Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Vietnam summary

War torn but recovering. Sadly, not the friendliest country to travel in. The young guys in the tourist trade, moto (motorbike taxi) drivers and others try to make a quick big buck by constantly overcharging and short-changing you. Having to argue prices first (even on little things), and double-check bills and change all day long is essential but extremely irritating and tiring. Many, particularly young guys, also seem to enjoy making your life less comfortable. Not a country I would rush back to for those reasons.
Water: Drinking water in plastic bottles is commonplace - the five-litre containers are far better buy than the smaller bottles.
Drinks: Wine - Dalat produces the best of the local wines. Surprisingly the 16% red costs less than the 12% red, that is, until you taste it. Beer - 'Fresh' or draft beer - Bia Hoi ' is cold from the barrel and easily drinkable at 4,000 dong (17p) a glass. Tiger beer in cans can be ice cold and is good too, but a little more expensive. Tea - local green or Lipton Yellow 'dunking' bag black tea is widely available. Coffee - Vietnamese strong and slightly bitter bean coffee is served everywhere.
Toilets: Mostly, but not always, upright.
Dong (currently £1 = 29,000 dong), so it's easy to be a millionaire.
Language: Most youngsters and those in contact with tourists speak English.
TICs: Mostly act as travel agents but the one in Sapa was extremely helpful.
Accommodation: En-suite room only is the norm
, breakfast is extra.
Many varieties of noodle and rice dishes with more western fare at tourist hot spots.
Small corner stores mostly named something Mart.
Trains - comfortable and modern but usually need to be booked well in advance. Buses - operating companies have an 'open' ticket system to tourist destinations where you need to confirm travel the day before departure but they tend to treat passengers like live goods (say pigs or chicken) rather than people, some even refusing to make toilet stops.
Medical: Available in main centres at a cost.

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