That Time I Went to Vietnam

September 23, 2012

Hey, remember that time I went to Vietnam?

Yeah, I know.

Me neither.

Not that I didn’t have a really great time in Vietnam. In fact, judging from the photos, I’m pretty sure I had the most awesome time of my life there.

Mostly because the majority of my photos show me shoving some kind of food into my face.

Mmm…. food.

And when I wasn’t shoving food into my face, I was sucking down Vietnamese coffee. Which, I swear to you, is made of crack.

How else do you explain this look on my face?

Mmm… crack.

After going through the five-hundred-some photos I took during my whirlwind four days in Vietnam, it’s looking like I spent the majority of my time there in some kind of food coma or crack-coffee-induced high.

Which could explain why I don’t remember much.

Well, that and the fact that the trip was over two months ago.

I am notoriously bad at remembering stuff I did two months ago. Or one month ago. Or, heck, a few hours ago.

(But I can remember the plot of almost every single episode of Little House on the Prairie. And almost all the names of all the Strawberry Shortcake characters from the 1980s. So it’s not as if my memory is completely shot. It’s just very selective about what it remembers. Like, it doesn’t really care about stuff that happened to me. But it does care about anything that happened to the television version of Laura Ingalls Wilder. So that’s got to count for something, right?)

Given my lack of clear memories from my trip, I’ve been at a bit of a loss as to what to say about it.

Which, I assure you, is not something I typically have a problem with. I’m usually all too happy to blather on endlessly about trips I can only half-remember. I mean, I’ve spent the past two months writing blog posts about China.

And I can barely even remember China.

Hmm, this looks familiar. What was it called again?

But this time things are a bit different.

You see, I spent my last few weeks in China traveling, for the most part, on my own. Therefore, there was no one around who could later read one of my blog posts and say, “Hey, that’s not how things happened. Twenty-four-hour train ride? What twenty-four-hour train ride? That train ride took twenty minutes.” (Ha, ha, just kidding. That train ride totally took twenty-four hours. Or, at least, twenty-two. I think.)

Not that I’m saying I’ve lied on my blog.

I’m just saying it’s possible I’ve adjusted a few details. You know, because my brain isn’t into remembering the actual details so much. (Unless, like I said, those details have to do with television shows about pioneering families in the Midwest or dessert-themed dolls from the 1980’s.)

But when I was in Vietnam, I spent the majority of my time with people. Real people. And not just the voices-in-my-head kind of people.

 You see, one of the main reasons why I even went to Vietnam was so I could meet the lovely Barbara, who writes one of my fave blogs and lives in Saigon with her family. She also just so happens to like food as much as I do and even opened her own business running street food tours in the city.

Barbara. Obviously a kindred spirit.

We had narrowly missed each other in Chiang Mai – she moved there right after I had left. Which was unfortunate but probably for the best as I think Chiang Mai has some kind of ordinance on how much awesome can be in the city at any given time.

Way too much awesome right here.

Barbara knew that I had been toying with the idea of stopping by Vietnam on my way back to the States. (It turns out Vietnam is not really on the way back. Like, at all. In fact, I had to fly back into China in order to catch my flight to the States. But, whatever. The trip was totally worth it. Even if I can’t remember specifically why.)

I had been unsure about whether or not I should go to Vietnam seeing as I didn’t really have much time. Or money. Or, you know, a visa or a plane ticket. Or really anything else that you kind of need in order to take a trip.

But then I got an email from Barbara listing the many reasons why I should come visit her in Ho Chi Minh City. Her list included “a giant Jesus statue,” “coffee with condensed milk,” and “super cheap toe-nail art.” And I knew there was really no way I could not go.

I mean, toe-nail art, people!

Plus, while I was in the city, I got to meet up with a couple other cool blogger people, including James and Dyanne.

So there’s pretty much no way I can blather on endlessly about my time in Vietnam.

Because not only do these people have functioning memories, they also have functioning blogs. And they could totally tell you when I’m lying. (Not that I would ever lie to you. At least, not on purpose. Just when my memory fails me. Which is always.)

So, I figured the best thing to do was just to post a whole bunch of pictures from my trip. Because, as they say, pictures don’t lie.

And if they do, you can just blame the pictures.

Or just blame Barbara because she took a lot of the photos.

That’s what I’m going to do.

Photos of Stuff I Did (At least, I think I did these things. Either that or someone stole my camera and did lots of stuff without me.)
As I was only in the country for four days, I didn’t really see too many sights.

After all, I was kind of busy eating stuff.

And going sightseeing meant I would need to cross the street. Which didn’t sound like a particularly good idea to me as traffic in Vietnam was even crazier than traffic in China. And I didn’t even know that was possible.

You want me to cross the WHAT?

I did manage to make it to the Reunification Palace on my first morning in the city. Which luckily didn’t require much crossing of the streets.

The Palace was the home to the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It also happened to be where the War ended, when a tank from the North Vietnamese Army busted down the gates back in 1975. Hence the whole “reunification” thing.

The Palace was kind of like the White House. That is if the White House had been decorated by the Brady Bunch. Which meant it was all kinds of awesome inside.

You really don’t see enough puce carpeting these days.

And there was a hallway full of random dead animal parts. Because every powerful world leader needs his own collection of elephant hooves.

But my favorite part was the underground war room, which looked exactly like what you’d think an underground war room would look like.

There was even a control panel with lots of mysterious buttons on it. I’m pretty sure if you press the big, red one, you’ll blow up Greenland.

But, whatever, who needs Greenland?

On my second day in Vietnam, I went with Barbara and her family to the seaside town of Vung Tau, which is located only about two hours away by ferry from Saigon.

The town makes for a popular weekend getaway with its pleasant, if busy, beaches.

And its delicious seafood.

And its bizarre assortment of statues.

Because really what says “seaside getaway” more than a giant Jesus statue?

Of course, Jesus wasn’t the only statue in town. In fact, the city was jam-packed full of statues.

There was this pointing dude.

Which I felt the need to replicate.

Yes, that’s a pink elephant I’m holding. Why do you ask?

And there was an entire restaurant bedecked in naked David statues.Which I, luckily, did not replicate.

But I did pose inappropriately with a number of them.

So this was a bit awkward.

And there was a random statue of boobs. On the beach. Because, why not?

And, okay, maybe I posed inappropriately with them, too. But I’m pretty sure the boobs totally started it.

After two days in Vung Tau, we returned to Saigon, where I spent one last day packing in food. And a few sights. But mostly food.

We also hit up a few swanky places for coffee. The kind of places where the people are fancy. And don’t go around making out with statues.

I attempted to look refined.

Which is hard to do when you’ve got crazy in the eyes.

But then I just ended up groping statues.

I’m pretty sure my hand is up his skirt.

I’m blaming Barbara for this.

And the fact that I have the maturity level of a twelve-year-old.

But mostly Barbara.

Photos of Stuff I Ate (Either that or someone ate a LOT of food without me. Which really doesn’t seem very nice.)
Besides all the photos of me stuffing my face full of food, I also have a lot of photos of myself assembling my food.

 I loved this about meals in Vietnam. There was usually some element of assembly required. You know, so you really felt like you deserved to eat a dozen spring rolls since you’d put the darn things together yourself.

On the table, there was often a big huge pile of leaves and herbs.

Green stuff. And me. And the crazy. A perfect combination.

You could throw these into your soup.

Or top them off with lots of yummy stuff — preferably something delicious and deep-fried so as to balance out all that green stuff.

Or you could stuff all the green stuff into wrapper with other fixings and roll it all up burrito-style.

And then you’d dip everything into a sauce and shove it into your mouth. Because, hey, all that wrapping and stuffing and dipping takes energy. You must be hungry.

I don’t remember eating a single bad dish in Vietnam.

Not that I can remember many of the dishes that I ate while I was in Vietnam. But I’m pretty sure everything was awesome or I wouldn’t have so many photos of me stuffing it all into my face.

Even the stuff that I didn’t think was going to be delicious was surprisingly delicious.

Like, softshell crabs.

I’m usually pretty apprehensive about eating anything that still has its shell on and all its legs attached.

But, obviously, that wasn’t a problem for me with the soft shell crab.

What? Is there something in my teeth?

I also ate snails. Which, again, I didn’t think were going to be delicious.

Because they’re snails, you guys.

But I learned if you cover anything in butter garlic sauce it’s going to taste like heaven. Even if it looks like a gross little worm. Because it kind of is a gross little worm.

Mmm, buttery, garlicky, wormy.

In fact, the only food I can remember not particularly enjoying was this oyster. Which Barbara dared me to eat.

And the only reason why I can remember not enjoying it was because the thing was swimming in wasabi so the trauma of eating it is still etched in my brain.


Again, totally Barbara’s fault.

What’s your favorite trip that you can’t remember? Or are you one of those people who actually remembers stuff? 
Planning a trip to Vietnam? If so, you must book a street food tour with Barbara. And stay in her beautiful home. So basically you can take the exact same trip that I did. And then email me and tell me why I loved it so much.


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On September 23, 2012 at 9:07 pm Priya said:

    OK. First of all, that last picture scared the crap out of me.
    Secondly, the replicate of the pointing dude holding the pink elephant is awesome! Did you bike there? And are you sure that was a statue of boobs? It looks like a butt. A wide butt. Ok. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t listen to me.
    AND you’re lucky statues can’t file sexual harassment lawsuits. But if they did, I’d blame the Vietnamese coffee.
    Oh, and where is this toe-nail art you speak of?
    Also, I’m guessing Vietnam is somewhat vegetarian friendly?
    Priya recently posted..The Rejection Therapy Made Me Call A Random Guy. Like, On The Phone.

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:29 pm Sally said:

      The “butt” (as you call it) has nipples. So, therefore, I don’t think it was a butt.
      And, yes, I’m pretty sure Vietnam would be pretty vegetarian friendly as most of the meals were construct-your-own, so you could just leave out the meaty bits. Although that might mean you just end up eating lots of green stuff.
      And, sadly, I didn’t have enough time for toe art. But I did get a nice pedicure.

  2. On September 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    The GIF. THE GIF! Hahaha that is AMAZING. More, please!

    Also I hate to break this to you Sally, but judging from the look on David’s face I mean….he’s just not that into you. Which means he’s either guilty of extremely poor taste, is vegetarian, or homosexual.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..The Fantasy Five: South East Asia

  3. On September 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm cosmoHallitan said:

    We actually have a trip to Vietnam coming up and are taking a street food tour with Barbara. I was already looking forward to it but now I am REALLY looking forward to it! I can’t wait to shove my face with good food, not cross the street and see a few sights.

    That beach-side town looks kind of amazing. Think it’s doable as a day trip from Saigon? We were planning to go see the war tunnels but this looks way more fun! Plus I love any beach that allows motorcycles.
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Snapshot: Shanghai’s Dajing Lu Market

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm Sally said:

      You should probably ask Barbara about whether or not the beach trip would be doable. She informs me that the beach town is only an hour away from Saigon (I was wrong… see, I told you my memory sucks), but I (vaguely) remember there being some issue with the last ferry leaving pretty early… therefore, making it a bit better to stay overnight in order to be able to do everything.

  4. On September 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm MaryAnne said:

    I barely remember what I did three minutes ago. Which is why I blog, really. It’s not because I aspire to be a great writer but rather to stave off the juvenile onset dementia.

    PS I was stopped at Wuxi station en route to Hefei on Saturday (see post) and wished you were still there so you could at least bring me a lovely breakfast margarita. Was so disappointed when I remembered you were not longer there. You heart breaker, you.
    MaryAnne recently posted..A Totally Impractical Guide to an Emotionally Stunted Weekend in Hefei

  5. On September 23, 2012 at 11:33 pm Darcey said:

    Vietnam is now definitely added to our hit list before we leave India (we’re here at least another two years, possibly 4+)!

    Strangely, the trip I can’t remember is one I can only partially recall… about 48 hours in Madrid, Spain, back in 2006. I ended up walking around in July sweating my brains out and managed to successfully dehydrate myself to the point where I had to flee a restaurant to get back to our hotel and lose the very delightful lunch and half of the dinner we’d just started.

    The most vivid part of that stretch in Madrid is, in fact, curled up next to the loo in the hotel room.

    (Great restaurant, though. They packed up the salad and main – some Iberico ham and amazing seasoned asparagus – for my boyfriend to bring back to me so I could enjoy it when I was feeling better!).

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm Sally said:

      I guess it’s best you can’t remember the trip where you spent so much of your time with the toilet. Sounds horrible! And, yes, I’m totally going to recommend Vietnam for any trip. I’d really love to go back & spend a lot more time there.

  6. On September 23, 2012 at 11:41 pm Dyanne@TravelnLass said:

    Say what? You mean to tell me they have PUCE carpet inside the Reunification Palace??? OMG, how could POSSIBLY have missed such a monumental sight! 9, count ’em N-I-N-E months living in Saigon, and I never made it to the Reunification Palace. Nor the “tunnels”, nor Vung Tau, nor, nor, nor… [insert most any HCMC war memorial/tourist attraction here].

    Though I’m proud to say I did cross about a gazillion Saigon streets – without so much as a SCRATCH! (btw, your pic of that crosswalk traffic was pretty pathetic, but then you already know that, yes?)

    Now I’m living in Dalat – my new Vietnam “home” (leastwise for a few… [insert weeks/months/years/whoknows? here]), and the nutso-ness of HCMC is but a fuzzy memory (nightmare?)

    But seriously. Surely gotta LOVE dear HCMC – like an Asian NYC – on STEROIDS, no? So glad I got to meet you while you were there. Hopefully our trails will cross again somewhere, someday…
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Chiang Mai? Dalat? So Which Izzz It???

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:23 pm Sally said:

      Yeah, the photo is pathetic. I kept on wanting to take a picture of the crazy traffic while I was on the back of a motorbike but that would have required my taking my hand off the back… not going to happen.
      Oh yes, and the decor inside the palace was really something else. I was sad my photo of the music room didn’t turn out… that was VERY groovy.

  7. On September 24, 2012 at 12:36 am Barbara said:

    Sally, can you come back and live with us please? I think you are the second person I ever met who does what I tell them to. Most people say “no” or “are you crazy?”

    Oh second thoughts, what kind of megalomaniac will I turn into if I have a yes-girl in the house? Want to find out?
    Barbara recently posted..Meet The Dropouts: Di, The Globetrotting Gran

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm Sally said:

      You know I’m usually not into people telling me what to do so much, but it must have been your Australian accent that made you sound a lot less bossy than you really were. In fact, I didn’t really realize all the crazy stuff you made me do until I went through my pictures… I’m surprised I survived my 4 days there!

      • On September 25, 2012 at 2:34 am Barbara said:

        I just remembered some of the things you forgot:

        1. You decided to trade in super-cheap toenail art for another crack-coffee and a browse around a shop that sells handbags made out of cement sacks. (You bought one too.)

        2. The snakes on the motorbikes we passed on the highway — BEFORE you were brave enough to take photos from the back of the bike.

        3. The “no coffee you” game that my daughter still plays.

        4. Your pre-coffee wilted peace sign.

        Good times, good times.
        Barbara recently posted..Meet The Dropouts: Di, The Globetrotting Gran

        • On September 25, 2012 at 7:56 am Sally said:

          I passed up super cheap toenail art? WAS I MAD???
          I do remember the cement sack (as I now use it for groceries) and the snake bike (man, I wish I had photos though. That was CRAZY.)

  8. On September 24, 2012 at 10:30 am Carmel said:

    Totally bookmarking this for when we go to Vietnam.
    Carmel recently posted..Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm Sally said:

      When are you going to Vietnam? You should definitely hook up with Barbara if you can! I never would have tried even half the food I ate while I was there if I hadn’t had her as my guide… which probably would have been a good thing for my pants but a bad thing for me!

      • On September 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm Carmel said:

        It would be next fall. Haven’t decided exactly yet. We plan to leave on our RTW trip in mid-September, starting in Mongolia, then heading to SE Asia. I am definitely interested as someone who loves food! And may be at a loss as to where to start…

  9. On September 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm Karen McCann said:

    I loved Vietnam! Except maybe for Ha Tien, where we got the big warning about the tap water. Savvy travelers that we are, Rich and I said, “Oh yeah. You mean we can’t drink it.” No, they explained, it was too dangerous even to SHOWER in. Seriously. Apparently it had a history of causing ghastly growths to spring up inside your ears. So we bought a bunch of bottled water and kept pouring it over our heads…Later the staff knocked on the door and handed us a candle and a hand fan, at which point the electricity fell silent. Or maybe it was just drowned out by the sound of all the mosquitoes coming in through the unscreened windows…Good times, good times….Maybe you’re better off not remembering absolutely all of it.

    Karen McCann

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm Sally said:

      Oh god, that sounds HORRIBLE. I stayed in Barbara’s very posh establishment while I was there so I didn’t have to put up with any of that. If I had, I would have totally complained to management. 🙂

  10. On September 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm Ken C. said:

    I’m with Priya…you were posing with gigantic stone buttocks [not that it’s a BAD thing, mind you]. Your adventures in Vietnam were told beautifully, and food is a WONDERFUL lens through which to view a country/people/culture. Since you asked, my own memory is both selective & faulty, so I carry a notepad with me, and write down things [almost] compulsively. When I have spare moments, I make it a point to flip back through my notepad, and review various days.

    • On September 24, 2012 at 7:18 pm Sally said:

      If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see the boob statue has nipples. (Not that I’m saying you should stare at a picture of big cement boobs… but still.) Why would a butt have nipples? That doesn’t even make sense. (Not that a big boob statue on the beach makes much sense. But, still.)
      I wish I was better at taking notes while I travel. I always start off with the intention of writing down everything that I find weird/quirky/blog-worthy, and then I look back at my journal and it’s never anything very helpful. It’s usually just me whining about something. That’s why I started taking so many photos… going back through my photos kind of helps me refresh my memory. Kind of.

      • On September 27, 2012 at 3:27 am Ken C. said:

        Yes, Sally! Upon “further review” I do get your point regarding the nipples [ha! I’m nobody if not a low-brow humorist]. Woe is me for challenging you in the first place. Butt hey, I also use pictures to refresh my memory; I just load them chronologically into Picasa. I’ll even take pictures of business cards, street signs, and store fronts to serve as visual reminders [with Google’s Picasa, you can also write captions for photos]. I’ll take pictures of anything/everything: sights, people, even dishes served at mealtimes…

  11. On September 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm James said:

    Oh Sally, you remind me that the #1 reason why I should go to Vietnam is not the places, or the sense of achievement at crossing the street without getting killed, but the food!

    And really I should have no excuse as I live in Hong Kong… which is close enough you could probably take a small boat and sail to Ha Long Bay!

    I would totally do the wasabi oyster challenge – a friend in Beijing once dared me to have a chicken skewer that was smothered in dried chilli. My mouth was on fire but the only thing that could quench the flames were two bottles of Tsingtao and a lethal little jar of baijiu. Let’s just say I ended up having problems walking in a straight line!

  12. On September 25, 2012 at 3:37 am Eileen黃愛玲 said:

    I’m impressed with all the places you went but you’re totally missing out if you don’t go to Taiwan one day. 😀

  13. On September 25, 2012 at 10:13 am Pamela said:

    You are hilarious! and we just arrived to Vietnam, so it was the perfect mouth watering post to read before I head out for my first of many meals!
    Pamela recently posted..Angkor Wat: Avoid the Crowds & Take Great Photos

  14. On September 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm Montecristo Travels said:

    never thought of Vietnam – but now … we are intrigued! We love the food! And the boobs ..OMGosh that is hilarious! So need a photo of the dog on those! LOL!
    Montecristo Travels recently posted..What Every Dog Owner Ought to Know About Mont-Tremblant – Quebec – Canada

  15. On September 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm Diana said:

    So 1) I missed this huge Jesus statue the times I’ve been; 2) there’s nothing wrong with remembering a place by its food (and crack coffee); and 3)I’m going to have to check out Barbara’s blog. Great post! (I’m hungry now.)

  16. On September 25, 2012 at 10:11 pm Ruth@FacetiousFarang said:

    Hahaha. I just discovered your blog, and I love it! I didn’t know there were other people in the world whose favourite activities revolved around A) making awkward faces, and
    B) making awkward faces while shoving food into their mouths.


  17. On September 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm Jackie said:

    It’s true, there really isn’t enough Puce carpet anymore. I am sad that there are no pictures of cheap toe-nail art! When you started posing with the David sculptures, I for some reason thought that the next picture would be of you with the David painted artfully on your toenails. In retrospect that may have been a weird assumption to make.
    Jackie recently posted..Places: Jerusalem, looking up

  18. On September 28, 2012 at 10:01 am choi kum fook said:

    Ha! Ha! Reading and watching the pictures of your post,just similarly like enjoyment eating the foodstuff!Mostly, Vietnamese and Chinese are “BROTHERS”. All living things can be eaten and found in Vietnam and China as long as the backbones of the animal face to the sky! No wonder, we can not find dogs and cats around the compound of quarters of Vietnamese workers in Malaysia!Miss Sally, I am pretty willing to Vietnam.I think it is quite interesting to visit.How do I contact to Miss Barbara? Does she a tourist guide?

    • On September 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm Sally said:

      I think you’d have a great time in Vietnam. And, yes, definitely get in touch with Barbara if you go. She would be an excellent tour guide! Just tell her I sent you. 🙂

  19. On September 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm Ceri said:

    Hahaha, I love that gif so much. 😀 Alas, I’m one of those people who actually remembers places I visit … uhhh, kind of. But, in all seriousness, does this mean there are other ways to explore places that don’t revolve around food? Surely not?
    Ceri recently posted..Scenes from D.F.

  20. On October 3, 2012 at 4:33 am Amy said:

    I often can’t remember my trips either. If someone asks me about a country or a place, I reply with ‘ummmmm….. uhhhh……’ But then later someone starts talking about something and a memory randomly comes back to me and I can tell the story then…. no matter how loosely related (or completely unrelated besides one tinny detail).
    Amy recently posted..Mr ‘Stranded’ American and the Ferry from Italy to Greece

  21. On October 8, 2012 at 8:37 am Heather said:

    Food! And more food! If I only had 4 days in a country, that’s probably how I’d spend my time too O:-)

    Thanks for mentioning Barbara’s pages — gonna go check them out!

  22. On September 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm Ainsley said:

    I usually remember the general gist of things when I travel, and I always remember what I eat, especially If I have photos (which I always do). I am, however, TERRIBLE at keeping a journal. I don’t know why, but I always try, but then I get so caught up with writing every single little detail that it becomes exhausting and I stop, which is unfortunate because when I read what little I have written, it is usually random to the point of hilarity.


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