us every single day – and in a good way. (They also sometimes push in the less fun way, but that’s a whole other thing :-)))
Being in a different state of mind now, guess what… I’ve become “one of them”. I love it here and so does the whole family. The fact that the food is so so good, the culture is so interesting and fascinating, their history is heartbreaking, and yet the people are so sweet and friendly everywhere we go. My conclusion is that it’s just impossible not to love Vietnam even for someone like me.
Want to know about Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh or Sapa in the north of Vietnam, just click on for some more Vietnam reading.