Southeast Asia

Food Guide: Vietnam

Food Guide: Vietnam

Pho: it is what comes to mind when talking to many Americans about Vietnamese food. Banh mi and fresh spring rolls might also come into the conversation. While these foods are tasty, though personally, I find pho a bit on the boring side, they are just the beginning of a deep culinary tradition. In Vietnam, I felt I only got to Viet Nam Food 101: The Basics. So much food, so little time.

Viet Nam Packing List

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I love researching, planning and packing for a trip. Unpacking and doing laundry afterwards, not so much.

What I Brought

Clothing:

  • Hat
  • Sneakers
  • Sandals (Tevas not flip-flops)
  • Scarf
  • Four pairs of socks
  • Two bras (one sports bra and one regular)
  • One swimsuit top
  • 13 pairs of underwear
  • One pair of light weight pants
  • Ten shirts (mostly tank tops)
  • Two pairs of shorts
  • A jumper
  • Two dresses
  • A light hooded sweatshirt

Toiletries and Personal Items

  • Three packages of tissues
  • Three packages of wet wipes
  • Make-up bag with cover up, one lip gloss, bronzer, blush, mascara, and chap stick.
  • Travel sized toothpaste
  • Travel toothbrush
  • Soap
  • Travel sized shampoo
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun screen (50 spf)
  • Bug spray

Technology/Entertainment

  • Sony RX100 digital camera
  • Gorilla pod
  • Cell phone
  • Cell phone charger
  • Camera charger
  • Viet Nam Rough Guide
  • Caribbean history book
  • Vietnamese phrase book
  • Notebook and pen

Etcetera

  • Day bag
  • Dry bag
  • Two packing cubes
  • First aid kit with band aids, Dramamine, pain spray, Advil, anti-diarrhea pills, and condoms.
  • Sleep sheet
  • Inflatable travel pillow
  • Microfiber Towel
  • Money Pouch
  • Purse

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What I Didn't Need and Why

  • Sneakers. I never once wore my sneakers. I thought I would need them for hiking or the cave, but it was ridiculously hot (typically around 35 degrees Celsius) in Viet Nam and I never ended up needing them. They took up considerable space and weight in my bag.
  • Jumper (or as the boyfriend calls it, "Cocktail Snuggie"). Who knew that onesies would be incredibly difficult to take off in a pocket sized bathroom with a squat toilet? I should have figured. In an attempt to use the toilet in my hotel room, I ripped an enormous hole in the back. It got ditched in our hotel room trash can.
  • Four pairs of socks. Let me give you this important detail: I tend to only wear novelty socks and I only packed novelty socks. I hate socks. They feel like they're strangling my feet. As I never I wore my sneakers, I never wore my socks. The constant stepping in gutters, exhaust fumes, non-stop construction, and bug bites did leave my feet not looking their foot model prettiest.
  • Scarf. The temperature barely dropped below 22 degrees Celsius and the blankets provided on sleeper buses were perfectly adequate if a little scratchy.
  • Hat. My awesomely enormous old lady gardener hat would have been useful if I wore it. Instead, Tyler ended up wearing it most of the time and I came to the realization that I hate wearing hats.
  • Packages of Wet Wipes. They were always giving us wet wipes. EVERYWHERE. Hotels, hostels, restaurants, tour buses, sleeper buses, airplanes. SO MANY WET WIPES.
  • Hand Sanitizer. I just never bothered using it. Maybe I'm unsanitary.
  • Gorilla Pod.  Sure, my gorilla pod would have come in handy in a few places; I would have gotten better shots at the waterfalls and caves. While I wanted to document the trip and be a good travel blogger, I also wanted to enjoy my trip through my own eyes and not the lens of a camera.
  • Swimsuit Top. The water in Viet Nam was delightfully warm and not full of jellyfish. My friends had a great time swimming in it. As we were going to be getting on a train not much later, I was not particularly interested in getting wet or having to change my clothes. I would recommend bringing a swimsuit if you're going to coastal towns.
  • Money Pouch/Belt. This wasn't necessary for me. Viet Nam is a relatively safe country and I kept most of my money locked up in my hostel. When I went out, I kept my money in my wallet inside my purse.

What I Should Have Brought

  • More Underwear. No mater how much I try to convince myself that the inside-out trick is acceptable, I don't really like wearing underwear multiple days in a row.
  • Nicer Clothes. Business casual is my daily grind. Vacation=wearing cut offs and sandals. However, people in Ho Chi Minh City dress very fashionably and people take great care in their appearance across social strata. Grungy tourist was how I felt.
  • Headphones. Noise, noise, constant noise. Viet Nam is cacaphonic. After a week of sleep deprivation, my friend offered me her headphones and I was finally able to sleep through the night. Plus, Viet Nam pop music is not my personal taste.
  • Kindle. I'm definitely investing in a kindle after this trip. Lugging around multiple 500 page books, that's for travel noobs.
  • Extra Memory Cards. Imagine this: second to last day on the trip and we're at Crazy House in DaLat. NO MORE ROOM ON MEMORY CARD. I have to spend a good thirty minutes selecting photos for deletion. On my cracked and scratched LCD screen.
  • Laptop. Now, I would have brought a laptop if I actually had one that could work without being plugged in.

Advice: bring multiple layers and options. You may have access to a laundry machine in your hostel or hotel. You will be sweating a lot and pollution, while not China level, is bad. It feels nice to put on clean clothes when you've been sweaty and dirty all day. Make sure you have a day bag or a smaller satchel to carry items on day trips. It's nice to have a place to put your sun screen, guide book, camera, etc.