Vietnam Afterthoughts

April 22, 2016

So now I've had a few weeks to digest the trip. I also finally found time to go through all my photos and pick out the best ones for a Flickr album that you can see here. It's the first trip of its kind I've ever been on so it's not really something I have a lot of context for.  Not a lot I can compare it to.  That said, let's try some pros and cons.

The Positives

Vietnam is a beautiful country.  Well, it can be.  In places.  The islands of Ha Long Bay, the Marble Mountains, the central highlands.  A lot of great natural beauty.  But even the cities hold their own beauty.  The bustle of the scooters, the pure mass of people, even the dirt.  The temples, even the ones where every day people went to worship, were all incredible beautiful.

It was really nice to get to know my compatriots better.  I liked hearing about everyone's experiences during the war, learning that history.  I feel like I got to know both my uncles a lot better than I otherwise would have.

The food.  Oh man, the food.  I didn't take many pictures of the food.  In fact the ones I did take I only really took with my phone and posted to my Instagram. Buy most of the time it was just because we dove in so quickly I didn't have time to take any shots.  

Those who know me well know I love to cook, and anyone who's seen me at all knows I like to eat.  Our tour covered most of our lunches so almost every day we'd sit down and eat a six or seven course meal.  Dinners were on our own for the most part, and while we did succumb to our inner Ugly Americans a few times, we mostly ate the local food.  Breakfast was always provided by our hotels, buffets where the only stand out difference was the crispyness of the bacon. That's where I had the most Pho.  I never would have guessed it for a breakfast food but it was actually a really nice way to start the day. I didn't try too much street food, but for the most part I didn't shy away from the raw vegetables we were warned about.

Cambodia was really enjoyable. I could see myself going back there again.  There's definitely enough temples to fill another whole vacation.  Not to mention the natural beauty that I can only imagine exists outside of Siem Reap.  The history is on full display, and it's beautiful.

Our guides were all great.  It was really nice to have someone local looking after us and explaining their culture to us. If you're ever looking to take a tour in the area I couldn't recommend Indochina Odyssey Tours any higher.

The Negatives

Most of these aren't even actually negatives.  Just things that I didn't love as much.  

While the guided tour was nice, it definitely had its downsides. While our lunches were almost always delicious, they were definitely repetitive.  I think some of that comes from having different guides on every part of the trip, and each place wanting to show us what they thought of as "The Vietnamese Meal", without realizing that's what we'd been having for days.

My vacations need more nature.  While the city was cool, I wish we had hit more of the national parks that Vietnam is home to.  Even the driving we did between places was mostly on roads lined with buildings, with little but rice fields beyond.  If I were to go to Vietnam again it would probably be for a tour of the northern highlands.

I don't really care about the politics.  I could have done with a little less political explanation of everything.  While I totally understand, as most of the guys I was there with were really into that, and in the end I like knowing just about everything so the process of learning is fun for me, I think any future travels will have a little less focus on that for me.


I had never gone on a trip like this before, so the whole experience was new to me. I learned a lot, even just about my own tastes when it comes to travel.  

Like I said before, if I went back to Vietnam it would be for the highlands, the state parks, the nature.  I don't feel the need to see any of the stuff we saw again.  Except maybe Ha Long Bay.  I'd like to see that again as long as it was more towards the summer, and without the heavy fog we encountered.

Which is not to say I didn't enjoy myself.  It was definitely a trip I'm glad I didn't pass up.  I'll have memories of those three weeks forever.  It's definitely given me the itch. Hopefully my next big trip will be to Ireland next year.  It's probably on the top of my list of my destinations.  Till then I'll be traveling more even around the country.  Back to my usual camping and general weekend getaways.  

But I'll always have my time in 'Nam.