Things that made us go hmmm… Vietnam

Experiencing different cultures is the best part of travelling.  Thankfully, we are not all the same.

Following is a list of things we saw in Vietnam that made us smile, chuckle or made us go… hmmm.  This list is not meant to insult, judge, or criticize; it is merely a way to remember it all.

  • Man jackhammering in flip flops while another man reaches into the hole without gloves, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, to pick up the broken concrete pieces.
  • Man working on scooters on the sidewalk spraying a degreasing solution right beside the lady selling fruit.
  • The drivers … ugh, the drivers!
  • The little matt that is outside every bathroom door and appears as though it is never washed.
  • The bed that does not come with a cover sheet.

Vietnam 6 Hue Mar 26-28 2016 -- 1

  • Men who hork – gagging just typing this.
  • Southern Vietnamese men speak to Mark all the time but rarely Christine.
  • “No thank you” is rarely understood, but “where you going”, “buy something”, “take a look at my shop” are spoken fluently.
  • Squatter toilets!
Vietnam 7 Phong Nha Mar 29-Apr 1 2016 -- 287
This is a GIRL’s washroom!
  • “Beep, beep” – honking all the *#%£+n time 🙂
  • Extortionate bank fees on ATM withdrawals that are restricted to very low withdrawal amounts… only for foreigners.
  • Other than working in construction or a garage, men seem to sit around smoking, playing games and drinking coffee while the ladies appear to be doing all the work.
  • We are walking down a street and a man flicks his lit cigarette butt on the road in front of us and a sevenish-year-old girl pulls her pants down and takes a pee on the sidewalk.
  • We pay $7.95 USD for five kilograms of laundry (only the second time we pay). Everything is dried outside. Pants come back dirty and many items smell worse than they did going in for cleaning … ugh. We re-wash everything by hand. (We only wash by hand now.)
  • We see a high tech bridge being built across the ocean to nowhere, but garbage collection appears to be complicated (garbage is scattered throughout the country).
  • We return to our hotel room to find out there is no water in the building (this happens three times out of six days).
  • A man paints a metal bar six stories up, in bare feet and flip flops. He is stretched out reaching with one arm while holding on to the bar with his other arm – no safety ropes etc. in place.

Vietnam 7 Phong Nha Mar 29-Apr 1 2016 -- 246

  • Trishaw drivers parked on side of street in large groups but always “woohoo” tourists asking them if they want a ride… we already see you!
  • Getting a box spring for a mattress.
  • Men removing construction debris using a handmade palm-leaf basket but then we see a backhoe tractor tamping dirt around chain link fence posts.
  • A new building designed and being built around a power transformer and poles.
  • Parking/pulling over in left lane, middle of road or wherever the heck they want.
  • Tourist selfies … at a temple, a food stall, a dirt road all with beautiful clothes and many fashion poses.
  • Urinals in full display for public viewing pleasure.

Vietnam 5 Hoi An Mar 17-25 2016 -- 528

  • Everyone knows a majority of the taxis will rip you off (run up the meter, take you the long way, demand more, stop at a friend’s hotel instead of yours), but nothing is done about it.
  • Senior ladies (who are usually super cute) asking us to buy a romantic paper lantern with candle to float down the river who turn into pouting, sour looking, wrinkly messes when we say “no thank you”.
  • Non-existing (or so it seems) electrical safety standards.
  • Men airing out their bellies when hot – they lift their shirt half way up.
  • Mark’s average heart rate goes up four points from 48 beats per minute (BPM) to 52 BPM. Is it the rice, noodles… Or ongoing honking of horns?  After one week in Thailand (no honking), average resting heart rate down to 49.  Could be a study for a doctorate degree? (“Effects of honking on anxiety, stress and cardiovascular system.”)
  • Local men growing long fingernails.

Vietnam 11 Cat Ba April 16-20 2016 -- 101

  • Drivers cutting out in front of you on their scooters and then just stopping… thanks!
  • English Top 40 music played everywhere and few people speak English.
  • No shame in a business stealing a successful business name for themselves. Sinh Tourist had to rebrand after everyone stole their name!  Tourists beware.
  • Five men in a boat intent on cleaning up the ocean… two are collecting rubbish using a small fishing net as the fifty-plus year old boat leaves an oil streak in water.
  • Many folks appear comfortable picking their nose in public – not discreetly, this is serious two knuckle deep excursions.
  • People in villages wear soiled clothes and live in homes with clay dirt floors, planks for walls, corrugated metal roofs … but they have an iPhone … thank you Facebook and Steve Jobs!
  • Burning right on the street, or a path, or anywhere.
  • “The bamboo firewall” – the entire nation’s internet operates behind a state-controlled security system that blocks anything – our WordPress blogging site was often blocked. News apps (CBC, BBC, CNN) would not open properly (or not open at all at times).
  • Plumbing – One drain in the floor gurgles if you flush toilet, or run sink, or if your neighbor does the same. P-traps do not exist, one of our sinks plumbing was held together with duct tape.
  • Scooters driving and parking on sidewalk.
  • Typical food service for the budget traveler (or local)… Restaurant owner returns on scooter from market (not the Save On Foods Organic Market, but the market where the lady selling your produce is sitting there picking her toe nails, or going through her friend’s hair looking for head lice) with bag of veggies. Walks up to outdoor prep area, does not wash hands, grabs chicken already sitting on cutting board, swats the flies away, and then moves chicken with hands. Turns on cooking appliances with hands, turns to noodles sitting in a strainer on a dirty plastic chair, grabs noodles with hands, places them in hot water for a few seconds, pulls them out and places in bowl.  Grabs knife from cutting board, cuts a few veggies that he just pulled out from his purchases at the market, then throws them on top of the noodles with same hands and serves us a delicious bowl of Pho.  We ask ourselves, are we dumb for eating here?

Vietnam 11 Cat Ba April 16-20 2016 -- 87

Not an exhaustive list, but a few fun thoughts that often left us wondering!

…Mark and Christine, in beep beep free Thailand.





4 thoughts on “Things that made us go hmmm… Vietnam

  1. I am loving every word of your blog. Now that you’re in Thailand ~ I need to ask…. are either of you RH – ? My friends brother is in hospital in Phuket and in desperate need of blood. Yes, this is a personal friend from Toronto, brother of author Karen Connelly (The Lizard Cage – Gov. Gen Award Winner) I can forward details of either of you are a match and/or are willing.

    Again, hope you’re well and I read every entry, they’re fabulous!


    Lori Mairs MFA Ecological Artist/Researcher 250-764-8335


  2. Yikes for double knuckle excursions. Talk about caving experiences!! Still sounds like a morbid kind of fun you two are having. Thanks so much for these fab updates!

    Meanwhile we just got our first rain today after a very smoky afternoon. Fort Mac has been our big concern for 2 weeks now. Amazing story unfolding here with Fire having displaced so many and the rest of Alberta opening its arms to those in need.

    Please keep those great travelogues coming!
    Xo Sandy & Marty


  3. Howdy Marky & Christine …Yes got all this & pictures in big ,was great ,,always enjoy reading all your stories & all you both see & do everyday …some incredible things ,we don’t see in our streets in Canada,,,sure thing ….,Long week end is here & rain today which is good for Fort Mac fires ,,cool high was 7 today ,,,campers are not happy ,& no open fires allowed ….i will keep myself busy ,birthday party to go to tomorrow afternoon ….can’t think of new things right now ,,,will say thanks for your last email that i always enjoy to receive & read ,,,,Good news to hear from you 2 & that it is good news ….love always ,,,& always in my prayers ..8;30 pm ,,enjoying a juicy orange & but a rotten banana ,,,don’t know what is going on that the bananas lately are black & gross inside ,throw a lot of them out ….nite & morning for you two ….Mom …


  4. Hey Mark and Christine – we take for granted our cleanliness, private time and general concern and awareness for others and their personal space. So amazing to see how many millions of people live and how different our country and cultures are. I will think of you the next time we go out into our quiet street and go for walk; or when we shop in our clean store and use our own private bathroom with a door and lock :). Hugs to you both.


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