10 Hilariously Real Things That Happen When You Move To Vietnam

Moving to a new place is always nerve-racking, you never quite know what to expect or how you will change. In case you are looking to move to Vietnam, here are 10 things that will happen when you do!


1.  You become a street-crossing warrior.

The roads in Asia are unlike any the west have ever seen, from the crazy fast drivers in Thailand to the small alleys and incessant honking of Bali, these streets are cray – but Vietnam puts them all to shame.

The roads here, especially in big cities like Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh are wild. Traffic rules are nonexistent and the onslaught of motorbikes never stops. If you want to cross the street the only trick is to keep moving just as the traffic is. After a while you become invincible and can cross these roads like a pro.

2. You embrace that nap life.

Vietnamese people are an early to bed and early to rise nation. They start their day around 6 AM, and not just wake up at six, I mean they are out and about. All of this early hustle leaves you exhausted by midday, (also it’s really hot) which is why the whole country has a siesta of sorts for a couple of hours.

People will nap anywhere and everywhere, coffee shops, the side of the road, their office, you name it. Due to this complete shutdown of life around noon it’s only appropriate you adopt similar customs. #naplife

 

3. You will up your people watching appreciation entirely.

Vietnamese people take chilling to a new level. Here they slow down, and will just sit on a small stool on the sidewalk taking life in. These small little roadside tea stands are super popular with the locals as a spot to take a smoke break and read the paper or grab a cool drink.

Their love of people watching inevitably rubs off on you, and you notice all the quirks of society from the elderly practicing Tai Chi or daily stretches to the wild amount of things fit on a motorbike – there is never a dull people watching moment.

4. You appreciate the sun more than you ever have in your life.

This is mostly here in Hanoi where I am, because the pollution is so bad that seeing the sun is a true rarity. When you do happen to get a clear day, some direct sunlight and clean air, it’s like you are reborn.

5. Iced tea takes over as preferred day time drink always.

In Vietnam the gold standard day time drink is a cool Tra Da – which means iced tea. There are lots of different varietals but this unsweetened, slightly earthy tea is everywhere and anywhere. You drink it with every meal, all the time, ever and after a while you simply can’t see any other drink to pair with a meal.

 

6. Condensed milk in your coffee becomes the only way to drink it.

Again, with the bev-ys but this is a serious one. I mean it’s coffee we are talking about. Cà phê is a big deal here, and there is no other way to drink it than with some version of condensed milk.

You may perhaps add different things to it like yogurt, egg, or coconut but the tried and true method of getting that caffeine fix is the ol’ Cà phê sữa đá which is strong, black Vietnamese coffee with a smidgen of condensed milk – and let me tell you it’s pure happiness.

7. You will stop wearing makeup and rock that glistening upper lip.

Okay, so this is directed at my other traveling lady babes out there but in Vietnam it’s hot, and I don’t mean just like warm, it’s full on sweaty. So, this inevitably doesn’t make for a makeup conducive environment.

Not to say you won’t throw some concealer on, along with a little mascara but foundation and eye shadows are a thing of the past. If they don’t melt off your face, the everyday monsoon will wash it all straight off. RIP beautiful Mac eye shadow palette.

8. You will start to own this body you have like none other.

It’s no secret that Vietnamese people are pretty small, clothes in shops probably won’t fit you unless you are a very small human as well and this is totally OK. After you are told you are too big for things day in and day out – not to mention if you are a teacher your children will most definitely point this out too – “techa baby?!” Ultimately, you will come to a place of self-love and not give any damns about how others perceive you. Gotta just live your life, shop less and embrace the stares.

9. Your workout struggle will be so real.

Finding a gym that has A/C is a real ordeal here, most gyms have fans but air conditioning is just too dang expensive, hence you will most definitely be working out inside but it will feel like you are outside.

This hot box called the gym will have you questioning all of your life choices. Bugs will fly through the open windows and die in your sweat, and every time you’re there you will be 90% sure that heat stroke is one stifled breath away. It’s all worth it though – wait, is it?

10. Driving in the rain will always be comical (and terrifying).

When it rains it pours, but does life stop? Hell to the no. People have got places to be! Since the majority of Vietnam runs on motorbikes there is quite a stylish and booming business of driving ponchos. Man, the Vietnamese have perfected the poncho like no other country I have seen.

Here, this large plastic tarp is fully equipped with a bit that covers the front of your bike entirely and has little holes for your mirrors and a cut out spot for your headlight. You can even buy them in different patterns and with two hoods so your passenger can be covered as well. These strange things will never not be funny but they are quite useful and make driving in the rain much more comical to distract from all its dangers.

 

And there ya have it – 10 hilariously real things that happen when you move to Vietnam! Anybody have any more things to add to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Keep smiling! 🙂

Kelsey

48 Hour Guide To Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Dubbed the terrestrial Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh (pronounced Ning Bing) is truly a magical avatar escape, full of towering limestone mountains, expansive caves and secret river ways. All of this awesome is located only two hours away from Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi. This sleepy little town is full of rice paddies, water buffaloes and some of the most stunning views you’ve ever seen. A trip to Ninh Binh is an absolute must if you are visiting Hanoi!


Getting to Ninh Binh:

 

Getting to this little rural paradise is actually quite easy! From Hanoi there is a train (Ga Hanoi) that departs every day, it takes about two hours, has A/C, chargers for your phone and is only about five US dollars!  When you arrive you can book your ticket back! Easy peasy.

 

What to do:

For being a provincial town there is actually loads of things to do that are packed with adventure and history! Here are my top picks for your weekend escape:

Trang An Boat Tour:

This little boat tour is quite impressive! You will paddle through caves, and float through some of the most breathtaking mountain scenes. For about eight USD you get a around three hours of blissful exploration. You will stop off at a number of different pagodas and temples only accessible by boat! Bring a little snack if you are prone to getting hangry, there are few options for food along the way, and as it did for us – three hours began to feel very long without a snack!

Bich Dong Pagoda:

This pagoda is a great one to visit if you are short on time! There is no hike or boat required. Just bike up to where it is and walk in! It’s striking archway at the front is what draws many visitors along with the pond it sits on, which in the summer explodes in pink lotus flowers!

Mua Caves Hike:

This hike up around 400 stairs will take you to the BEST view of Ninh Binh there is! Photos don’t do it justice, you will have to just experience it for yourself! There also are some caves there but meh – the hike and view take the cake!

Hoa Lu:

This city was once the capital of Vietnam! Around 1,000 years ago there were many different structures but now there are only two. Located only 20 minutes from Ninh Binh visiting this ancient city is well worth the trip!

Other things to do if you have more time would be:

  • Visiting the Va Long Nature Reserve
  • Bai Dinh Pagoda
  • Tam Coc Boat Trip

48 Hours In Hanoi: What To See And Do!

Day One: Shop, Eat and Explore in the Old Quarter

After you get to your accommodation drop your bags and set out towards Hang Bac street. This is a main road that will connect you to Ma May Street. Here the road is lined with knock off goods, which in most cases look extremely real! Factory quality merchandise overflow out of the shops; Brands like The North Face, Under Armor and Patagonia are sold at a fraction of the price, along with tons of other brands at amazing deals. If you don’t find anything that strikes your fancy, don’t worry – there are many more streets filled with things to buy!

Here are some good streets to visit!

Hang Bac – Silver Street

Ma May – Knock-off Clothing

Hang da – Custom Clothing and Textiles

Hang gai – Traditional Vietnamese Clothing and Silk

Nha Tho – Boutique Shops

Hang Dau – Shoes

** Make sure if you are in Hanoi on a weekend to check out the Old Quarter’s Weekend Market!

Eat, eat, eat!

All of walking you will be doing is sure to make you hungry! All around the Old Quarter are restaurants and food stalls, I recommend grabbing a seat on the sidewalk and munch on Bahn Mi (Vietnamese Sandwhich) or try to find some Ban Oc (Vietnamese Snail Soup).

If you aren’t too hungry, grab a Vietnamese coffee or Hanoi’s famous Egg Coffee and people watch. There are tons of good cafes usually with a second or third floor where you can sit and watch the craziness of the streets below!

To read more about Hanoi’s delicious foods take a look at my 5 Must Try Foods of Hanoi, Vietnam!

Explore Hoan Kiem Lake:

Hoan Kiem is a historical landmark as well as a central meeting place for the community. In the middle of the lake is Ngoc Son Temple which is connected to the main land by a beautiful red bridge. Legend has it that in the 15th century Heaven sent a sword down to the Emperor of Vietnam, with it he successfully drove the Chinese out of the land. Afterwards, a large golden turtle rose from the lake and took back the sword, thus giving the lake the name Ho Hoan Kiem, Lake of the Restored Sword.

Take a stroll around the lake and mingle with locals, we got approached by university students wanting to practice their English! On Fridays and Weekends traffic is blocked off and the large streets are open for all sorts of activities. School groups/clubs were gathered together hanging out, roller blading and playing card games. There was even an Art exhibition set up featuring photographs from Vietnam.

Day Two: Sightsee by Day and Night

A great way to see a lot of Hanoi is to take a free walking tour! On this you will see many of the top attractions, as well as eat and drink authentic Vietnamese fare with University students who know the best places to go! It should be easy to just book a tour through your accommodation – just make sure to give them a days notice!

Often times tours are flexible and you can choose what you want to see! On our tour we saw Hoa Lo Prison, Ngoc Son Temple (Temple on the lake!), Old East Gate and St. Joseph’s Cathedral! Our guides also took us to an amazing lunch spot where we ate Ban Cha, along with showing us the local spots for Vietnamese coffee and Tea!

Hoa Lo Prison:

Visiting the Hoa Lo Prison is a must on any trip to Hanoi! The museum is laid out nicely and is very informative. As you walk through the different chambers you learn about the Vietnamese Revolution against the French as well as how the prison was used during the American War.

Old East Gate:

Of the 16 medieval gates to the city, this is the last one standing! A neat place to explore, surrounded by interesting small streets and allies full of fruit and snacks!

St. Joseph’s Cathedral:

This is the oldest church in Hanoi, being built by the French in the 1800’s. Fun fact: While the majority of the country does not practice Catholicism nearly four million do!

While there you should grab another specialty of Hanoi – Lemon Tea! There is a little hole in the wall place right across the street where locals hang out and escape the heat, eating sunflower seeds as well as sipping on this refreshing beverage!

Bia Hoi: Hanoi’s Beer Corner

After a full day of walking its time to chill out! Grab a beer on Hanoi’s infamous beer corner (Bia Hoi) in the Old Quarter! Located on on Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc, it is the most popular place to drink for cheap! As the night goes on the corners selling beer expand and retract as the influx of customers change.

These outdoor hangouts are constructed of just small stools on the sidewalk so as more people arrive stools are added, and they leave stools are taken away. You can watch the hustle and bustle of the ever breathing roads long into the night! Roads are blocked off making this central spot in the Old Quarter like one large party!

Hanoi is an absolutely beautiful city full of color, life and vibrancy! Two days is definitely not enough time to see everything in the city but you can comfortably see a lot!  Make sure to bring your wits and your walking shoes, Hanoi will most definitely not disappoint!

Pin it for later! 🙂

Keep on smiling!

xx

Kelsey

Everything You Need To Know About Trekking Sapa, Vietnam

Everything You Need To Know About Trekking Sapa, Vietnam

If you have a Pinterest and have typed in Vietnam, then it is likely that you have seen the majestic photos of Sapa. Huge terraced hills, fields of rice patties and seemingly endless mountains. This beautiful place is a must see if you are traveling to Hanoi or anywhere in northern Vietnam!

How to get there:

Sapa is located around 8-ish hours north west of Hanoi, the easiest way to get there is by train! There is no actual train station in Sapa but there is one in Lao Chai, a town about an hour away. There are trains that leave in the evening and morning, but I would recommend taking a later night train. The beds were very comfy and made the journey go fast, to check out the train time table click here!

From Lao Chai it will take about an hour to get to Sapa. When you hop off the train there will be many people offering you tickets for a shuttle bus or minivan up to Sapa. If you haven’t arranged a pick up before hand these are a good option!

With the trekking agency we booked through a pick up was included which made things easier! Once you get to Sapa there are tons of different trekking agencies. If you have time, like to go with the flow you will have no trouble sorting out your accommodation and trek once you get there as the whole city is devoted to trekking! There are many different companies and hotels available throughout the small city!

How do you plan a trek?

If you are like me, and want to plan it a head of time there are many many many different companies that plan treks for you! A quick google search will give you what you need. I would recommend you check out Sapa Sisters! This is what we went through and it was fab! Not only do they pick you up and give you breakfast they also offer a storage room where you can put your stuff and a shower so you can start your trek fresh after a long train ride. Afterwards, you have your own private guide who hikes with you for the two days.

Another big reason why I chose Sapa Sisters because it is a company owned and operated by women! With so many companies in Sapa paying their H’mong women unfair wages and treating them poorly I didn’t want to contribute to the cycle. Sapa Sisters is a little bit more expensive but I wanted to know that my money was funding a good cause. They provide their workers with paid parental leave and medical care, as well as donating to their children’s early education/providing support to women who have suffered from domestic abuse.

Beautiful H'mong women and her baby on the trail. Beautiful H’mong women and her baby on the trail.

What should I expect while trekking?

While trekking you will be surrounded by a good amount of people at all times. The main trail was more populated then I imagined it would have been, but never the less it was still gorgeous. The trail meanders through the mountains and valleys, giving you breathtaking views.

H’mong women who are not guides frequent this main trail. They will sort of latch themselves on to your group and quietly follow you for hours. Once you rest or reach a stop they will try and sell you their hand made goods. If you know you will not buy anything it is easier to be kind but firm and tell them from the get go that there is no money to be made by following you. Your guide most likely will not say anything to them. In many cases they will know these women personally and are from the same village, therefore telling them off would cause conflict at home.

Delicious dinner that our home stay family made Delicious dinner that our home stay family made Where our dinner was cooked Where our dinner was cooked

To home-stay or not to home-stay?

If I were you, I would say an enthusiastic yes to participating in a home-stay! At first I wasn’t sure weather or not to pay extra for a home-stay but after seeing how many tourists there were on the main trail it was clear that the traditional guest house would be full of foreigners, thus lacking a unique experience. Our guide, May said that her grandmother would be able to give us a bed in her house. She cooked us an incredible meal and we got to hike around the village that she lived in. May’s little cousins were there as well, along with her brother and his wife. It was such an amazing experience getting off the beaten path, away from the tourists and just being able to talk with May and run around with her cousins playing hide and seek!

What to wear and bring?

Since you will be hiking for around five hours each day its important to pack light! You will be carrying whatever you bring for a long time, even if it feels light at the beginning it wont by the end of the day.

On both of the days I wore a pair of The North Face hiking pants and boots along with an Under Armor shirt.

In my bag I packed:

Rain shell, thin long sleeved shirt, yoga Pants (to sleep in), underwear, camera, water bottle, tooth brush

And that’s it!

Granted I wish I brought some other things. It got very cold at night and in the early mornings so a warmer jacket would have been useful, along with an extra shirt to sleep in. Staying in the same shirt for two days while sweating was not as hygienic as I would have liked, but oh well! Otherwise that was a good amount of stuff, less is definitely more.

Costs:

Train to Sapa: $42 USD (Book Online)

Sapa Sisters Two Day Trek: $84 USD

       Included pick up

       All meals

       Accommodation

       Luggage Storage

Overnight bus to Ha Long Bay: $25 USD (You can book in Sapa)

Overall trekking Sapa was an unforgettable experience! Even though the weather wasn’t superrrrr great and all the rice had just been harvested it still was probably my favorite stop in Vietnam!

5 Must Try Foods Of Hanoi

5 Must Try Foods Of Hanoi

In Hanoi, amongst the busy streets and crowded allies you will find some of the most delectable, scrumptious meals of your life. As you wander through the city, dodging scooters and motorbikes you can see the French influence. Vietnam, having been colonized by the French in the early 1800’s still bears some similarities to its former oppressors.

Much of the layered architecture bears homage to quaint French styles and a few main dishes found on the streets of Hanoi are reminiscent of French meals. Fresh baguettes and pastries are peddled down the roads in woven baskets, pâté layers the sandwiches and fresh snails marinate in hot soups. The melding of cultures is clear in Hanoi’s’ architecture and food but Vietnam is nothing if not Vietnamese.

I was lucky enough to try some of the main foods that shape Hanoi, here are the ones you can’t miss!

Cha Ca Thang Long

This was one of my favorite dishes in Hanoi, it combines all the different elements of Vietnamese cuisine: texture, flavor and color. It consists of Catfish marinated in ginger, turmeric, garlic and fish sauce, then fried in the pan until golden and crispy. In the same pan lots of dill, green onion and scallions are added on top of the fish, then are quickly sautéed releasing all their wonderful flavors.

When everything is cooked you combine the pieces of fish and greens with rice noodles, then top with roasted peanuts, chilies and spicy sauces! Only thing left to do is eat many, many bowls and bask in its glorious tastiness.

We ate this magical dish at a restaurant literally named after it:

Chả Cá Thăng Long: 21 Đường Thành Cửa Đông Cửa Đông Hoàn Kiếm, Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam

Banh Mi

Another beautiful, tasty treat that you can devour literally anywhere in Hanoi is Banh Mi which literally translates to bread. This is another product of French colonialism in Vietnam. Banh Mi sandwiches consist of a fluffy baguette layered with meat and pâté, stuffed with an assortment of different vegetables, such as cucumber and coriander creating a perfect balance of French and Vietnamese flavors.

You can grab these anywhere in Hanoi but here are my favorite places!

Bánh Mì 25: 25 Hàng Cá, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Bánh Mi Bread98 Hàng Bạc Hàng Đào, Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi, Vietnam

Ban Oc (Vietnamese Snail Soup)

After watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown I was inspired to find the same location where he ate Bun Oc, or rather Vietnamese snail soup. After wandering around for a little while we stumbled upon it! Small fresh snails were pulled out of their shells right there on the street where small plastic stools acted as tables and chairs.

Even though I am not a huge snail fan I was pleasantly surprised, this noodle soup was amazing! With a tomato and green onion base, the snails are boiled and mixed together with rice noodles and spices like coriander, and Vietnamese basil. It was delicious and a lot of fun to try! This particular vendor was in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, but there are many different random locations, just look for a large woven basket of snails!

Bun Cha

Bun Cha is arguably Hanoi’s most famous dish, and one beloved by locals as well as foreigners. Bun Cha is a combination of rice noodles, small grilled pork or beef patties, and Vietnamese herbs all mixed together in a mouthwatering slightly sour broth. You eat it by taking bite sized portions of rice noodles and plopping them into the broth. You then can add chilies and herbs to taste. After adding them in, using chopsticks you can create a bite which has a little bit of everything: meat, greens and noodles! This half soup, half noodle hybrid will not disappoint, incorporating different elements of sour and savory, you’ll be hungry for more!

Egg Coffee

Another must try if you are in Hanoi is the famous Egg Coffee (cà phê trứng), when I was first told about this I assumed that it was just a name, they wouldn’t actually put an egg into coffee right?! Wrong. They really do! I tried this drink both hot and iced and it was very good! It originated from a time in Hanoi when milk was scarce, and egg yolk was its substitute in coffee. Egg Coffee is made by first beating chicken egg yolks together with condensed milk, sugar and coffee. It is served layered like a cappuccino in a small cup, with the fluffy egg cream on top and the sweet coffee on the bottom.

You can try it at:

Giảng Cafe: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Doong Tea and Coffee Express:19 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Pin it for later!

Happy eating!

xx

Kelsey

Week 3: Weekly Smiles

Weekly Smiles

Gorgeous Hmong lady with the worlds cutest baby who we met on our trek through the mountains of Sapa. Gorgeous Hmong lady with the worlds cutest baby who we met on our trek through the mountains of Sapa.

Recently I spent a week in Vietnam, here are some of my favorite smiles!

While in Vietnam we traveled to Sapa, while there we completed a two day, one night trek through its famous rice terraced mountains. Our guide who was absolutely wonderful invited us to stay at her grandmothers house in a village near by. We opted to spend the night there and get off the ‘beaten path.’ Here are some of the beautiful people we encountered on this adventure.

This is May! She was our trekking guide and only 17 years old!! She said her mother got married when she was 16 and had May closely there after. May told us that it is not the path for her though, she wants to continue her studies and get an education. May was incredibly smart, curious, spoke english impeccably and is obviously a very hard worker. She does a couple two day treks a week, along with going to school on the days she isn’t hiking!

Three generations of Hmong women, they were guiding another group of hikers — two days of trekking with a little baby on her back! Incredible!

A family we stopped and talked with in a small village in the mountains of Lao Chai, their smiles were infectious!