Nicole and I have spent the past week at the Avani Quy Nhon Resort & Spa, located about ten miles south of the city of Quy Nhon near a small fishing village called Bai Xep, with our friends Leigh Anna and Kara who live and work in New York City and decided to take a two week vacation to Vietnam to coincide with our time here. They spent their first week touring Hanoi, Halong Bay, and Hoi An, before joining us here for the second week. It has been awesome having them here and we're sad they're leaving!
Last night, before we dove into a card game of Hearts, I interviewed them about their impressions of the country.
Travis (T): What has been something about Vietnam that surprised you or you weren’t expecting?
Leigh Anna (LA): I knew that Vietnam is a developing country but was surprised at how undeveloped it still is. I expected Hanoi to look and feel more like the more modern cities I’m used to. Most of the city streets were crowded with merchants selling goods from very small shops on the first floor of their homes.... On a separate note, I was also surprised by the way most Vietnamese people can sit in a squat position for extended periods of time if no chairs are available. Impressive!
Kara (K): I wasn’t really surprised by the developing nature of Vietnam. I took a trip to the Philippines a few years ago (also with Nicole and Leigh Anna) and expected Vietnam to be similar, which it is.
T: If you had one more week to spend in Vietnam, what would you see or do?
K: I would like to spend more time in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) since we are only getting to spend a half day there prior to flying back to the US. I would probably also seek out some more of Vietnam’s historical sites and landmarks. We spent most of our time in Hoi An getting spa treatments (which were very good and low cost!) and visiting tailors to have clothes made. After that, and the week here at the beach resort, I feel like I could spend more time seeing some of Vietnam's cultural attractions.
LA: If I had an extra week, I would head straight back to Hoi An and spend more time at the spa, with the tailors having clothes made(!), at Hoi An’s beach, and enjoying the local food. The hotel where we stayed in Hoi An also had the most amazing beds, so I would spend additional time napping. :)
T: Is there anything you would have done differently during your trip?
K: I've spent the last three days with an upset stomach, so if I could travel back in time I wouldn't eat whatever it was that I ate! :) Otherwise, I wouldn't do anything differently.
LA: I wasn't ready for all of the clothing possibilities the Hoi An tailors can create (If you go, I highly recommend visiting Tuong Tailor; Tell them Leigh Anna and Kara sent you, they are the best! :) ). If you show the tailors a picture, they can recreate almost anything. I ordered a business suit, dresses, a jacket, and leather skirt, among a few other items. The prices weren't super cheap, but they were probably half of what I would expect to pay in the States and all of the clothes were custom fitted to me and ready the next day (sometimes after an additional fitting). If I had known how good the tailors would be, I would have spent more time prior to the trip thinking about what types of clothing to have made and compiling pictures so that I would have had a better clothing plan of attack. :) As it was, I brought a picture of a cute coat Kate Middleton wore one time and was completely thrilled with the tailor's recreation.... I also would have brought Settlers of Catan since we needed a three person game when Kara wasn't feeling well! :)
T: What advice would you give to someone travelling to Vietnam for a few weeks?
LA: I would say to manage your expectations about what food options will be available. You will be eating lots of Vietnamese style food so be ready for that. For instance, I'm used having cheese with most meals but that is one ingredient that is largely unavailable in Vietnam. I also would advise anyone to spend some time reading about the country beforehand. We were all surprised by how little we seemed to know about the country's history and the war in particular.
K: For someone spending two weeks in Vietnam, I would recommend the travel path we took (Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An, Quy Nhon, Ho Chi Minh). Spending a few days each in these various locations seemed perfect. I would also suggest packing lots of sunscreen and light clothing; it's hot!
T: Last question, any advice for Nicole and I as we continue on with our journey?
K: Not really, it seems like you two are doing just fine! :) But I would definitely advise Nicole to make good use of the milk frother that I conspired with her to bring over. (Author's note: Without my knowledge! I am not looking forward to toting this thing around the rest of the trip!) It nearly caused an international incident when the airline personnel at the Hanoi airport couldn't figure out what a milk frother is. Thus, I hope there are many delicious cappucinos in Nicole's future! :) Also, make sure to eat lots of banh mi sandwiches, that was my favorite food in Vietnam (and this place in particular was the best!).
LA: Go back to Hoi An and get some clothes made! :) While you are there, make sure to eat breakfast at Rosie's Cafe and to order the chili lime shrimp dish at the Nu Eatery. Some of the best food in Vietnam!
Like this post? Want to read more about Travis and Nicole's travel adventures? Check out Our Overview And Observations From Travelling For Two Months Through Vietnam.
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