V for Vietnam

This month we would like you to get lost in the pristine beauty of Vietnam, one of the beautiful Asian paradises.

By Sohana Nasrin

Travel is not just about visiting, it’s about experiencing. It’s not enough to tick off the sights and charge down the coast between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city. Try to get beneath the skin of the country; it could be a culinary adventure or a walk on the wild side. It could be a cultural encounter or perhaps spiritual enlightenment. It could be you. Here are ten recommended things for the adventurous tourist in you:
1. Count the number of locals crammed on to one motorbike in the countryside
2. Get the measure of a tailor, the only time you want to be stitched up in Vietnam
3. Haggle with a cyclo driver about the price before you enjoy the ride
4. Cross the road like a local in a busy city
5. Meet the minorities, a multicolored mosaic of mountain people
6. Play tram phan tram or bottoms up with the locals in the backstreet bars
7. See the sunrise over the South China sea from a beautiful beach
8. Slurp a steaming bowl of pho at a street stall
9. Take some time out in a temple, the spiritual sanctuary of the Vietnamese
10. Turn down the volume and drift down a river by sampan

Top Eat, Top Drinks

Vietnamese cuisine is full of sensual flavours, subtle aromas and super-fresh igredients. Bia hoi (beer) is the new tea, but in the mountains it is all about xeo (rice wine), medicine to the minorities.

1. Bia hoi- the world’s cheapest draught beer keeps on flowing
2. Ca phe- caffeine cravers unite, Vietnam’s coffee has a real kick
3. Cao lau- Hoi An’s answer to fried noodles, made with water from a well
4. Nem- spring rolls are the country’s most famous export, friend or fresh
5. Nuoc mam- Fermented fish sauce, the stinky secret of Vietnamese cuisine
6. Pho bo- rice noodle soup with beef, the meal that built a nation
7. Rau moung- just the thing on a glorious morning, with a dash of garlic and chili
8. Thit cho- Dog lover has a whole different meaning in this part of the world
9. 333- Ba ba ba, learn to count with the leading local beer in the south
10. Xeo- The local firewater, particularly potent is the ‘five times a night’ variety

When to go: when it comes to weather, it is a tough call as Vietnam’s weather is so diverse. The weather is dictated by two monsoons- winter monsoon between October and March and summer monsoon from April to October. It gets pretty crowded from November to March and in July and August. Price tends to pick over the Christmas and New Year. So you know when to go!

Cost and Money: The cost of traveling in Vietnam varies from pocket change to the platinum card, depending on taste and comfort. Ascetics could just about get by on $10 a day, while conventional budget travelers can live it up from $20 to $25. At the top end, you can spend about $200. Foreigners are frequently over charged. The official currency is Vietnam dong , but the US dollar is pretty widely accepted.

Must see movies before you travel Vietnam:
Filmmakers have found a rich vein of material in the tales of Vietnamese history and foreign and local directors have tapped it well.
1. Apocalypse Now (1979) by Francis Frod Coppola
2. Born on the fourth of July (1989) by Oliver Stone
3. Cyclo (1995) by Tran Anh Hung
4. The Deer Hunter (1978) by Michael Cimino
5. Heaven and Earth (1993) by Oliver Stone
6. The Lover (1992) by Jean-Jacques Annaud
7. Platoon (1986) by Oliver Stone
8. The Quiet American (2002) by Philip Noyce
9. The scent of Green Papaya (1992) by Tran Anh Hung
10. We Were Soldiers (2002) by Randall Wallace


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